Murphy's Law: The Cold War Lives On in the German Army

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March 21, 2007: In some ways, the Cold War isn't over. Take, for example, the recent story about a group of German soldiers who are openly protesting an effort to send six German reconnaissance aircraft to Afghanistan. The organization making the demand, the "Darmstädter Signal," is an anti-war group. Its members are German soldiers. The group was founded in the early 1980s, as part of the Soviet campaign to encourage (and sometimes fund, or even run) groups in Western Europe that would protest the introduction of American missiles into Europe, to counter the new missiles that the Soviets were moving into Eastern Europe. The Soviets also supported anti-nuclear weapons groups, and peace groups in general. This was part of an old Soviet strategy of encouraging opposition to NATO measures that were not helpful to the Soviet Union. The cruise missiles, and Pershing ballistic missiles, were accurate enough to destroy the headquarters bunkers for Soviet officers and politicians. This was definitely not in the interests of the potential victims. However, this strategy, of trying to disrupt enemy military operations via support of dissident groups, is actually an ancient one.

The "Darmstädter Signal" group was tolerated by the West German government, partly because most West German troops were conscripts, and because no one, except a few reporters, really paid much attention to a group that never had more than 200 members. After the Cold War ended, and Germany was reunited, some members of the "Darmstädter Signal" kept the group going, and it evolved into a general anti-war/globalization/the usual suspects type organization.

The "Darmstädter Signal" has long opposed sending German troops into combat, or peacekeeping missions that might involve combat. The six Tornado reconnaissance aircraft being sent to Afghanistan are to be used for seeking out Taliban. But those aircraft can also carry smart bombs, and the "Darmstädter Signal" people believe German soldiers might end up attacking the Taliban.

There are currently 2,700 German troops around Kabul, and they are used mainly for patrolling peaceful areas. The presence of the German soldiers has discouraged bad behavior. The German troops are allowed to shoot back if attacked, but their commanders are under orders to, as much as possible, avoid any hostile situations.

Many Germans still feel guilty about all the people their soldiers killed during World War II, and would rather let someone else, like the Taliban, do the dirty work in Afghanistan. Or something like that.

 


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