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No-fly zone fallout

March 19, 2011

Most German newspapers agree that Berlin's decision not to support the Libya no-fly zone will have major foreign policy consequences for the country. Some see the decision as wise, while others consider it a blunder.

German newspapers
Press says fallout from German abstention unclearImage: picture-alliance/dpa

While some in the German press argued that Germany has made a wise decision based on its historical experience, others predicted that Berlin will incur foreign policy damage for not supporting the no-fly zone over Libya.

The Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung writes that Germany has made the right decision by refusing to participate in a no-fly zone over Libya. The daily newspaper argues that a no-fly zone would prove ineffective against Gadhafi's forces saying wars cannot be won from the air alone. Although Germany's abstention may have hurt its image with its partners, the country's image had already suffered under the Schröder and Merkel governments. The paper points out that it is important to remember that the German constitution forbids "offensive wars."

However, the Potsdam-based Märkische Allgemeine argues that by failing to support the no-fly zone along with its allies, Berlin has found itself in the same camp as fellow abstainers Russia and China. The daily paper criticizes the Merkel government for being hypocritical, fearing military escalation in Libya while cheering on the opposition. Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, who celebrated the democracy movement in Cairo, has lost his credibility by saying "Gadhafi must go" and then abstaining from the Security Council vote that seeks such an end, the paper opines.

The Mannheimer Morgen called Westerwelle's rejection of a no-fly zone incomprehensible. The paper claims that the German foreign minister hurt France and America's campaign for a majority in the Security Council. By deciding to largely stay out of the no-fly zone and help its allies indirectly, Chancellor Angela Merkel and Westerwelle have proven they are more willing to defend freedom in far away Afghanistan than on their own doorstep, the paper comments.

UK and US voting in Security Council
Although its allies were for intervention, Germany abstained from the voteImage: AP

But the daily Flensburger Tageblatt takes the view that although some may find it regrettable that "war weary" Germany abstained from the Security Council vote, those who demand a no-fly zone should be aware of the consequences. The UN resolution calls for the protection of civilians - not the overthrow of Gadhafi. Since Gadhafi will not give up power on his own accord, the international community will not be able to avoid sending ground troops, the paper writes. Perhaps Merkel and Westerwelle will be praised for thinking ahead "like Schröder was once praised for his 'no to the Iraq war."

The daily Rhein-Neckar-Zeitung places the German abstention in a historical context. The daily newspaper says Germany still has an uneasy relationship with war more than 60 years after the unconditional surrender of the Third Reich. Berlin's participation in airstrikes against Serbia in 1999 and the deployment of German soldiers to Afghanistan has not changed its skepticism of military force. The paper concludes that war is the worst of all solutions "even when waged to overthrow a dictator."

Compiled by Spencer Kimball

Editor: Sean Sinico