A draft for a new German security policy (English version)


(01) The basic assumption
(02) The weighting of dangers
(03) The assignment of competencies
(04) The mission of the government
(05) Consistent security policy requires a national consensus
(06) The role of international law
(07) One's own responsibility
(08) Behaviour vis-à-vis aggressors
(09) Multilateral arms control treaties
(10) The importance of UN, OSCE and EU
(11) External exercise of influences on the EU
(12) Foreign military in Germany
(13) Intervention without an alliance obligation
(14) Geographical orientation of the Bundeswehr
(15) Focus on potential for quick force expansion
(16) Protection of maritime trade

01: The basic assumption

The underlying assumption of this draft is:

National security policy shall be policy for national self-protection, not policy to further national interests in general.

This draft is going to be an expression of opinion, and it cannot prove its superiority over alternatives without busting the space available to a large book project. As a consequence, I'll leave out most arguments and considerations which led to the conclusions.

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Two important basics of a development of a coherent and purposeful national security policy are a weighing of dangers and the allocation of responsibilities.

02: The weighting of dangers

The weighting needs to be done with both assumed probability and assumed severity. A look at most spectacular horror fantasies may be a good idea for fiction novel authors, but it's no useful method for actual policy. A look at probability only (such as dismissing conventional war entirely and focusing on small wars) makes no sense whatsoever, too. We need to go the tough way and face reality, not dumb it down. It is very important to stick with sane appraisals, not fall prey to ridiculous exaggerations.

Large-scale nuclear war: Very, very small probability, almost end-of-civilization severity.

Small-scale nuclear war: Very small probability, potentially world war-like severity.

Conventional war: Small probability in the next few years, severity could range from essentially an economic crisis to national catastrophe.

Border conflict: Very small probability, low severity for Germany because our borders aren't disputed. An economic crisis could ensue.

Small war: A no-show because a distant small war cannot infringe our national security and a domestic or neighbouring small war is implausible for Germany.

Ideological organized crime (terrorist) attack: Small probability in short term, medium probability in long term. Severity is roughly on the scale of a large traffic accident.

Profit-oriented organized crime attack: Ordinary on small scale, medium probability on spectacular scale. The severity can be rated as being in the same range as domestic organized crime activities.

My conclusion is that the small-scale nuclear war and conventional war dangers deserve the most countermeasure funds allocation. The rather criminal activities can be countered with multi-purpose resources, especially the police. The justifiable countermeasure funds allocation for specifically these foreign crime issues is at most in the low ten-digit range.

03: The assignment of competencies

Three ministries should bear responsibilities for national security (plus the Bundeskanzleramt, the all-round and coordination ministry which supports the chancellor directly):

(a) Ministry of Defence (BMVg)
(b) Ministry of the Interior (BMI)
(c) Ministry of Foreign Affairs (AA)

The ministry of foreign aid is not relevant because its activities are geographically too distant to be relevant (keep in mind the initial statement!). This is obviously in stark contrast to the peace-through-development approach of many peace activist groups.

Responsibilities of the three ministries:

(a) BMVg; this ministry should focus on utilizing the potential of armed organized violence and its threat (deterrence) for the protection of the nation against (potential) external aggressors. As a rule, only lethal violence should be met with lethal violence on the national level.

(b) BMI; this ministry should handle all aggressions below the threshold to military capability. It's still going to be occupied with normal crimes (although this is primarily the responsibility of the 16 states). It's better suited than state polices to handle foreign and (substantially) organized criminals. This includes the effort against the typically-incompetent-irritants-known-as-terrorists and the public component of countermeasures against information technology-related crimes.

(c) AA; this ministry should handle foreign policy and thus all aspects of the national security policy which are about cooperation or negotiation. Its general foreign policy shall not increase the dangers to the nation by creating hostility. National security deserves very high priority and the national security policy must be maintained even if in conflict with the fashionable policy pet project of the season.

04: The mission of the government

Now we should define the mission for the government, by which the desired level of national security shall be achieved.

The objective is clear; to optimize the (expected) harm done to the German nation by wars and the risk of war (possibly even to avoid harm altogether). How should we do this?
The federal government should work for peace (especially in Europe), but the nation should also maintain its sovereignty with its military power.

This would be an "armed, but not aggressive" approach which strives to maintain its own security first by reducing the probability of violent conflict, especially on the own continent. We followed this approach till the 1990's when we began military-political adventures under naive ignorance of risks.

05: Consistent security policy requires a national consensus

Security policy can achieve quick successes almost exclusively in times of crisis. Preventive national security policy needs to be maintained in the long term in order to provide security in the long term.

