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From the December 2001 issue of World Press Review (VOL. 48, No. 12)

Battle Without Borders

A Long-Lasting War

Theo Sommer, Die Zeit (liberal weekly), Hamburg, Germany, September 27, 2001


German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder contemplates sending 3,900 troops to aid the United States in Afghanistan at a news conference in Berlin, Nov. 6, 2001 (Photo: AFP).
German Chancellor [Gerhard] Schröder has promised the United States “unlimited solidarity.” Germany would also be willing to take military risks, though not to undertake any adventures. Nevertheless, it is wrong to assume that the Bundes wehr [the German army] could not contribute. But the Bundeswehr is in the midst of a “fundamental restructuring” program. Everything is in flux, half-started or half- finished. This does not mean that it is definitely incapable of action in Afghanistan.

Germany could do more than merely allow the Americans to make use of its airbases at Ramstein, Rhein-Main, and Spangdahlem as support points—and do more than contribute just one Airbus loaded with emergency medical supplies. The very least would be that the German members of the crew of NATO’s AWACS [Boeing Airborne Warning and Control System] planes would continue to do their duty in the Middle East.

The Bundesmarine [Navy] could deploy its frigate in the Indian Ocean as part of a show of force to contribute to putting pressure on Afghanistan. And a detachment of minesweepers could be sent to Djibouti to secure sea routes to Europe. Finally, Germany could assume larger military responsibilities elsewhere, such as in the Balkans. If Germany’s allies send their troops to Asia, Germany, which now has 7,200 Bundeswehr soldiers in the Balkans, could take charge there. This has already been envisioned for Macedonia, where the mission has been controlled by the British. If the British move to the Middle East, Germany could serve as the “lead nation” in Macedonia.

George W. Bush has said that the West will put an end to global terrorism. Military action alone will not suffice. As important as that may be, it will need diplomacy, which alone can bring about an anti-terrorist coalition. The diplomatic component could easily be ruined by military zeal. The American president has recognized this, as did John F. Kennedy four decades ago in the face of Communism, Bush is now leading the free world “in a long battle into the twilight.” If Bush continues to act with determination and within reasonable bounds—he will have friends by his side.

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