Afghanistan and the West The Difficult Relationship between Democracy and War


Part 2: The Beginning:Terror and Solidarity

There are good reasons for war and bad reasons for a war. Hardly anyone will deny that it was it a good thing that the Americans, British, Canadians, Australians and others went to war with Nazi Germany. If they had taken a pacifist approach, democracy would have perished in Europe, and our lives would be different today.

But democracies have also started wars for the wrong reasons. The Athenians sometimes used their weapons to exact tribute from other states. France and Great Britain were driven by economic greed when they waged their colonial wars. The United States attacked Iraq in part because of its enormous oil reserves. In Vietnam, a war between two political systems also revolved around issues of power.

In its short history, the Federal Republic of Germany has not gone to war for any of the wrong reasons. The Bundeswehr sent troops to Belet Huen in Somalia in 1993 because a civil war had plunged the country into chaos and mass starvation loomed. The mission was conducted solely for humanitarian reasons. The goal of the 1999 war against Serbia was to prevent genocide in Kosovo.

On Sept. 11, 2001, the United States was attacked with hijacked aircraft, and almost 3,000 people lost their lives. It was an act of terror by hostile Islamists who feel challenged by the Western way of life and the freedoms that people have in a democracy and a market economy. In his messages to the world, al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, left no doubt that he intended to continue waging this war. Afghanistan was a safe haven for his terrorist organization, tolerated and supported by the country's Taliban regime. That was why the Americans intervened in Afghanistan.

Justified, at the Beginning at Least

Economic reasons played no role at the time. The war was not launched because of the country's reported large lithium reserves. Instead, it was a war against terror.

Then German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder promised the United States "unlimited solidarity" in the fight against Islamist terrorism, which also fights against values held by Germany and Germans. It was the right approach. The United States, one of Germany's allies, had been attacked. When the United States conducts a war for good reasons, Germany should come to its aid, partly because it was only able to survive as a nation during the Cold War with the help of the Americans.

There was no "August experience" or enthusiasm for this war, as there was in 1914. The politicians sent their soldiers to Afghanistan with a heavy heart. After an initial period in Kabul, the Bundeswehr eventually chose the country's relatively safe north as its field of operations. It didn't want to promote a new heroism or test its weapons in major battles. It was to make a contribution, quietly and with as little combat as possible.

This war was well justified, at least at the beginning.

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MobiusPrime 07/08/2010
1. To Stay or not To Stay
Being of German ancestry, and proud of it, I try to appreciate the confusion facing the German People and their abhorrence of military actions. As a Proud Citizen of the United States I too am hesitant to condone military intervention in situations that on the surface appear to be contrary to the peace of the world. The participation of the German People (Military & Civilian) in the Afghan war on terror is necessary and Appreciated by all Anti Terrorist People of the Civilized Word. Civilized is the Key Word. Make no mistake, Their hatred is focused on the Christian Jewish Countries of the world. The Extremist of the Islamic People are sworn to destroy western cultures including Germany's Democracy, The Germany People , standing side by side with the NATO countries and the Unites States have to stay united. Unfortunately the Radicals have subverted the Islamic faith and are sworn to destroy You & Us. This war in Afghanistan is only the beginning of their cult to rule the world and wipe out Democratic Cultures. They will not succeed unless the individual countries are divide. Look at Britain, they have actually allowed Sharia Law courts to exist in their country. The UK is lost , Will Germany /France /Spain/US etc be next? Stay the course in Afghanistan, as abhorrent as it is, or Parrish.
verbatim128 07/09/2010
2. Why Democracy and War?
One would hope that some societal evolution has occurred since the 5th century BC and the Greek democracy, although I am not sure that our modern democracy is part of that evolution. But to assign "a relationship" between democracy and war, albeit calling that a difficult relationship, and justifying the war in Afghanistan by stretching a comparison with the Athenians having to defend against the Persian attacks, now that is a fallacy of argument. It appears to me that the essay is attempting to find reason in an outcome which has a) not been reasonably considered from the start and b) not been pursued in a reasonable manner. The author is also trying hard, though in a confused conciliatory fashion, to reconcile those terrible a) and b) shortcomings without addressing them, with the public opinion of Germans which he grudgingly admits is against continuing the war. Some sort of argument that the effort is not wasted, but worth it. For good measure and to justify calling this piece an essay, the author muddles the issue by introducing the philosophical relationship of this war and democracy, when in fact all that needs done is to ask: Was the war right? Every time an outcome begs the question as an afterthought, 'Was it worth it?', you can guess that something was dead wrong with the action. In fact the question ought to have been up front, "Is it right, will it be worth it?," and aimed before the action got underway, at it, as well as, the foreseeable outcome. But if we must ask after the fact-- always better late than never-- the question needs to be : "Was it right? Did it accomplish what was right?". That way chances are we learn something. If it wasn't right to begin with , never mind whether it was worth it, in some twisted fashion, like in a bargain we imagine we got. It still is not right.
kashiwa 07/12/2010
3. Make no mistake
Like many others I am very grateful to live in a country that has overcome nationalism and in which, in contrary to the United States, war is not a legitimate political tool. Most Germans have no illusions whatsoever about the essential nature of war. They share their insight with the countless pacifists around the world who took to the streets in 2003 and tragically could not prevent the violent death the war of the Western coalition brought upon more than one million Iraqis*. So is the terror of war. It is easy to understand that none of the two wars the West has waged against muslem countries in the last decade have likely undermined islamic extremism. The Taliban who have fiercly fought the 'International Security Assistance Force' for the last eight years are Afghans, who have not organized international Islamic terrorist attacks. From their point of view they fight the invader of their territories and his 'nation building' efforts strategically aimed at undermining Afghanistan's traditional social, political and economic structures and establishing a 'civilised' order. A state is democratic if it makes democratic politics - political decisions made have to be supported by the majority of the country's population. The war against Afghanistan has no majority in Germany and Germany's participation is therefor simply illegitimate. Unlike Islamist extremists who represent a fraction of the largely peaceful and welcoming Muslim populations around the world (why not go vist and talk to the people in Turkey, Syria, Jordan, Egypt and elsewhere?) such undemocratic, violent politics and their supporters pose a real threat to Western societies - and to everbody else. Nie wieder Krieg! War - never again! *
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