A long term maintenance of a specific policy requires that it survives changes of government mostly intact. It's self-evident that democracy entails the possibility that policy changes. National security policy should nevertheless be among those decisions which stand the test of time because they rest on a broad and robust political consensus. This consensus can either be generated before the implementation or after the implementation of the policy - a high popularity would likely be the reason in the latter case.

This draft is based in such great part on (in Germany) established views and methods that it would require a new consensus only for few points. (This of course does not affect the fact that there's zero chance of implementation.)

06: The role of international law

The strengthening and emphasis of International Law without hypocrisy can increase this tool's ability to avoid and tone down armed conflicts.

Membership in a defensive alliance (check, we got that - twice, even though there's a question mark about the "defensive" since 1999) can provide both deterrence in peacetime and strength in wartime without exhausting the nation's economic capabilities with huge military expenditures. Deterrence does not require mad "MAD" (mutually assured destruction), but should rather convince potential aggressors that there's nothing to be gained by aggression. This should encompass small-scale conflicts which could not be deterred with the over-calibre threat of nuclear weapons or even nuclear genocide.

07: One's own responsibility

To "work for peace" also includes being watchful and alert about the possibility of becoming part of the problem yourself. Germany has already its precautions; to propose a war of aggression (as it has become regular occurrence in some countries) is illegal in Germany. That is, unless someone in Germany does propose a war of aggression in which the German military would not participate. There's also no real preparation for the case that the government already started a war of aggression. We should fix both problems. The current prison sentence for warmongering should furthermore be increased in light of the horrible damages against people and property caused by warfare.

We should also learn from the events that have lead to the war of aggression against Iraq in 2003 and make sure that no part of the German state - including intelligence officials - increases the probability of a war of aggression anywhere. Intelligence services should never give away information which could motivate or supposedly excuse a war of aggression.

08: Behaviour vis-à-vis aggressors

To "work for peace" does also require a resolute standing against (potential) aggressors - without hypocrisy. This means that even aggressive allies should be faced with sanctions, up to us leaving the alliance in order to avoid or end an association with the aggressor. This should be a self-evident lesson for the German security policy from the beginning of World War One.

This is probably the part which will provoke the most opposition because it could essentially mean that we should leave NATO and even the EU the next time a formal ally decides to venture into a war of aggression. On the other hand, to point this resolute standing out in advance might help to discourage such a crime against humanity.

NATO is not necessary for Germany's national security. In fact, we could make do without any alliance - as for example the Swiss do - and become neutral. NATO does provide a net advantage for the time being, though.

09: Multilateral arms control treaties

Multilateral arms control treaties make often sense and can be used to reduce waste of resources on useless military power competition. They can also set up military power limits; a violation of this limit could be understood as a preparation for an aggression and thus serve as a useful launch signal for our reactions.
Such multilateral arms control treaties should favour defensive capabilities over offensive ones if possible. This could help to discourage aggressions even more by widening the gap between normal peacetime strength and necessary strength for a supposedly promising aggression.

Germany has committed to becoming no nuclear power in the NNPT. We get the best of both worlds this way: We do not need to spend on nukes, other allies who do like to maintain nuclear arsenals attempt to deter (nuclear) aggressions and we help to create an overall political climate in which few non-nuclear powers attempt to acquire nuclear weapons.
The decision for signing the treaty fell explicitly with these considerations (especially the last one) in mind, and this judgement still makes sense. No treaty is perfect, but this one makes sense.

The NNPT provides us with a legal claim against the nuclear powers: The claim that they legally accepted the obligation to reduce their arsenals. The federal government can press for more nuclear arms reductions or not, depending on whether this serves our national security or not.

Notwithstanding, Germany has the industrial capabilities and raw materials to turn itself into a nuclear power, probably within less than two years. Germany does thus retain -on an economical path- its ability to exercise its sovereignty, leave the NNPT and to build a national nuclear deterrent if this ever becomes reasonable.

10: The importance of UN, OSCE and EU

United Nations
The United Nations are the epitome of International Law and their ban of wars of aggression is of great utility for the national security of the Federal Republic of Germany. Major violations against the principles of the UN originate primarily in great powers, in part because of their veto rights in the United Nations Security Council.

We cannot expect that the UN forces the great powers into a peaceful and respectful behaviour. It's furthermore not to be expected that the great powers will become more respectful for the UN or will become more faithful in regard to their obligations under the Charter of the United Nations (which they signed and ratified).
Instead, there's a persistent need for counter-forces in form or regional alliances or other great powers in order to deter aggressive variants of great power policy.

