No single example demonstrates the Greens’ uneasiness with Germany’s full-fledged debut on the world stage and the responsibilities that come with it than their mixed responses to the Balkan wars. As late as 1995, most Greens saw the participation of German troops in the peacekeeping mission planned for Bosnia as a fateful first step in the militarization of German foreign policy. By then, however, Fischer and a handful of other Green dissenters had reached very different conclusions. Germany, they reasoned – especially Germany – could not abdicate responsibility for a crisis of Bosnia’s magnitude. Ethnic cleansing was exactly the kind of barbarism that liberal Germans believed should never happen again in Europe. If international troops were needed to bring peace, Germany could not just spectate from the sidelines.
In the spring of 1999 Fischer backed the deployment of German bombers in a war to prevent a repeat of Srebrenica in Kosovo. A particularly bitter pill for multilateralist Germans, the intervention didn’t even have the fig leaf of a UN Security Council mandate. But Germany’s fascist past, Fischer argued to Green doubters, dictated that a liberal, democratic Germany do everything in its power to stop genocide in Europe, by military means when all other avenues had been exhausted, UN mandate or not. For Fischer, intervention in Kosovo constituted a legitimate last resort to defend human rights, not a rolling over to Washington and the military-industrial complex.
Since then, remarkably, Fischer and the red-green government have turned German engagement in world trouble spots into a defining characteristic of the so-called Berlin Republic. In 2001 Germany assumed the lead roal in the NATO-run stabilization force in Macedonia, supplying most of the troops. A year later Germany went to war a second time since World War II, committing special forces to Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. . . . Today Germany has command of the NATO-led contingent in Afghanistan. . . .
. . . Fischer’s verions of a Greater Middle East Initiative poses Germany as a non-partisan negotiator between Israel, Washington and the Arab/Muslim world, a proposal unthinkable in the not-so-distant past. So good is Germany’s political credit on the world market, a permanent German seat on the Security Council, though unlikely, seems to have the backing of all its current members and the necessary two-thirds of the UN General Assembly.
It was precisely this new latitude that enabled the red-green leadership to shake another of Germany’s sacred post-war pillars. When Germany refused to back the US invasion of Iraq, it altered the character of the transatlantic alliance forever: No longer would Germany act as a blindly loyal junior partner to America in international affairs.
The idea that convinces Fischer most is that of a tightly bound, federal Europe. Fischer is a man of grand visions, and he tirelessly promotes that of a Europe from the Atlantic to the Urals, the Baltic to the Balkans, including Turkey, in which nations pool ever more of their sovereignty. Fischer believes that in their historic campaign to forge a united, democratic Europe, his European predecessors (including a long line of conservative German chancellors) located the silver bullet that would expunge the aggressive nationalisms that in the past have torn the continent apart. Serbia, Ukraine and Moldova should all one day belong to an EU of thirty-five or even forty member states. The very process of coaxing them along the path to Europe will democratize and stabilize these weak states. This Europe, he exhorts his Green colleagues, is the progressive challenge of the twenty-first century.
Meanwhile, in a globalized world, argues Fischer, Germany and France alone cannot afford the resources to tackle today’s global problems – like AIDS, terrorism, climate change, failed states, sex and drug trafficking, migration and globalization itself. The Balkan wars prompted the Europeans to accelerate development of joint foreign and security structures, with an EU foreign affairs chief and plans for a single command center and a multinational army. At the very least, Europe should be capable of managing crises and keeping the peace in its own backyard.
And many other key questions about Europe’s foreign and security policy remain wide open. The British, for example, favor subordinating the EU’s military component to NATO command; the French insist it should be wholly independent of NATO. The Germans lie somewhere in between.
Ultimately, the tighter Europe is and the more developed its foreign, security and defense capabilities, both civilian and military, the greater alternative it will pose to Pax Americana. Fischer and Schroder know this, as they know that even a unified Europe can’t compete with the United States in military hardware and technology. But this was never the idea. The Germans envision a European foreign and security policy designed to facilitate conflict prevention, diplomatic initiatives and the integration of peripheral states into multilateral bodies. It is the kind of soft power that West Germany used so effectively during the cold war, and that the Bush Administration tends to shun.
This emphasis on soft power notwithstanding, the EU is also developing a military component, a flexible 60,000-man rapid deployment force, available for peacekeeping tasks but also to intervene in worldwide conflict situations. Critically, it will have its own intelligence and logistics capabilities, as well as other combat support services.