It’s a small deployment, but a big change: Berlin is going to go it alone on a military expedition for the first time since the fall of the Third Reich. The Telegraph reports:
Angela Merkel, the Chancellor, wants to send a contingent of German soldiers to northern Iraq to help train Kurdish forces fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil).
German troops have served with international forces in Afghanistan, Bosnia and elsewhere, but only under missions with a clear United Nations mandate or Nato leadership.
A few German military personnel are already in northern Iraq training Kurdish peshmerga fighters, but Mrs Merkel’s government wants to send more than 100 troops, according to Bild newspaper.
Under German law, any military deployment abroad requires parliamentary approval, but this mission may require more than a simple vote in the Bundestag. The defence ministry fears it may require a change in the Basic Law, according to an unidentified source quoted in Bild.
Experts are divided as to the constitutional question, but if the will is there, it won’t cause a huge delay: the German constitution can be changed by a supermajority in Parliament. The bigger issue is the marker that would be set as Germany moves toward defining its status as the leading power in Europe—which economically and politically, it clearly now is. The Germans have grappled admirably with their history and built a successful democracy. But part of being a mature democratic power is being able to exercise military might with discretion. Is Germany moving in that direction?If so, its biggest problem may be the state of its forces. Not only is German defense spending below the NATO target of 2% of GDP, but a lot of its on-paper strength simply isn’t in decent enough repair to work. So two cheers for helping the Kurds—but if this sets a precedent, Berlin will have a long way to go to get its forces in shape to match its new ideas.