The UN are nevertheless in regard to many other issues a greatly effective accord, a contrat social among the states of the world, that has likely already prevented dozens of wars.

The OSCE is for the security policy of Germany only a little tool. It's probably the most relevant as provider of observers who observe elections or conflict, report and to some degree also assess.
The work of the OSCE as a sub-organisation of the UN is more directed at the domestic affairs of countries than the work of the UN itself, but a good effectiveness at this is neither visible nor to be expected.
The opportunities of Germany to influence the OSCE are small, so there are no substantial positive changes to be expected.

The European Union has become a defensive alliance with the Lisbon treaty, with a much stronger choice of words than the NATO. It has thus become a substitute for NATO in regard to security policy. Its utility as an alliance is reduced by the lack of awareness for this function. The ink on the paper itself is of little value; it's thus in Germany's interest to improve the awareness for the EU as a defensive alliance. A success of such efforts could turn the EU into a great alternative to NATO.

The EU continues to be largely ineffective in regard to foreign policy, and there are good reasons to doubt the commitment of European governments to change this. A common foreign policy requires such a degree of accordance among European governments that the path towards it will likely become a long one. A common European foreign policy is only of limited relevance for the national security of Germany anyway. A promising strategy - the convergence of the foreign policy perceptions in the EU through multinational news sources - may nevertheless be worth the effort.

11: External exercise of influences on the EU

Germany has -in order to enjoy the advantages of European cooperation- accepted that many political decisions will be made jointly and EU guidelines have to be followed with national legislation. Many of these decisions on the European level require a consensus.

The proper functioning of such political processes on the EU level faces many challenges. It's thus necessary to shield the process against one special kind of challenge: The illegitimate exercise of influence of non-EU states on EU decisions. We lent a part of our sovereignty to the EU. We thus gave only those states a right to say in our domestic affairs which did the same sacrifice.< An illegitimate exercise of influence on this by countries which did not pay this price is an offence against our sovereignty. This applies as well to the exercise of influence by non-government actors, such as business associations or corporations. We need to counter such improper influence decisively with peaceful means. External powers must not have decisive influence on governments in the EU as long as the EU has influence on German legislation.

12: Foreign military in Germany

Foreign military forces should not regularly be stationed in Germany, and the same applies to foreign intelligence service personnel. It's fine to have training exchange programs for officers, it's fine to have temporary experimental bi-national unit or formation, short multinational exercises are fine as well. Small-scale exceptions such as AWACS personnel can also be granted.
There's no need for the remnants of occupation armies, though.

13: Intervention without an alliance obligation

There's furthermore the question of a possible employment of the Bundeswehr for the defence of a formally non-allied state. This begs the question how this would serve the national security of Germany. The intervention in itself would put German citizens in uniform at extreme risks and would be a fiscal burden. This requires a similar counter-value or an ethical necessity.

We don't have to expect that one non-allied state after another might be overwhelmed before it's our turn, necessitating an intervention before it's too late. Our alliances are too large for such a scenario.
A repetition of the chain of aggressions of 1938-1939 up to an aggression against Germany isn't to be expected. Even the build-up of a centrally controlled pact akin to the Warsaw Pact is unlikely given the geo-political situation in Europe.

Additionally, there's no alliance obligation in such a case - the power that potentially requires assistance would by scenario definition not have pledged to defend us and would thus not have a claim against us.

For this reason there's even indirectly no real interest of Germany in favour of a German military intervention in a conflict between non-allied states.

A special problem is a genocide. The allegation of a genocide or of ethnic cleansing accompanied by mass murder always needs to be proved thoroughly by a neutral party. The events of the year 1999 ("Operation Horseshoe") should serve us as a warning in this regard.

A proved genocide constitutes an exception to the rule. Germany has an indirect interest in a rapid abortion of a genocide and in criminal prosecutions - especially if the crimes were committed in the Occident.

We must not tolerate a genocide in the interest of our own long-term security; such crimes need to be unacceptable and the probability of failure and prosecution needs to approach 100%. The problem should be suppressed this way in the long term. This includes the necessity to establish or maintain such crimes as unacceptable in all cultures.

A military intervention for the abortion of a genocide is for this reason justifiable and in some cases advisable.

The crime still needs to be proved beyond doubt. A few witness statements and aerial photography would not suffice because of the problems of forgeries and misinterpretation.

