Today, the Bundespräsident (President) Horst Köhler stepped down. As he said himself, the reason was a discussion about an interview he had the last week. In the context of foreign assignements of the Bundeswehr (army) he said:
“…. we need a political discourse in society, how is it that there is little respect and recognition, even though the soldiers do such a good job. We need more debates on how we manage, so to speak, in Afghanistan, that on the one hand there are huge tasks of civil construction – i.e. administration, fight corruption, fight against this drug economy – and on the other hand the army can not do everything itself. How do we reconcile this with the population expecting a rapid withdrawal of troops?
I believe that this discourse is necessary to figure out in our society, what exactly are the goals of this mission. And, in my opinion, it is really this: We are fighting there for our safety in Germany, we are fighting there in alliance with allies, with other nations on the basis of a mandate of the United Nations, a United Nations resolution. All this means that we have a responsibility. And I think it’s fine if this is discussed in Germany with a skeptical question mark. My estimation is that overall, we are on the way, but we also need to understand in the whole society, that a country of [the size of Germany] with this trade orientation and therefore foreign trade dependence might apply military use in case of doubt, in case of emergency and to protect our interests – such as, free trade routes – to prevent – for example, all regional instability, that might have negative effects on securing our jobs and income through trade. All this is to be discussed, and I believe we are on a good way.”
You can view the interview in German here: http://www.dradio.de/aktuell/1191138/
The interview sparked a discussion about new german militarism, because some people heard (or rather wanted to hear) that the assignment of the german army in Afghanistan was also for politico-economic reasons. Obviously, he was rather referring to the german marines that are in action against pirates at the Horn of Africa.
Personally, I respected Köhler as a politician who spoke his mind, even if it was against the cabinet, when he was a member of the ruling party CDU himself. He seemed to take his job seriously and earned the respect of a good deal of the German population. I’m just hoping we will have a new president who will fill up the slack with the same enthusiasm.
Not expecting too much from Angela “we say no – err yes” Merkel and her unfortunate secretary of state though… But let’s see what options they come up with….