Friday, July 25, 2014
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Germany Steps Up

WASHINGTON, DC – Since the start of his first administration, US President Barack Obama has repeated a simple mantra concerning other countries: “With power comes responsibility.” France has demonstrated repeatedly that it understands and accepts this responsibility; Germany may now be following suit.

Several weeks ago, German President Joachim Gauck’s opening address to the 50th annual Munich Security Conference reflected on the Federal Republic’s evolution over those five decades, a period that gave rise to “a good Germany, the best we have ever known.” And, because Germany benefits more than most countries from the current open, value-based international order, it has, Gauck said, a greater responsibility to defend and extend that order.

Gauck’s speech reflected the thinking in an important new report, entitled New Power, New Responsibility, released by the Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik and the German Marshall Fund of the United States. The report – the product of several months of debate within the German foreign-policy and security community – identifies Germany’s current values and interests as a commitment to “human dignity, freedom, democracy, the rule of law, and to an international order that is based on universal norms.” As Gauck proclaimed, Germany’s “overriding strategic objective” must be the “preservation and continued adaptation” of this order.

To achieve this objective, Germany must become a “shaping power,” a state with the ability to solve problems and resolve conflicts affecting all or part of the international community. The traditional determinants of states’ power relative to other states – geography, demography, economic heft, and military might, coupled with the availability of resources and technological proficiency – remain important; but they are often insufficient to confer actual influence in international politics. A shaping power builds relationships and invests in institutions that allow it to work well with others and to create and mobilize “coalitions and networks of like-minded states.”

As a shaping power with an enormous stake in preserving and extending the openness of the international system, Germany has a special responsibility to help integrate new global powers into that system. Here is where things get interesting.

Germany has long sought a seat on the United Nations Security Council, making common cause with Japan, Brazil, and India. But New Power, New Responsibility suggests a different path, arguing for the reform of the Security Council in a way that would merge the French and British seats into a permanent European seat in a “slightly enlarged circle of permanent members,” while also ensuring European representation among the non-permanent members.

Under this scenario, Germany would play a role in global peace and security through the European seat, as well as serving as a periodic rotating member. Moreover, Germany recognizes the need to consolidate Europe’s voting power and reduce the number of European seats in other global institutions, such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, to make room for emerging powers.

This renewed commitment to a strong and united Europe is the second pillar of a twenty-first-century German foreign policy. New Power, New Responsibility calls for “deepening” the European Union through measures that would include democratizing EU financial decision-making by directly engaging national parliamentarians and exchanging tighter European fiscal constraints on member governments’ budgets for a European banking union, a eurozone budget, and Eurobonds.

In foreign and security policy, New Power, New Responsibility proposes strengthening the role of the EU High Representative and the role of the European Action Service. Current EU High Representative Catherine Ashton continues to prove the worth of EU foreign-policy institutions by, for example, brokering a remarkable peace between Serbia and Kosovo and playing a key role in nuclear negotiations with Iran.

The third surprise concerns the use of force. Gauck told Germans in no uncertain terms that they had to be willing to use force, at least as a last resort, and reproached those of his fellow citizens “who use Germany’s guilt for its past as a shield for laziness or a desire to disengage from the world.”

More controversially, Gauck proclaimed the need for Security Council authorization of any use of force, but also hinted at a Kosovo precedent for possible military intervention in Syria. As he put it, when the international community confronts a clear case for the use of force to protect a population from its own government, but the Security Council is divided, “the relationship between legality and legitimacy will continue to be awkward.”

The participants in the deliberations that resulted in New Power, New Responsibility split on this question. Some argued for an absolute requirement of Security Council authorization, while others recognized an imperative to contemplate humanitarian intervention without such authorization in “very narrowly defined exceptional cases.”

US Secretary of State John Kerry also spoke at the Munich Security Conference. But, by not referring to Gauck’s speech, he missed an opportunity to underline the success of one of Obama’s key foreign-policy tenets: as the US steps back from its role as global policeman and focuses more on diplomacy than force, other countries must step up.

