GERMANY, watching the postwar era fade into history, is
struggling to redefine its role in the world.
Reunification started this process. But lawmakers, journalists,
and political analysts here say that it is actually coalition
criticism of Germany's nonparticipation in the Gulf war which is
speeding it up.
Now that Germany is reunited and fully sovereign, it must take on
more responsibility internationally, especially in global security,
says Chancellor Helmut Kohl.
But becoming a nation among equals is a difficult transition. It
means a sea change - dropping the postwar status of Germany as
"economic giant, political dwarf, and military worm," as Wilhelm
Hortmann wrote recently in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
Professor Hortmann's nearly full-page article, "What it means to
be German," is just one among a multitude in the press as Germans
try to sort out what Germany's responsibility to the world is.
In another leading conservative newspaper, Die Welt, political
scientist Hans-Peter Schwarz warns against German "isolationism." He
says the "big debate" has begun on how long, and at what price, the
Germans can afford isolationism.
Meanwhile, the leading newspaper on the left, Die Zeit, argued in
mid-March that the Gulf war victory was "dubious" and that Germans
were thankfully not military participants. "Let them call us
dodgers," wrote Marion Grafin Donhoff. "What do we care?"
The national debate on Germany's world role is also taking place
in the Bundestag, or parliament. The issue there is how to change
the German Constitution to allow out-of-NATO-area deployment of
German troops. In the Gulf war, the Germans said their Constitution
prevented them from deploying troops to the region.
Far from being a merely technical question, say lawmakers,
military policy is the last hurdle on the road to German normalcy in
"It's the last difficulty," says Bundestag member Rupert Scholz,
a former defense minister under Mr. Kohl. Germany is complete in all
other ways, he says, describing it as reunited, sovereign, and an
economic and political motor in Europe.
The issue is also seen as a litmus test for Bonn vis-a-vis its
allies. "A lot of German credibility rides on this," says Thomas
Kielinger, editor-in-chief of the weekly Rheinischer Merkur.
Aligning Germany's security policy with that of its European
partners is essential if Europe is going to follow through on
political union, says Mr. Kielinger. In the next conflict, Germany's
allies will expect more than a check.
The responses to the out-of-area question reflect the degrees to
which Germans are prepared to launch into new waters.
The Social Democrats (SPD), the opposition on the left, have the
most limiting approach. For the moment, they agree that the German
Army could take part in United Nations peacekeeping missions, but
only under UN command and control.
The centrist Free Democrats, Kohl's junior coalition partner, go
a step further and support UN-sanctioned excursions, even if they
are not under UN command. …