Reviewed by Benjamin Zyla (Queen's University)
Published on H-German (October, 2010)
Commissioned by Benita Blessing
Germany's Changing Security Cultures
This book traces the development of Germany's strategic culture in the 1990s. Anja Dalgaard-Nielsen analyzes Germany's complete antagonism towards international peace operations in general to gradual involvement in international peace operations--such as Somalia, East Timor, and the Balkans. Dalgaard-Nielsen demonstrates that the German political elite of the 1990s was divided between normative positions of "never again Auschwitz" and "never again alone" in its arguments about the use of force in German foreign policy. The Bundeswehr, due to German historical experiences and jurisprudence, functioned as a force for territorial defense rather than a specialized force for expeditionary operations. Only in the second half of the 1990s and with a seminal ruling of the German constitutional court in 1994 did the political culture shift towards accepting a more activist role of the Bundeswehr in international peace operations. Dalgaard-Nielsen's work thus complements the literature on Germany's strategic culture by Anne Longhurst, Mark Duffield and Thomas U. Berger. Germany, Pacifism and Peace Enforcement differs from this earlier work in its is treatment of culture as dynamic and ever-changing, rather than a fixed concept.
The volume considers the debates in the Bundestag about the use of force in German foreign policy and its role in so-called out-of-area missions. Specifically, it examines "how external events and pressures influenced the debate and how Germany's actual policy towards the international crisis of the post-Cold War era responded" (p. 2). The book's objective is to investigate and understand how and why German foreign policy makers abandoned the policy of strict military abstention in out-of area missions, and focuses on the "domestic political dynamics" of the country to answer this question. Overall, Dalgaard-Nielsen succeeds in this task. Indeed, the reader will find ample information and discussions on the historical evolution of German foreign policy and the use of force in particular. It is precisely here where the book has its strengths, that is, in the historical accounts of that policy.
However, this strength is also its major weakness. Despite the extensive discussion of the key debates in the Bundestag, Dalgaard-Nielsen's analysis of the cultural framework slowly morphs into a historical account of those debates, so that the cultural variables that she uses as a framework become obfuscated. Germany, Pacifism and Peace Enforcement does not, therefore, provide sufficient explanations for this cultural turn in German foreign policy. Important questions remain unanswered: what induced the changes in perceptions, beliefs, and values among the elite towards a more activist foreign policy? Dalgaard-Nielsen ultimately glosses over this transformation, stating only that the massacres in Srebrenica, Sarajevo, and elsewhere changed parliamentarians' perceptions of Germany's responsibilities in peacekeeping. Yet, it is unclear how this paradigm shift in German foreign policy came about, and how stable the new direction actually was in political and popular milieus. Dalgaard-Nielsen's argument would have been strengthened by relying more on the existing strategic culture scholarship, such as the works on the formation of national identities by scholars such as Peter J. Katzenstein, Thomas Risse, and Frank Schimmelpfennig. To put it simply, the changing cultures in Dalgaard-Nielsen's argument ignore changes in security cultures. This oversight detracts from her concept of culture.
Part of this problem stems from the lack of a precise definition of "culture." Here Dalgaard-Nielsen could have employed the concept as articulated by sociologists, anthropologists, and political scientists, for instance. Furthermore, references to "realism" appear throughout the manuscript. Dalgaard-Nielsen likely refers here to the realist theory of international relations. Yet, she provides no ontological or epistemological grounding of this theory, nor justifications for why this reference is useful. More discussions of these theories would certainly identify the overlap and even an amendment to the constructivist scholarship on security cultures.
Dalgaard-Nielsen's reliance on secondary sources--especially interviews--is also problematic. Firsthand interviews with former government officials and politicians who influenced decisions of German foreign policy would have strengthened the argument of this volume. Certainly, not everyone has access to important politicians such as former chancellor Helmut Kohl, Wolfgang Schäuble, or Hans-Dietrich Genscher. Because the volume relies heavily on interviews conducted by (sometimes) populist broadcasting networks like Sat1, interviews with other top officials would surely have been possible. A related problem--inaccurate facts--might also be the result of the extensive use of secondary sources in Dalgaard-Nielsen's citations of important facts: for instance, her discussion of force contributions listed for NATO's Implementation Force (IFOR), its Stabilization Force (SFOR), and the Kosovo Force (KFOR) are imprecise. She notes that Germany deployed a total of 8,000 Kosovo Force troops, when the actual number was 5,300 troops. Primary sources such as the data sets from Military Balance or the Report on Allied Contributions on the Common Defense would have resolved this problem. The lack of a definition of "troops," a problem in other scholarship on the topic as well, would have prevented a conflation of actual "troops" with other kinds of German contributions such as support elements. For the lay reader, the number of Germans in different capacities in Kosovo might not seem important; however, force troops themselves would argue with that statement, as would politicians in Germany and elsewhere in terms of the extent of German force contributions.
Dalgaard-Nielsen's conclusion overlooks the external dimension of the "cultural turn" in German foreign policy. Did NATO influence a "socialization" of German foreign policy, bringing it more in line with other nations' military policies? As the borders of the Cold War changed in central and eastern Europe, NATO and its member states reconceptualized the geopolitical context of security policies and cultures. Surely this "transnationalization" of security cultures in the 1990s influenced Germans' approach to militarization among the political elite and citizens, replacing the "never again" policies regarding security culture with "never alone again." Although the volume offers an interesting narrative and theory of changing cultures, it is not pioneering work on Germany's strategic culture.
. See Anne Longhurst, Germany and the Use of Force (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2005); Mark Duffield, Global Governance and the New Wars: The Merging and Development of Security (London: Zed Books, 2001); and Thomas U. Berger, Cultures of Antimilitarism: National Security in Germany and Japan (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003).
. See Peter J. Katzenstein, The Culture of National Security (New York: Columbia University Press, 1996); Thomas Risse, A Community of Europeans? Transnational Identities and Public Spheres (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2010); and Frank Schimmelpfennig, Internationale Politik (Stuttgart: UTB, 2010).
If there is additional discussion of this review, you may access it through the network, at: https://networks.h-net.org/h-german.
Benjamin Zyla. Review of Dalgaard-Nielsen, Anja, Germany, Pacifism and Peace-Enforcement.
H-German, H-Net Reviews.
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