German foreign policy has a real problem.
Crises are erupting everywhere: The murdering and plundering terrorist bands of the Islamic State in Iraq. The increasingly dramatic disintegration of Libya. Ceaseless bombardment of Ukraine.
The world, and above all Germany’s European neighbors, are demanding more involvement from Berlin to help resolve these crises. Germany’s importance on the world stage is growing.
But almost 70 percent of Germans say they are against greater German involvement. Fear of war is in the DNA of post-war Germans. This doesn’t make foreign policy easy, but it does guard against simplification.
Germany is unlikely to rush into a military conflict.
But against this historic backdrop, Germany’s foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, has presented a new strategy. He isn’t simply running for cover or going with the flow of mainstream opinion that opposes foreign intervention.
He considers the strategy to be an effective third way between, as he puts it, “inconsequential talk and military action.”
Germany cannot simply look on.
As a relatively small but economically strong nation, Germany is globally networked like almost no other country in the world.
As a major exporter, it must insist on binding international rules. And, it is clear that Germany will have to intervene when the rules are broken. Looking the other way or simply talking is not enough.
The concept long advocated by the United States of reacting to crises with military interventions has reached its limit — just look at Afghanistan or Iraq.
At any rate, the German army, long under-funded, is not in tip-top condition anyway.