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Germany

What Next for the "Toothless Tiger?"

Germany's foreign policy needs to be overhauled if it is to reverse a growing image of weakness in the world and a false sense of security at home, according to experts.

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Germany's pacifist principles may be challenged by a new foreign policy

The ongoing fighting in Iraq and the rising concerns over Iran’s nuclear program have set off a debate among policy makers and researchers in Berlin on the new challenges to German foreign policy. Over the coming weeks, the John F. Kennedy Institute at Berlin's Free University is hosting a series of public panel discussions on the future of German foreign policy and how Germany can best contribute to peace and stability in the world.

Germany is doing its bit to promote peace and stability in the Balkans and in Afghanistan, says Professor Herfried Münkler, political scientist and foreign policy expert at Berlin’s Humboldt University. But speaking to politicians and fellow researchers at the Kennedy Institute, he said Germany still isn’t taking the threat of international terrorism seriously enough.

"The notion still exists in Germany that the terrorist threat isn’t quite as big as its made out to be, and that something can be achieved by negotiating, but that’s wrong," Münkler told DW-RADIO. "Germany is in a learning process, many people must reconsider the strong pacifist principles they have become proud of."

UN Generalversammlung Joschka Fischer und Kamal Charrasi

Joschka Fischer meets with Kamal Kharrazi, foreign minister of Iran.

Ruling out the use of military force as Germany has done in the Iraq conflict is not the way to promote peace and security, says Münkler. He fears Germany is only getting the reputation of being a toothless tiger. Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer’s remarks on Wednesday rejecting the threat of military force against Iran as a means to achieve nuclear compliance have been seen by many commentators in Berlin as yet another sign of German weakness.

"People have to accept in this country that the forms of mediating in a conflict, by offering money or economic incentives have their limits," Münkler said. "One has to be careful that economic incentives aimed at ending a conflict, don’t have the opposite effect of prolonging it. This is what happened in Somalia, for example, where conflicts were fueled because people soon learned that it paid to keep the conflict alive."

While in the past most armed conflicts arose between states, since 1999 the majority of wars were fought between non-government groups and states. Münkler sees this as the main challenge to foreign policy in the future, because governments can no longer rely on political or economic pressure as a deterrent against armed conflict. Rebel groups and terrorists can finance themselves independently, mostly through global organized crime.

"Globalization plays a key role in making long term armed conflicts possible. Rebels, warlords and terrorists all over the world finance their activities through different forms of internationally organized crime," Münkler observed. "If you consider that $1 trillion are made worldwide through organized crime each year, then you can imagine the kind of resources non-government groups have to pay for warfare."

Deutsche Soldaten in Kabul

German troops are forbidden by their mandate to intervene in the drug trade.

One of the greatest resources for warfare, says Münckler, is right under the eyes of the German troops in Afghanistan: the opium trade. In Kosovo, human trafficking paid for much of the fighting. For the first time this year, he says, the world wide profits from human trafficking will exceed those of the drugs trade.

If Germany’s foreign policy is to prevent wars and promote stability, it must also address these global challenges.

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