All the way? the evolution of German military power

Timo Noetzel*, Benjamin Schreer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)


German strategic decision-makers have to reconsider their approach to the use of force. In Afghanistan, the Bundeswehr is faced with the challenge of a growing insurgency. This situation requires a willingness to provide combat forces for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force. Hence, the conviction in German domestic politics that the Bundeswehr should only be employed for the purposes of stabilization and reconstruction is increasingly challenged by a changing operational reality in Afghanistan, and allies' reluctance to continue to accept German policy. In essence, the issue is about German participation in counterinsurgency operations. To continue current policy undermines Germany's military credibility among allied partners and restrains Germany's ability to utilize fully military power as an instrument of policy. This article argues that while military force in recent years has become an integral part of German foreign policy to pursue national interests, political decision-makers in Berlin and the broader German public will still have to come to terms with the reality of a new security environment in Afghanistan. For the German government the 'small war' in northern Afghanistan is a very politically exhausting undertaking. Both politically and militarily Germany seems ill-prepared to sustain such an operation. Its political and strategic culture still promotes an aversion to involvement in war-fighting. In addition, the government and the Bundeswehr lack vital strategy-making capabilities. Still, there are indicators that the changing operational reality in Afghanistan might lead to a significant evolution of the German approach to the use of force.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)211-221
Number of pages11
JournalInternational Affairs
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2008
Externally publishedYes


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