The quiet German militarization continues to escalate.
One day after Germany’s DPA broke the news that the Merkel government is considering “bringing back nationwide conscription in times of crisis”, such as situations in which the country needs to “defend NATO’s external borders”, strongly hinting at the possibility of a future war, which in turn followed this weekend’s shocking announcement that Germans should prepare to stockpile several days of food and water “in case of an attack of catastrophe” as part of the country’s revised “Civil Defense Concept, today NBC reports that “Germany Debates Putting Troops on Streets to Protect Against ISIS.”
To be sure, plans to involve soldiers in counterterrorism operations. and the suggestion troops could also be used to beef up security in public places, have proved controversial in a country only seven decades “removed from totalitarian rule that’s still grappling with guilt from the Nazi era.” However, Wolfgang Bosbach, a lawmaker from Merkel’s CDU party, dismissed an such concerns.
“During the recent terror threat in Munich the German armed forces, and also the military police, were put on alert,” he told NBC News. “They have been deployed in other crises, so why should the military not help with domestic security as well?”
A court decision in 2012 allowed Germany’s armed forces to be deployed at home for peacetime missions under an “extraordinary emergency situation of catastrophic dimension.”
While “Bundeswehr” solders have since helped during flooding as well as providing logistical support during the migrant crisis, deploying troops in peacetime among the broader population is sure to lead to far broader populist concerns.
While some politicians suggested the influx of migrants and refugees had created security risks and called for tighter border controls, others warned against overreacting. Boris Pistorius, the justice minister in the state of Lower Saxony, told Die Welt newspaper that the three incidents in a week span “should clearly be distinguished” and that he would refrain from describing “the series of very different attacks as a wave of violence.”
He added: “We are not there yet.”
But Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere stated that Germans are “living in difficult times” and that police forces are already “overstretched.”
Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen recently announced that the German military would conduct counterterrorism training with police later this year. “There are scenarios we couldn’t imagine before the attacks of Paris or Brussels but that we must address openly and for which we must prepare,” she said.
German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen
A full blown military deployment may face logistical difficulties: with an overall contingent of under 200,000 personnel, the country’s armed forces are spread thin while fulfilling peacekeeping missions in Afghanistan, Kosovo, Mali and in the the Mediterranean Sea. According to the German Armed Forces Association, many servicemen don’t want to be used as “stopgaps at home.”
“We favor the planned training under the leadership of police forces in order to assess a potential role of the armed forces in a large-scale terror scenario,” said Lt. Col. André Wuestner, the group’s head. “But it should not be our goal to protect train stations.”
Wuestner said his counterparts in France and Belgium have warned that their domestic security duties — such as patrolling city centers — have kept them from training for their main responsibilities, such as missions abroad.
Some tried to push their own agenda: the head of Germany’s police union suggested that better equipment and weapons offered a better answer than troops on the streets of Berlin, Frankfurt and Hamburg.
“What we don’t need is for that the armed forces to fill a personnel gap, which would lead to a militarization of inner security,” Rainer Wendt said.
Yet despite the seeming acceleration by Germany to militarize at any cost, some more sover voices did emerge, such as that of Christian Moelling, a security expert at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, told NBC News thatconservative politicians appeared to be trying to capitalize on recent events as they sought to achieve their longstanding goal of allowing the military to deploy within the country’s borders.
He noted that since the end of World War II, high hurdles had been established governing how the armed forces can be used and was skeptical that any push to change that would be successful.
“To use Germany’s military for interior security, including the use of force, would necessitate a large majority for a constitutional change, and this majority doesn’t exist,” Moelling said, adding that at least two-thirds of parliamentarians would have to approve such a measure.
It can, however, quickly be achieved should there be a few more terrorist attacks on German soil, which will promptly provide the needed cover if not to change the constitution, than to implement an indefinite state of emergency, bypassing such pesky things as laws. As a reminder, France has had once since last November.