Roosevelt Institute | Cornell University

The Dark Spectre of German Remilitarization

By Christopher HannaPublished March 31, 2016

Written by Chris Hanna, 3/31/2016 The reemergence of German military power poses deep threats to German democracy and world peace. Will Germany join ranks the of imperialist agitators who beat the drums for war on the international stage while crushing popular dissent at home?
The German reunification process in 1990 initiated the rapid reduction of German military power, as well as the mass disposal of military hardware. Philipp Frisch and Johannes Stern of the International Committee of the Fourth International now warn of "the return of German militarism," citing German rearmament, armed forces expansion and military activity in countries including Afghanistan and Mali. German remilitarization not only imperils the world's future, but also disrespects its past. The dark spectre of German remilitarization is tied to the following three crises in German society and international affairs:
A New Cold War: The German army's resurgence has coincided with the escalation of geopolitical and military tensions between Russia and the NATO-aligned West — a development described by some analysts as "a Cold War." Der Spiegel noted as early as 2014 that "the [German] cooperation firmly established with Russia over the years was officially abandoned," alluding to the increasingly militaristic North Atlantic Treaty Organization's (NATO) use of German military power as a tool to forge a new "anti-Russian alliance" in Europe. As Europe's largest economy, a newly remilitarized German state may serve as a critical boon to NATO's warmongering and failed military adventurism, particularly as that military alliance flirts with war against Russia.
The Looming Spectre of Big Brother: The ascendant German military has secured the legal right to stage domestic military operations in the event of an extraordinary emergency, evoking uncomfortable memories of troops in the streets during the Nazi period. In what amounts to a blurring of the lines between the military and police, the German Federal Police's "Anti-Terror Unit" has assumed paramilitary powers and been armed with military equipment. The amalgamation between the police and military—justified by the vague threat of "terrorism"
—poses a serious threat to democratic norms. It remains to be seen to what extent this fatal union will be employed to subvert and crush social movements resisting the rising tide of militarism.
The Resurgence of the Fascist Right: The apparent reincarnation of organized fascism, albeit with a newly Islamophobic face, marks a disturbing turn backwards in German history. With far-right and anti-immigrant movements experiencing a sustained growth, the twin trends of racism at home and aggression abroad have bloomed. While German arsonists set fire to refugee centers, German soldiers occupy Afghanistan in the U.S.-led forever-war there. Both are linked to the rising tide of militarism among the German public, and to the return of an old, more violent time of German power. NATO's leaders encourage this trend, applauding the German military's buildup and increasing "willingness to intervene abroad." Strangely, some segments of the so-called Left have also facilitated the rebirth of German military power. Many German Left Wing Party parliamentarians voted for military deployment to the Mediterranean, and France's nominally democratic-socialist Socialist Party regime has staged "joint military buildup" with Germany's armed forces. Has even the Left begun to surrender to Germany's sharp rightward, militaristic shift?
We live in a time of immeasurable crisis, and face imminent ecological and economic collapse. John Horgan writes, "If humanity does not take dramatic steps to curtail fossil-fuel consumption, civilization may collapse. Climate change could make armed conflict, including wars over water, more likely." Germany must ask itself: Should it join the ranks of the world's imperialist war agitators, or should it lead the world in fighting for meaningful action on issues such as climate change? Should it surrender to militarism, the police state and pervasive racism, or should it forge alternative paths to a more just nation and world?