The Political Role of the Military: An International Handbook

By Constantine P. Danopoulos; Cynthia Watson | Go to book overview

could not be predicted, for it was the potential aggressor who decided about the one or the other. If deterrence failed, the consequences would be disastrous for Germany.

Yet the officer corps of the Bundeswehr with very few exceptions accepted the NATO strategy for Central Europe. Among the early exceptions was Colonel Bogislav von Bonin, who developed alternative strategic plans for the defense of the Federal Republic. He had been a member of the Amt Blank, the precursor of the Ministry of Defense, but because of his dissent he was fired by Theodor Blank even before the first soldiers of the Bundeswehr were recruited.11

However, the name of Bonin survived as a kind of hidden myth of the military culture; every critic of the official military strategy of the Bundeswehr came to mention him during the late 1970s and early 1980s in the context of NATO's double-track decision.12

The Bundeswehr and its officer corps did not really take much part in the political debate about political and military priorities until recently. An early attempt by some generals at the end of the 1950s publicly to support the political position of Defense Minister Franz-Josef Strauss in matters of nuclear strategy generated a public storm of political indignation. Another attempt by conservative generals in 1969-70 to gain political support against the reforms of the Bundeswehr planned and executed by Defense Minister Helmut Schmidt resulted in their dismissal. Basically the armed forces did not want to play a political role in the Federal Republic; it is hardly conceivable how they could have played an active political role, given the many institutional restrictions.

The Bundeswehr and the second generation of its leaders have basically no more difficulty in understanding the armed forces according to the ideas of Innere Fuehrung. After the end of the Cold War and Germany's unification, a growing majority seems to regard the armed forces as too expensive. The size of the armed forces will be drastically reduced. Conscription is less popular than ever. And 1950s arguments about the necessary political and social control of the armed forces by means of conscription are no longer understood.13

Perhaps this reflects the positive experience with the Bundeswehr in democratic Germany. The coalition government of CDU/CSU and FDP is determined to stick to the system of conscription, but this attitude may change. If the Bundeswehr were to become an all-voluntary force like the armed forces in the United States and Great Britain, it would probably continue to be a loyal and democratically oriented organization. There are no signs of a growing distance between the Bundeswehr and civil society. There are, however, signs of a growing distance between this civil society and its armed forces. It will be interesting to study the middle- and long-term effects on the armed forces.


NOTES
1.
Herbert Spencer: The Principles of Sociology, vol. II ( London and New York: 1886), pp. 568-642.

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