What is state failure? See my conceptualisation of state failure on the right flank below.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Looking for GFSP on a blogger's GPS...

I've just finished reading some articles on Germany's foreign and security policy (let's just say GFSP from hereon). One is a paper (pdf) on Germany's Afghanistan policy specifically, written for SIPRI by Sebastian Merz, a German intern of theirs. The other is an article from the Hungarian Foreign Affairs Review (Külügyi Szemle) - that was penned by the director of HIIA (the Hungarian Institute of International Affairs), László J. Kiss. He wrote a comprehensive overview of GFSP, with a focus on Germany's non-cooperation with the U.S. in the case of the Iraq war of 2003, asking if the Schröder government's policy should be read rather as continuity in Germany's keeping to its identity as a civilian power, or if it is rather to be interpreted as Machtpolitik, something to be understood in terms of ordinary Realist, interest-based statecraft?
From Sebastian Merz' paper, just like from other sources, one can see how Germany is showing something like a tendency to take on a global role, gradually undertaking more and more and with potentially less and less inhibitions regarding what that may entail (even if Afghanistan watchers, like me, tend not to perceive this easily, being aware of what other countries face to the south from German PRTs' areas of operations...). But in fact where this trend leads, even though there seems to be this gradually expanding readiness to act globally, remains uncertain. The German Security White Paper of 2006, with its emphasis on the idea of "networked security" (which is actually a realistically timely reflection of the need for a transition to a more modern, multi-sectoral concept of homeland security to which all state organs have to contribute in unison) may simply reflect symbolic continuity with Germany's civilian power identity, with the importance it attributes to a non-purely military, integrated approach to security, as László J. Kiss suggests at one point.
As to the reasons for this. Well, no proper public debate has yet taken place in Germany about where the seemingly straight trends could potentially lead in the first place. And while the German public seems to be "more" pacifist than the public in other countries, socialised the way it is, in fact there has been no initiative from the part of the German elite, either, to have public sentiments influenced in some definite direction - which isn't necessarily that impossible to try, I so feel. Closely interconnected with this (to an extent that one by now finds it hard to discern cause and effect) is Germany's lack of means for a more effect-based GFSP. So the current GFSP is instead itself affected, shaped, by the lack of means.
That is one of the points László J. Kiss makes in his article, too. With the current level of German defense spending, he points out, one cannot realistically talk of German Machtpolitik, in the sense of a turn away from a civilian power identity which would logically have to include some militarisation of German policy. Instead, Sebastian Merz' statement, that "the German Armed Forces’ deployments came to be seen in Germany as armed development aid rather than genuine military operations" probably still holds.
What I take home from this is overall a very puzzling picture mostly. As László J. Kiss argues, what the Schröder government did in the case of Iraq, ending up rather ambiguous with regards to how exactly the UN should be strengthened, and at some points possibly acting in a spirit effectively contrary to such endeavours, cannot be a clear-cut case of Germany's civilian power identity and different strategic culture at the works. But it's not entirely inconsistent with that option, either.
To me the really puzzling thing seems to be that such a civilian power GFSP could paradoxically be consistent, if only momentarily, with a Realist kind of policy. Playing the free-rider, sharing less of the burden in the production of global public goods, and so on. Counterbalancing what Germany - elite and public alike - perceived at the time as an overly aggressive U.S. effort to re-shape the global hegemonic order. But then even if this could be something like the alter-ego or the sub-conscious of GFSP identity, it isn't rooted in Reality really, as there are no means to back up this alter-identity with substantive steps, should some abstractly formulated Realist policy demand active as opposed to passive steps (like free-riding) in any given situation.
To give some sort of answer to my puzzlement, I'd refer to an article that's just come out in the Journal of International Relations and Development, by David Chandler. It's not an article in which I'd agree with everything (I'll have a go at it later), but to me one of its general points is certainly one that's well worth looking at - that there is a kind of anti-foreign policy emerging in today's Western states (democracies specifically?) whereby foreign policy is determined more and more according to what the symbolic meaning of foreign policy measures is, or might be, in the (mediatised!) domestic context.
Which just seems so much of a factor in Germany's case - as I made the point earlier on, I do see German policy on Afghanistan as affected by involuntary (public-driven) free-riding. And it's not so simple a case that the German public would only want to share less of the burden. Many Germans, I'm sure, feel like Germany is doing a lot in Afghanistan. When casualties occur, some of those people change their mind, and feel they might in fact be too much to the aid of other countries with more aggressive, and in their view inappropriate, foreign policies. The multitude of opinions makes this a very complicated issue.
Still, with regards to the end result stemming from this diversity of views, the phenomenon of involuntary free-riding, as I wrote earlier in this blog, I don't regard the German public's current attitudes as an independent variable that itself isn't or cannot be shaped by other variables...
Musings. Just musings, nothing firmly concluded, I know!
That's what I could come up with today. We'll see what the German public comes up with tomorrow. Some time beyond the actual tomorrow, I mean.

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