NSS and the German president

By Ryan Powers

So Horst Köhler resigned Germany’s (largely symbolic) presidency in the wake of a bit of an uproar over the way he recently characterized his country’s military presence in Afghanistan. The Times explains:

Usually, German leaders justify their soldiers’ presence in the American-led coalition by saying they are needed to thwart would-be terrorists who might use Afghanistan as a base for attacks in Europe.

But, in his contentious remarks, Mr. Köhler said: “A country of our size, with its focus on exports and thus reliance on foreign trade, must be aware that military deployments are necessary in an emergency to protect our interests, for example, when it comes to trade routes, for example, when it comes to preventing regional instabilities that could negatively influence our trade, jobs and incomes.”

The fact that his brief remarks even elicited a response let alone led to a resignation is striking when we compare that to the “Use of Force” section of Obama’s National Security Strategy in which Köhler’s sentiments are essentially laid out as official U.S. policy:

The United States must reserve the right to act unilaterally if necessary to defend our nation and our interests, yet we will also seek to adhere to standards that govern the use of force.

In addition to a little bit of politicking, I assume this has something to do with the Germany’s post-WWII anti-military mentality. But when we’re surrounded by rhetoric objecting to the fact that Obama won’t bomb Iran, it is a little surprising to see such tame language result in a President’s resignation.