This week, the lower house of the German parliament decided in a symbolic vote to deliver weapons to Kurds battling Islamic militants in Iraq – with a majority coming from parties that support the government.
This was a pure show of legitimization on the part of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s grand coalition. The decision had, in fact, been made long before. For her part, the German leader turned the world topsy-turvy in a better-safe-than-sorry ploy: She delivered the government policy statement only after the debate.
Hopefully, this is not the path that Ms. Merkel’s government takes the next time it seeks to break with Germany’s long-held taboo on sending weapons into war zones. A parliament as a mere talking shop, which can only rant and rave, raises doubts that future decisions about exporting arms will be more transparent in the future. Parliament must have more than a symbolic say in authorizing weapons exports. It should have the power of actually helping to decide, especially when opinion polls indicate two-thirds of Germans oppose the move.
The fact that the chancellor and her associates have so blatantly refused to offer a genuine rationale for bypassing parliament threatens to blow up in their faces. No less a figure than Germany’s foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, made it clear how severe doubts actually are behind the government’s feigned confidence. He said German weapons should only be delivered in an amount guaranteeing that “no weapons depot could be set up” – in other words, so rockets don’t fall into the wrong hands. Is military aid in homeopathic doses really suitable for wartime?
The fact that the chancellor and her associates have so blatantly refused to offer a genuine rationale for bypassing parliament threatens to blow up in their faces.
Mr. Steinmeier recognizes the danger of delivering weapons solely to one ethnic division in Iraq. But he believes the risk – possible establishment of a Kurdish state with the help of German weapons – can be managed. A free Kurdistan, however, is a stated goal of Kurds across the entire region, from Damascus to Erbil.
The fact is, an independent Kurdistan in northern Iraq would be a falling domino, further splitting up Iraq as a consequence. New disputes decided in part by German weapons would inevitably flare up regarding new borders and new national territories. This sort of questioning of existing borders could make entire large regions of the Middle East ungovernable. A further escalation of this sort cannot be in accordance with the reason for German engagement.
With this new hybrid form of parliamentarianism, the German government is assuming sole responsibility for the consequences of delivering weapons. The decision regarding exports might be justifiable, but up to now the known rationales are all unambiguously non-political: Mass murder must be prevented. Who would oppose this sort of goal? No one, of course.
But that is no way a real legitimization. The lessons from U.S. intervention in Iraq should be obvious by now: Most important is a political plan and plausible strategy for realizing it. It would be good to now finally be informed about them.
This article was translated by George Frederick Takis. Greg Ring also contributed. To reach the author: email@example.com