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Opinion

The war that nobody wants

Germany is sending soldiers to Syria to combat the self-proclaimed "Islamic State" (IS) terror group. The government isn't acting out of conviction, rather in response to external pressure, says DW's Marcel Fürstenau.

November 13, 2015, has become for France what September 11, 2001, is for the United States. The parallels may be obvious, but they're also legitimate. Then, as now, Germany promised solidarity to its allies, the victims of attacks by Islamist extremists. On both a human and a political level, the gesture is only natural, but does this pledge necessarily entail all forms of military support? The answer is: No! Unconditional solidarity can also lead to blind obedience.

The Iraq War of 2003 should serve as a cautionary tale when it comes to this sort of ill-considered obedience. Thankfully, Germany was not involved in that conflict. The governing coalition of SPD and Greens at the time was not convinced by America's arguments that Saddam Hussein was in possession of an arsenal of weapons of mass destruction. That turned out to be an audacious lie. But there is no danger of that happening now. There is no denying the threat posed by "Islamic State."

Why should Syria work when Afghanistan failed?

Nobody is questioning the murderous, deeply evil character of this terrorist group. For the leaders of "IS" and their willing henchmen worldwide, nothing is sacred. That's obvious when it comes to the lives of others, but they will also sacrifice even their own lives to the cause with barely a thought. Suicide attacks like the ones in Paris are among the most effective weapons of these so-called holy warriors. That's what makes them so unpredictable. They can attack anytime, anywhere, and everyone knows it. Despite this, the government is contributing to the illusion that "IS" can be beaten with more airstrikes. They are deluding themselves. The Americans and the French have been bombing enemy positions for months, joined more recently by Russia and the UK. Despite this, "IS" has not lost any significant ground.

Kommentarfoto Marcel Fürstenau Hauptstadtstudio

DW's Marcel Fürstenau

Why should that change if 1,200 German soldiers with a few Tornado surveillance planes join the fray? Independent political and military experts have voiced serious doubts about the success of such a mission. Then, there are international legal concerns. Even if the structures of the terror network were destroyed, it would not guarantee peace in the region. There is already a long list of failed deployments in this young century: Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya - all failed states where the seeds of terror were planted and continue to grow. Now, in Syria, military alliances are suddenly being formed that, just weeks ago, would have been likened by all parties to a pact with the devil.

Wavering on the Assad issue

Who would have thought that a butcher like Assad would have found himself enmeshed with Western powers once again? This alone shows just how helpless and desperate the West - and with it now Germany - has become. The German government has painted itself into a corner. It knows that the agreed deployment is highly risky for both the soldiers and the German people. It will, of course, increase the risk of an "IS" terrorist attack on German soil.

There are jihadists living among us. And the horrific scenes from Paris are still fresh. There, it was mainly French citizens with a Muslim background who carried out the attacks.

Now, out of an honest sense of solidarity, Germany is participating in a war for which there are no convincing political and military arguments. The government and the parliamentarians who voted for the Syria mission do not want to look weak.

There's a certain tragic element involved in this decision, which cannot have been easy for anyone. The proponents of German participation likely find themselves in a greater moral dilemma than the opponents. But the latter should not find their rejection too easy. After all, they're unable to offer any convincing alternatives.

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