Germany: Trouble in the Bundeswehr
5 March 2010
"Anything but fight," headlines Die Zeit, in a special feature on the Bundeswehr, Germany's federal defence force. Much has changed since 1989 when 495,000 German soldiers waited for a Third World War that was supposed to take place on their territory. Troop numbers have been reduced by 50% in a force which now conducts operations in countries all over the world. Most missions, like the training of police in Djibouti, are not dangerous, but the complexity of international relations has prompted the rise of legal specialists within the military. Worse still, Die Zeit reports that an intergenerational conflict is now raging between an old guard of "soldier civil servants stuck in the Cold War" and young often "idealistic" officers "who have cut their teeth on 15 years of intervention in foreign conflicts." The former remain attached to the notion of an army "which only leaves the barracks to protect the nation state." The latter are waging a war in Afghanistan and are increasingly weary of being misunderstood in Berlin. The "Kunduz syndrome" named after the air strike which resulted in 142 casualties, including many civilians, in September 2009, has only polarized the conflict even further.