The German Army is a Paper Tiger. Good!

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[Photo of a poster suggesting that the $100 million for one fighter could build 1 soccer field, removate 1 public swimming pool complex, build a kindergarten, and provide 900 low-cost apartments: 'We can only spend our money once!']

Jacques Shuster over at the conservative Die Welt laments the state (g) of the German Army (Bundeswehr) and blames 'all Germans' for not supporting it enough and for letting its budget be repeatedly cut. Apparently the German army has massive supply and readiness problems, leading to embarrassing fluffs (g) worldwide, for instance in rebuffing Somali pirates or fulfilling ISAF duties in Afghanistan. American troops in Afghanistan jokingly refer to those initials as standing for 'I See Americans Fighting', and German generals consistently refuse U.S. requests to send their troops from relatively tranquil northern Afghanistan to highly kinetic southern Afghanistan (g). European troop contingents very sensibly avoid engaging with the enemy wherever possible, seeing no reason to kill or die thousands of miles from home as part of anothing nation's futile war.

Which raises the question: what is the German Army doing in these places? Why does Germany need an army larger than would be required to fight off a completely inconceivable invasion or a largely hypothetical attack on a NATO member state? Former defense ministers argued that Germany's security had to be defended 'in the Hindu Kush', but that was nonsense when it was said, and events have given it the lie. All that German actions in Afghanistan have done is cost German taxpayers billions (g), create scandals, kill 53 German soldiers, and arguably increase the risk of attacks in Germany by associating the German Army with the unpopular tactics of the Americans.

There are many reasons Germans don't care very much about and don't want to spend very much on their army, including the historical hangover of German militarism. But I would suggest the main reason is that they don't see the point anymore. If you reduced the Germany Army to 1/4 of its current size — or whatever would be just enough for a convincing deterrent to an invasion — nobody would notice or care. Except the Americans, of course, who are desperate for tiny, ineffectual, fig-leaf contributions of troops from European countries to give their assorted misguided military adventures a tad more legitimacy. But that serves only American interests, not German, and German taxpayers can hardly be faulted for not wanting to spend billions to provide diplomatic cover to Uncle Sam.

2 thoughts on “The German Army is a Paper Tiger. Good!

  1. I am not sure about details, but Germany has probably contracts with NATO about their army size. The overall strength (in manpower) had to be reduced after the unification. Of course it is embarrassing (especially for a people known for punctuality and efficiency) that only a fraction of helicopters etc. is in working order. But I guess the US/NATO would not be happy about an actual official reduction of the German armed forces.

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