Lessons from Cairo for police cooperation in Europe

The Egyptian army did apparently not shoot (much) at its own people because the conscripts refused to do so.

This will certainly feed into the argumentation of pro-conscription crowds, but it's still just an anecdote under special circumstances for the context of pro/contra conscription debates (the Wehrmacht was still a conscript-based force, for example).

The same anecdote is most interesting from another perspective, though:

The primary force for oppressing the own people overtly is still the police. What does this tell us about police? At the very least it should not be a foreign police force, but well-rooted in the civil society.
Domestic policemen may support a dictatorship, but foreign policemen have even less restraints.

Think about the bilateral cooperation between European police forces with this in mind. European police forces have already cooperated to a degree at which foreign policemen were empowered by domestic authorities to serve in a riot control and event security role with police powers.

Zudem ist der Einsatz von deutschen Polizeikräften auf ausländischem Staatsgebiet als auch der Einsatz von ausländischen Polizeibeamten in Deutschland gängige Praxis und hat sich bewährt. Dabei sind die Polizeikräfte regelmäßig auch mit exekutiven Befugnissen ausgestattet.

 (Furthermore is the employment of German police forces on foreign territory as well as the employment of foreign police officers in Germany prevalent practice and has proved itself. [These] police forces are regularly equipped with executive authorities.)

The legal excuse is apparently article 24 of the Prüm Convention (2005) between Austria, Belgium France, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Spain.It was joined later by Finland, Slovenia, Hungary, Norway, Estonia and Romania. The convention does not oblige signatory states to grant powers to foreign policemen, but it seems to encourage it.

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I applaud when states prefer cooperation over confrontation.
It's also fine when they cooperate in order to prevent waste and cut mistakes. 

Nevertheless, foreign police with executive powers on German territory goes too far.

I bet that few will pick up this perspective in the coming months and years for mainstream debates.



  1. By that logic one could also argue that Bavarian state policemen shouldn't be deployed to Berlin or vice versa. Still this is widely accepted. If foreign (other EU member states') policemen are used on German soil, they must obey German law and German policemen liaise between them and the German police. Also, I don't think that other (Western) European police forces are less reluctant to use force than German policemen.

    BTW: What's your opinion on the German MoD's proposal to open up the Bundeswehr to permanent residents?

  2. I see more differences between French policemen and Saxon policemen than between Bavarian and Saxon ones.

    The whole context was furthermore the concern about times when policemen aren't exactly your friend and helper, but aides of oppression. Shit happens at times, but we should not pave the way for it.

    The hysteria about the recruitment proposal will likely be another topic here.

  3. I would say that there is a more general principle at work here: a conscripted army is *always* much less likely to turn their arms against their own countrymen... If, and only if, they constitute a representative sample of their country and the people they are set to protect/oppress.

    The Egyptian police seem more a case of the Jay Gould strategy of "I can hire one half of the working class to kill the other half".


    For all the evils of the Wehrmacht, I'm not familiar with any examples of them being used against other germans? I would think that that was the job of the SS, being a "state within the state" and an army within the army (much like the Iranian "Revolutionary Guard" or the Iraqi Republican Guard)

    Having dedicated forces for internal suppression necessarly falls on forces which can be isolated from the general population. The more different in language, ethnicity and identity the better. The Romans perfected this method for their legions while the Russians did the same in the Soviet sattelite states.

    Finally, conscript armies are only as good as the people they are drawn from... The examples of incredibly aggressive conscript armies abound. But these were (and are) made up of some seriously nationalistic people, and quite often rely on a hard-core for the really dirty work.

    The main virtue then may be that a conscript army is difficult to use for purposes that does not have widespread support in the population. When *anyones* son or daughter (regardless of wealth or social station) is on the line for a conflic then it better be worth it! Even if there is just a chance of your offspring being sent off, that tends to sharpen the minds of people. No wonder the US abandoned the draft after Vietnam, isolating their future conflicts from the general populance which could then start idealizing and enjoying the battles from the safety of their homes.

    This is not to say voluntary armies are intrimsically evil or something. But with the kind of wages being paid, and the social status of the profession, what kind of people are really seeking to join the military in your average (if that exists) western-european country nowadays?

    Here in Sweden a new military recruit earns about the same as a burger-flipper at McDonalds, and gets to sign away some of his/her rights as a citizen as well! They are *forced* to live in a 1950:ties style dorm for 100€ a month (not including food) and are expected to live like that for up to eight years... Not going to happen.

    Meanwhile, the job as a military officer scored dead last in a survey over jobs with the most status, even below salesmen and PR-flacks.

    Now, the Swedish "reform" is a most spectacular trainwreck for all sorts of reasons, and there are definitely ways of doing things better than we have. But it's no easy task, requiring careful planning and deep pockets.

    Somehow, I think that the Norwegians have got it right: A broad base of conscripts from which volunteers are recruited to staff more permanent units. Once the Swedish experiment collapses (which it will, and soon (1-3 years) too) I'm positive
    that is route we will take.

    Finally, some food for thought from your southern neighbour:


  4. It's rare even for conscript armies to refuse illegitimate orders in coup d'états or dictatorships.

    The Egypt example is fresh in our memories, but it's also a very rare anecdote.