How to Make a Bad Situation Worse


WASHINGTON/BERLIN (Own report) - An expert at Berlin's Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) is warning against an expansion of German-European military missions. "The analysis of interventions over the past twenty years" has led to "sobering insights into the limitations" of foreign military operations, according to a current position paper published by the SWP. This even applies to those military operations having the official objective of preventing massacres. In Libya, for example, "the risk of mass violence" is, by all means, "considered to be higher today, than before the intervention" in 2011. The SWP's expert writes that in the USA "politicians and scholars" are "to a growing extent, agreeing that military interventions are an ineffective and extremely expensive instrument." In fact, US experts are drawing a devastating conclusion about Washington's intervention policy. One political scientist, taking the example of Syria, found that a military mission to that country, when seen in light of the experiences of Afghanistan, Iraq or Libya, would "make a bad situation much worse." Regardless of such warnings, Berlin continues to adamantly pursue its expansion of German-European military missions - for the time being, particularly in Africa.

Sobering Insights

In a new position paper, Lars Brozus, an associate of the EU Foreign Relations Research Group of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP), is warning against expanding EU military missions, as Berlin is currently preparing. "The analysis of interventions over the past twenty years" have led to "sobering insights about the limitations" of foreign military operations, writes the SWP's expert.[1] Even a cursory glance at the desolate situation in Kosovo, in Afghanistan, in Iraq and in other regions targeted for Western military operations give confirmation of this.

Not Justified

Brozus writes that "use of military power must satisfy two minimum requirements": "it must be ethically justifiable and be winnable." According to Brozus - aside from the "for the most part, unproblematic cases of self-defense" of a country - a mission is "ethically justifiable," only when it serves the purpose of "protecting people from an imminent threat of mass violence." "All other arguments, such as alliance solidarity, stabilization and state-building or protection of economic interests, offer no ethical justification for killing people or having one's own soldiers be killed," writes the SWP's expert - in obvious contradiction to the global policy offensive Berlin has been preparing since last fall, which includes the use of military means. ( reported.[2])

As a Rule, Counterproductive

Brozus even has doubts about the case of interventions against an imminent threat of mass violence. Though "research demonstrates that the number of people killed following an intervention is often lower than before external intervention," still "the armed intervention's long term objectives - particularly those of stabilization, state-building and good governance, ... - are, as a rule, not achieved." The war on Libya in 2011 can serve as an example. Even though no "mass violence occurred in Bengasi," the prevention of which was the official objective given, "following Gadhafi's death (...) there has been no stability." "Today, the risk of mass violence in Libya is considered to be higher than before the intervention," is Brozus' assessment of the Libyan situation, in the aftermath of the Western intervention. Germany had politically supported this intervention, while only marginally participating militarily.[3]

Dismal Record

While Berlin and the EU are planning an expansion of their military interventions, a development in the opposite direction is taking place in the discussion in the United States. "Politicians and scholars are, to a growing degree concluding that military interventions are an ineffective and expensive instrument." In fact, in current US-American political journals, renowned experts have been recently unambiguously critical toward US wars of the past decade. Exemplarily, in a text published at the beginning of the year, the Chicago political scientist, John Mearsheimer, discusses possible interventions in Syria or in Egypt. He arrives at the conclusion that there is not only "no compelling moral grounds" for military measures in either of these countries, but, on the contrary, an intervention "is likely to make a bad situation worse." "Consider America’s dismal record in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya."[4]

Costs of War

Interfering "in countries like Egypt and Syria and turning the world into one big battlefield" writes Mearsheimer, has "significant costs for the United States." There is little fear of retaliation; terrorism is a minor threat; there is no threat of other countries militarily attacking. The US "can pursue foolish policies and still remain the most powerful state on the planet." However, "the economic costs are huge" and there are "significant human costs as well." "Thousands of Americans have died in Afghanistan and Iraq, and many more have suffered egregious injuries that will haunt them for the rest of their lives." Probably the most serious cost of Washington’s interventionist policies is the growth of a "national-security state" that threatens to undermine the liberal-democratic values.[5] Mearsheimer relevantly places the excesses of the CIA's rendition programs and the NSA's spying as by products of a global intervention policy.

Global Governance

The SWP's expert, Lars Brozus, makes a diagnosis of these same "risks," which extend "from the violent escalation in the theater of operations up to critical backlashes affecting civil rights and liberties," while affecting the "socio-economic development of the country sending the troops." Brozus, therefore, discourages military missions, and suggests a reinforcement of "the non-military components of foreign policy" as a means "of more effective intervening." For example, one could provide support to foreign "non-violent democratic movements," which have "the permanent transformation of state structures as their objective." One example is the so-called Orange Revolution in Ukraine. These movements must be promoted by various means. "A debate that would advance the competition for ... innovative forms of foreign policy engagements would be a futuristic contribution to global governance." However, Brozus does not favor a renunciation of "global governance" - and therefore, of interference in foreign countries' domestic affairs, by way of heteronomous governments, as would be the prerequisite for an independent social, economic and political development of the countries in question.

[1] Zitate hier und im Folgenden: Lars Brozus: Innovation statt Intervention: die außenpolitische Debatte muss sich vom Militärischen lösen. 17.02.2014.
[2] See The Re-Evaluation of German Foreign Policy, The World's Expectations, Germany's "Act of Liberation" and Der Weltordnungsrahmen.
[3] See Arbeit für die Bauindustrie.
[4], [5] John Mearsheimer: America Unhinged. 02.01.2014.