Deployment with many question marks

German participation in the lebanon mission is causing opposition in all political camps – but will nevertheless be decided upon

Next wednesday, the next german mission abroad will in all likelihood be approved. After the current missions in the balkans, afghanistan and the congo, there is hardly anything standing in the way of the military command off the coast of lebanon. The parliamentary reservation threatens to prevent the next deployment of german soldiers abroad less than ever before: union parties and social democrats together have the necessary majority. Even if the opposition veto thus becomes formal democratic wastepaper, it is worth taking a look at the debate.

Hardly any foreign mission in the history of the bundeswehr has been more symbolic than the mission off the coast of lebanon. If the german navy is to deploy with two frigates, two transport helicopters, three supply ships, four speedboats and a total of 2.With 400 troops involved in the united nations’ unifil mission in lebanon, which has been in place for nearly three decades, german soldiers will be stationed near israel for the first time since that state was founded. Armed conflicts with its army can thus not be excluded.

The speedboat hyane (class 143a). Photo: german armed forces/ matthias dorendahl

In the run-up to the parliamentary debate scheduled for tuesday, supporters and critics of the deployment know how to exploit the resulting explosive situation. In the middle of this week, merkel’s word of "historic deployment" was already making the rounds. While german chancellor angela merkel (cdu) and german foreign minister frank-walter steinmeier (spd) pathosically supported the middle east mission because of germany’s special historical position, representatives of the opposition parties are turning this argument into the opposite. Military engagement in the middle east must not be misunderstood as a contribution to "coming to terms with the holocaust," said monika knoche, a member of the left party.

Open questions increase the likelihood of conflict

Opponents of the mission, however, complain above all that the german government has offered to participate in the mission without any coercion whatsoever. In fact, the haste with which the extension of the unifil mission is decided and implemented – not only by germany – raises questions. Important details of the deployment remain unclear to date.

The primary task of the german navy, as the leading national naval force in the new mission, will be to stop suspected arms smugglers on the high seas. So far there is clarity. But at this point it also ends. It is not clear what will happen to the cargo and crew of the stopped ship in this case. The mandate, as described by the german government, leaves this question open.

This poses military and political dangers. By talking only about the surveillance of the "lebanese coastal area," the legally defined regulation of a six- or. Twelve-mile zone off the coast line left aside. Conflicts with the lebanese armed forces are thus provoked, especially since the presence of regional liaison officers on the german ships is not certain. Whether lebanon’s sovereignty will be strengthened in this way, as promised by merkel, is more than unlikely. Fdp and left party also want to vote against the deployment for this reason. Germany is becoming part of the conflict rather than part of the solution, criticized gregor gysi, head of the left party parliamentary group.

Reservations also on the right

The upcoming lebanon deployment is not only viewed critically by the opposition, however; tentative resistance has also been voiced within the cdu/csu. The intentions are of course different. Coinciding with the government cabinet’s approval of the deployment, andreas schockenhoff, vice chairman of the cdu/csu parliamentary group, presented a policy paper on wednesday to regulate future german military deployments. Most important point: bundeswehr missions abroad should in principle be oriented towards german interests. Decisions about this also had to be made "on the basis of the fundamental values of german politics and of federal obligations". The interjection from the cdu/csu faction proves it: even in the conservative camp – despite transatlantic ties – increasing attention is being paid to german interests. Concerns about automatic deployment are growing, especially in view of the diffuse military situation in afghanistan, where german soldiers are part of the us-led occupation regime.

This was recently pointed out by klaus-dieter frankenberger, head of the political section of the frankfurter allgemeine zeitung, in an editorial. The "intervention boom" of recent years, frankenberger wrote in reference to nato, feeds part of the growing reservations against the alliance in the member states, as can be seen in the latest polls: 41 percent of the germans surveyed thought that nato was not important for the security of their country. A few years ago, only 22 percent of respondents had expressed this opinion. Like a growing part of the conservative camp, the faz editor derives a remarkable conclusion from this: independent of its transatlantic partner, the united states, "a middle power like germany" must also pay closer attention to its own interests:

Of course, nato and its members do not live in an ideal world that allowed them the political luxury of defining collective interests in a quasi-seminar style, and in which there was no political impetus to distinguish between "vital" and less important interests – and then to act or not to act accordingly. Whether ideal world or harsh reality: it is not only legitimate to make such a distinction, it is actually indispensable.

Klaus-dieter frankenberger

The timid emancipation from the usa, which speaks from such statements, can be explained by washington’s geopolitical strategies. In a statement, the "bundesausschuss friedensratschlag" points out another possible automatism. In the debate about the lebanon mission, the broader context should not be ignored, it states. Once the german warships were off lebanon, they also reinforced the u.S. Threat against iran. If the u.S. Were to attack iran, the german navy could hardly escape the demand for "flank protection".

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