Joachim Gauck Calls for Expanded Military Engagement Abroad
Natalia MEDEN | 06.02.2014 | OPINION

Joachim Gauck Calls for Expanded Military Engagement Abroad

This time there were record high numbers of anti-war demonstrators gathered on the occasion of Munich annual security conference and it did not happen by chance. German participants called for a more muscular (or aggressive) foreign policy, there were voices raised in favor of expanding the role of Bundeswehr in the NATO-led operations, which are called “military missions abroad” in Germany. Almost 5,000 German military personnel currently take part in nine international missions, including more than 3,135 000 in Afghanistan and 784 in Kosovo.

The day before the conference kicked off, Angela Merkel had a conversation with United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. She stressed the need to increase Germany’s contribution into crisis management operations. The Chancellor meant the whole range of activities while Germany’s federal President Joachim Gauck emphasized the military aspects. (1) Former Protestant minister delivered a long-winded sermon calling for expanded military engagement. The federal President slammed… pacifists. According to him, they use the historic guilt of Germans for organizing protests against taking part in missions abroad. He meant those who take too literally what is specified by article 26 of the German constitution. It says the country should pose no military threat. He believes it is not proper for Germans to shy away from taking part in military interventions by abusing the dubious principle of looking back at history. Indeed there is no reason to do so. Germans are democrats, this fact makes them the people with clear conscience and clean sheet. Let former Communists remember the past. By the way, Joachim Gauck was among the first who rushed to sign the Prague Declaration on European Conscience and Communism (2008) and the Declaration on Crimes of Communism (2010) – the documents calling to refer communism to a special international tribunal like the Nuremberg trial in 1945. Even the historians, who equal communism and fascism, criticize Gauck for intransigence explained by the fact that the former human rights activist had a tragic biography: his father was put to jail by Soviet military administration (though by the end of war his father had served a sentence in a British prison before going to Siberia). 

 The President of Germany thinks the reference to history is a pretext which allows Germans feel comfortable behind the back of heroic allies. He believes it’s nothing else but moral turpitude at the time when the United States has hard time defending peace alone. Gauck believes that Germany and its allies should take on more responsibility. Experts know well where the contemporary idea of Germany’s responsibility has come from. In September 2013 the government-friendly German Institute for International and Security Affairs of the Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik (SWP) and the German Marshall Fund of the United States published the report called New Power, New Responsibility, elements of a German Foreign and Security Policy for a Changing World. The main conclusion the paper leads to is that Germany’s clout in Europe should be growing along with its responsibility before the United States… (2) Promoting these ideas President Joachim Gauck claims to present substantiated theoretic arguments. He believes that the principles of state sovereignty and non-interference do not apply to the regimes which resort to use of force. Another attempt to substitute the principle of non-interference stipulated in the United Nations Charter with the principle of permissible interference into the internal affairs of another state. Such attempts were undertaken in 1965 and 1970 while the Declaration on the Inadmissibility of Intervention in the Domestic Affairs of States and the Protection of Their Independence and Sovereignty and 

the Declaration of Principles of International Law concerning Friendly Relations and Co-operation among States in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations were in works. Back then it all failed mainly thanks to the efforts applied by the Soviet Union. It is acute nowadays, in practice the West has taken steps to change the fundamental provision set out in the United Nations Charter into something quite the opposite.

Punctilious Germans are mainly interested in the legal aspect; they are known to have great respect for whatever is put in writing. Horst Köhler, the predecessor of Joachim Gauck, in his time called for the principle of non-interference to be reviewed. Speaking before the students of the University of Tübingen in 2004, he set the Constitutive Act of the African Union as…an example of a document protecting democratic values. Indeed, the Act envisioned the right of intervention into a member-state upon the ruling of Conference in case of war crimes, genocide, crimes against humanity (article 2, item h) (3) So Germans believe they should also intervene into Africa. The President’s address at the Munich-2014 security conference was in focus of German media, it was clearly seen that the speech was part of presentation carefully rehearsed by the German delegation before the event. Germans like music, so they came out with a three act composition with bravura-like beginning (Joachim Gauck), measured middle (defense chief Ursula von der Leyen) and epic finale (Minister of Foreign Affairs Frank-Walter Steinmeier). 

Other Europeans also got contaminated by militaristic virus and followed Germany. Austrian Presse rebukes its government for the failure to follow the example of Germany and says instructively that the will rules the world (remember Friedrich Nietzsche?). (4) Czech Lidové Noviny hails the strategic change of the German strategy. (5) To the point, the Czech Republic is another democracy which refuses to look back at the historic past, the Germany’s moving away from the “traditional military restraint” is welcomed there. Who but the Czech people should remember better than others the German “restraint” displayed right there, in Munich, when the Western democratic leaders blessed the Hitler’s plans to occupy the Sudetenland. Perhaps the Czech Republic decided to review the results of 1938 Munich conference and admit that Fuhrer was led by democratic ideas aimed at protecting the German population from ethnic discrimination? 


(1) Deutschlands Rolle in der Welt: Anmerkungen zu Verantwortung, Normen und Bündnissen
(3) The Constitutive Act of the African Union
(4) Ohne Willen keine Vorstellung von der Welt / Die Presse, 02.02.2014.
(5) Konec zdrženlivosti. Máme zodpovědnost za chod světa, míní Gauck / Lidové noviny, 31. ledna 2014.
Tags: NATO  Germany  US  Gauck