14: Geographical orientation of the Bundeswehr

The two really relevant area for the defence of our alliances (both EU according to Lissabon Treaty as well as NATO) are the Southern flank of the European NATO (Mediterranean area) and the Eastern frontier of European NATO (East Europe). Mexico as another country next to a NATO border offers no potential for alliance defence. The Lisbon treaty-covered overseas territories of EU members offer no serious scenario for alliance defence either.

A special case are the borders of the NATO member Turkey. These borders are in rather difficult terrain and the Turks have such a large quantity of troops that alliance defence there would primarily create challenges for the Luftwaffe. This doesn't require many specific preparations, though. We should have enough German-Turkish bilingual soldiers for liaison purposes.

The Heer (army) should primarily be oriented at the Central and Eastern European theatres because alliance defence in the Mediterranean shouldn't require German troops because of the lack of land connections.

The Luftwaffe (air force) should both prepare for rather maritime warfare in the Mediterranean and for a rather continental warfare in Eastern Europe. The former may make a reform of the naval air arm a good idea.

The Deutsche Marine (navy) should both be prepared for the special conditions in the Baltic Sea and for the special conditions of the Mediterranean. Additionally, we need exercises and suitable equipment for a support of Norway during winter.
Both the German and Danish navies have a special competence for maritime warfare in the Baltic Sea and can thus claim together or alternately the operational and doctrinal leadership there. Our role would on the other hand be rather a supporting one in the Mediterranean.

The logistics of the Bundeswehr need to be able to support German forces at all European alliance frontiers. 100% of this capability is only necessary a few days after a partial mobilisation (requisition of civilian transportation assets and call-up of reservists).

15: Focus on potential for quick force expansion

I personally consider the short-term dangers as small and thoroughly manageable with even allied European military power alone. This means that the Bundeswehr does not so much need to be ready for warfare as it needs to be read for a quick (months to two years) expansion to a warfare-ready force. Such an approach would help in two ways:

(1) The focus would be shifted towards the force strength that really counts; the wartime strength. Bureaucracy and lobbyists tend to favour active forces strength over the more relevant mobilized forces strength.
(2) It would give the most (eventual) bang for the buck. Reserve force strength is much cheaper than active force strength.
The balancing between active and reserve forces is still a very difficult and complex job, of course.

It is correct to have the conscription suspended, yet rooted as an option in our constitution.

16: Protection of maritime trade

A special case is the defence of maritime shipping in international waters. Germany had some public discussions about poorly worded statements that the Bundeswehr should defend economic interests. The opposition is understandable, given the background of "blood for oil" scenarios which were realized in the last two decades.
The defence of German ships in international waters is an appropriate task for the German navy. It does not require specific ship procurement because the threats (pirates) are so low-quality that even auxiliary warships could meet the requirements with a bit improvisation.
The defence of German ships (German flag!) and German citizens (German passport!) on the high seas is self-evidently a decent mission, albeit not a large one. The oceans are too vast for an encompassing protection and the need for proportionality between expenses and gains exists here as well.
The protection of ships without German flag and without German citizens on-board can be a pleasant side-effect of German warships already being nearby for some other reason. The protection of ships owned by German companies, with foreign crew and foreign flag should not be a task of the Bundeswehr, though. They can register their ship in a German port and fly the German flag if they want their ship protected by our navy. They can call Antigua or Bahamas, maybe also the Philippines for naval protection otherwise.
We need no "economic interests" justification for the protection of really German shipping; it's simply about national defence, although neither German sovereignty nor German territory are under threat here. Repeat:

National security policy shall be policy for national self-protection, not policy to further national interests in general.

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The links to older blog texts show that this is quite consistent with my other, more focused looks at security policy and military issues.

I think it's not about staring at the fashionable security policy topics or even hyperbole about largely imagined threats, but about managing the problem of possible foreign aggression against the nation.

I looked into account historical experiences (much more than a mere twelve years of our own history as it is so favoured by other "don't forget history" advocates) in order to avoid the repetition of mistakes.

The whole draft is obviously about the avoidance of wars while maintaining national sovereignty at the same time. I'm quite positive that this stance is rather non-controversial in Germany, and probably non-controversial in most continental European and many small powers. It's likely controversial in the anglophone world where, to be honest, bellicosity is far more accepted. I think this difference is based on different lessons - some nations failed to learn or forgot lessons from WWI and continue to think of wars as something resembling a game. The sad fact is that this kind of 'game' has rarely if ever a winner, but many people maintain the illusion of victory after a war.

We should simply avoid war if possible, but maintain our sovereignty.


Edit 2016: Long-time readers may have noticed that I turned much less appreciative of the navy than in 2011 when I was still willing to incorporate it to give the text a semblance of political feasibility.