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.