Earlier, more decidedly, more substantially?

Latest HSFK-Standpunkt addresses the debate on German “military restraint” and the demand for a more active German foreign policy

"Earlier, more decisively and more substantially" is how, according to Federal President Gauck’s and Foreign Minister Steinmeier’s speeches at the Munich Security Conference in 2014, Germany should participate in matters of security policy.


Minister of Defence von der Leyen adopted a similar tone at the conference and stressed the "responsibility that Germany had to accept," in keeping with its role in the international system. These comments triggered a charged public debate on Germany‘s military involvement in other countries.

In HSFK-Standpunkt No. 1/2014 "Früher, entschiedener und substanzieller? Engagiertes außenpolitisches Handeln und militärische Zurückhaltung sind kein Widerspruch", Arvid Bell, Matthias Dembinski, Thorsten Gromes and Berthold Meyer analyze this debate and conclude that conceiving the debate as simply a matter of "intervening" or "looking away" oversimplifies the topic; instead of equating all activities of the Federal Armed Forces, they argue, one should take into account the civilian engagement, such as questions of disarmament, conflict prevention and continued development of global norms and institutions.


Referencing up-to-date peace and conflict research, but also acknowledging the existing uncertainties about the long-term success of humanitarian military interventions, the authors argue that skepticism and thorough consideration before intervening militarily should not be interpreted as "unworldliness" or "lazines", but rather as important preconditions for responsible action. Nevertheless, they write, German foreign policy, especially in civilian areas, should be implemented "earlier, more decisively and more substantially."


This HSFK-Standpunkt is available as a free PDF download (German only).