Even more important, Kerry and Obama would do well to think hard about a key lesson embedded in Gauck’s speech and the report behind it. Countries that want to retain power in a changing global order must learn to share it, which requires accepting and embracing the contours of a new world.

The Obama administration should think hard about Security Council reform. It should signal a real willingness to replace an order that reflects the world of 1945 with one that reflects the world of 2015. That means supporting a greater global role for all powers that understand and accept real responsibility for maintaining global peace and security.

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  1. CommentedDavid Morgan

    As an undergrad student I wrote a thesis on Germany as a civilian power, and predicted several of these issues. Not the reform of the Security Council. Russia who is directly responsible for many thousands of deaths in Syria for its own purposes should be thrown off the Security Council being replaced by one of the emerging powers.

  2. CommentedEdward Ponderer

    Ah, but Mr. Hermann, we would not be like a man-made machine of cogwheels, but a natural one. The difference is that such is complex in behavior yet holistic, streamlined in optimal compression.

    Consider the deceptively simple appearance of the structure of the constituents of the tobacco mosaic virus. Per Aaron Klug of MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge, UK (1999): "... The assembly is a much more complex process than might have been expected from the simplicity of the helical design of the particle. The protein forms an obligatory intermediate (a cylindrical disk composed of two layers of protein units), which recognizes a specific RNA hairpin sequence. This extraordinary mechanism simultaneously fulfills the physical requirement for nucleating the growth of the helical particle and the biological requirement for specific recognition of the viral DNA."

    More out of the virtually infinite examples demonstrating such development to be a statistical principle in self-organization, consider the findings of Jessica Purcell et al, just published on Feb. 19 ("Ant Brood Function as Life Preservers during Floods," Plos One, http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0089211;jsessionid=894C3C9CA3EEDC16E9ED44B4E2BB54EE ) that in addition to the genius of social structure ant colonies accomplish, in a flood, and know how to form floating vessels by linking their bodies to form a complex floating structure. Individual ants are simply not smart enough to do this--they are totally clueless. But the whole, the swarm, "knows." In a neural net, the knowledge is stored in the weighting of the connections between member nodes--not the nodes themselves, these has simple process functions.

    Please understand what this means on the human level. We are not merely being forced by Nature to start transforming into such a higher communal beings, but the totality of this "cogwheel structure" will understand the entire panorama of the crises facing mankind--perceive and process all its dimensions, and solve them to re-establish a global homeostasis representing life in new vistas for us all (for we are humans, after all, not ants).

    Nature is not bringing us not into a death-throw, but is rather trying to evolve us into a living global civilization with a great future. But it is in our hand to do everything we can to help the smooth flow of this integration--we must become nature--and each others--partners in this. Collaborating this way, we live and prosper, fighting Nature and each other, we will die. -- Is it really that black and white? Yes, it is.

  3. CommentedZsolt Hermann

    The basic idea is very encouraging, the "with power comes responsibility" mantra is crucial, but first we still have to understand the world we evolved into.
    Global world means global interconnection and inter-dependency.
    It is especially in this context that the "power equals responsibility" mantra comes to life.
    Since we have all become interconnected cogwheels where all the cogwheels have to move together in total harmony synchronizing with each other, the greater the cogwheel, the greater affect it has on the system.
    On the other hand even the smallest cogwheel is 100% important since by stopping or turning the wrong way the smallest cogwheel can stop the whole system, screeching it to a halt.
    We evolved into a system that is based on "mutual guarantee", this is a state of total responsibility and total dependency at the same time.
    We have absolutely now previous experience or precedent of such system, paradigm, so far each and every individual, nation acted "freely", presuming that he/she/it was independent of others and the system.
    And since this state is evolutionary and not man-made, we have no option of disconnection, but we have to learn how to adapt and make it work.
    Of course this adaptation is all for our own self-benefit, since if instead of the present, destructive and wasteful competition we learn how to work with globally, mutually complementing each other, the quality of life, the safety, prosperity we can achieve is at a level we have never even dreamed about.
    It is enough to look into the news each day, seeing the world "burn" on multiple locations, imminent fires threatening elsewhere to realize we are in great need to of a change.

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