Major and Minor Wars


BERLIN (Own report) - Berlin is preparing for a growing number of foreign military interventions, according to the defense minister and a retired lieutenant colonel of the Bundeswehr. "The question of the deployment of our armed forces will most likely be posed more often in the future," reckons Defense Minister Thomas de Maizière in an interview with the magazine "Internationale Politik." Particularly so-called minor wars have to be expected, declares a senior officer in the magazine's current edition, focusing on the topic "what kind of troops does Germany need for the future." "Minor wars," for example, include counterinsurgency. By concentrating on this theme, "Internationale Politik" would like to initiate a larger debate on warfare. The German society has difficulty "openly discussing power - which in the end includes military force," according to the head editor. Berlin is increasingly seeing war as an ordinary foreign policy instrument. The defense minister is underlining this, when he declares, "military means are the ultimate and not merely the last means."

Three Parallel Deployments

In an interview with the leading German foreign policy magazine "Internationale Politik," published by the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP), Thomas de Maizière declared "the question of the deployment of our armed forces will most likely be posed more often in the future." The reform measures, recently announced, will "readjust" the Bundeswehr to "become consistently oriented toward deployability and capability."[1] In the future, "up to 10,000 soldiers" will be deployable in up to two land-based theaters of operation" while simultaneously a naval unit would be able to operate in several conflicts. This means that an additional 3000 soldiers - almost 50 percent - would be available for military missions. The defense ministry insists that the Bundeswehr will keep a "large range of capabilities" and its capacity to take on tasks of occupation ("stabilizing missions"), operations à la Afghanistan, and "high intensity combat missions."

War without Rules

Many future military missions will be so-called minor wars, writes Lt. Col. (Ret.) Christian Freuding, of the Planning Staff of the German Defense Ministry, in the same edition of "Internationale Politik". "Minor wars," in this debate among specialists, refer to military engagements of national regular armies against non-state forces - for example, insurgents. According to a specialist article published years ago,[2] "minor wars are characterized by the breakdown of the binding rules of warfare." The "minor war" is "unrestricted; all means are deployed in the mission." "In its characteristic brutality," it often takes on "attributes - especially in regards to non-combatants, particularly women and children - that are usually associated with the phenomenon of total war," wherein the "entirety of the adversary and not only the combatants" are "seen as the enemy and fought." This explains "the high rate of civilian casualties in minor wars." In this sort of conflict, the regular troops also tend to take on "the adversary's unrestricted means of combat as their own." This specialist article was published a few months before September 11, 2001.

A Question of PR

In spite of the obvious defeats in Afghanistan and Iraq, the West is still in a position to win "minor wars," explains Lt. Col. Freuding in "Internationale Politik." However, it would be good to be clear on the respective wars' objectives and qualify their results accordingly. "Wars very seldom ended with a clear victor and a vanquished, who recognizes his defeat," writes Freuding,[3] which is why the criteria for success must be declared and offensively publicized "in strategic communication." Bosnia-Herzegovina, for example, is "still an artificial national construction, twenty years after the war." Yet, regardless of how the concrete living conditions are today, the "contribution to regional stabilization" afforded by the military intervention in that country, "is of strategic advantage" to the West. The Lt. Col. dismisses the objection that casualties among western troops lead, in the long run, to repeated demands in the western countries to bring the troops home. As "recent studies" demonstrate, "western societies (...) are prepared to accept sacrifices among their own troops, if they are convinced of the mission's 'legitimacy' and its chances of success." The latter is, above all, also a question of cleaver PR.

War amongst People

Freuding also writes that in minor wars western armed forces, including the Bundeswehr, "will find themselves in various roles." "They will vanquish enemy forces, impose compulsory measures with military might, separate warring parties or deter them, provide control for buffer zones or embargos, provide support for local security forces, or set them up."[4] All this, right up to "high intensity combat" will often "take place in close proximity to one another." The armed forces are generally "deployed where people live, where they have their administrative and social infrastructures, where the access to resources must be (re-)established and where the support of the population, with whom the armed forces interact and in whose midst they carry out their mission, is an essential goal of the operation." Without a doubt, this is about "war amongst people" with predictably numerous victims, explains the Lt. Col.

Responsibility means War

The Minister of Defense leaves no doubts about Berlin being intent on establishing more cohesion between the population and the military, to have a free hand for future military interventions. "A new culture of cohesion must be established," insists Thomas de Maizière.[5] "Therefore we must also have an open debate on security policy, what security means, today, and how much are we willing to sacrifice for it." This sort of debate must take place in "all sectors of the population." Above all soldiers should "receive the appropriate esteem." The minister lays high priority on a "new concept for reservists" as well as an "engaged veteran policy." It is "the duty of us all, to achieve and maintain a place in the middle of society for the Bundeswehr." What Berlin really wants, is summed up in the new edition of "Internationale Politik": "The culture of military restraint must give way to a culture of responsibility." "Culture of responsibility" means nothing more than the readiness willingly to support a growing number of the Bundeswehr's combat missions.

[1] "Die Armee ist kein gepanzertes Technisches Hilfswerk", Internationale Politik Nr. 6/2011
[2] Martin Hoch: Krieg und Politik im 21. Jahrhundert, Aus Politik und Zeitgeschichte B20/2001
[3], [4] Christian Freuding: Wie Goliath gewinnen kann, Internationale Politik Nr. 6/2011
[5] "Die Armee ist kein gepanzertes Technisches Hilfswerk", Internationale Politik Nr. 6/2011