“Actually, this is not about Syria”

“Actually, this is not about Syria”

by Hermann Ploppa*, Germany

The German Federal Government deploys “Bundeswehr” (German Military) planes to the war in Syria. Experts regard that as an aimless activism. Yet that actionism is part of a long term strategy.
So now an overwhelming majority of our parliamentarians agreed to the Bundeswehr mission in Syria. Such energy and vigour of fighting evil manifested in the terror squadrons of the Islamic State is impressive, isn’t it. We democrats do not let bearded headshunters in sandals intimidate us. We do something.
Four German Tornado fighter jets are meant to impress the Stone Age Muslims. In addition, we are protecting French aircraft carriers and we are also supplying staff for the French mission’s headquarters. We do something.
It is just a bit embarrassing that even two experienced former top-ranking military staff label the German contribution an “aimless activism”. Harald Kujat, a former German Air Force General. Kujat qualifies the German military debut in the Middle East as a purely symbolic gesture towards our ally France1. The “Bundeswehr” mission was not embedded into any overall strategy which was lacking anyway, he said. It does not make any military sense to bomb ground targets from a high altitude. The IS fighters approach the battlefield in civilian vehicles and otherwise live among civilians. Attacking them will lead to the so-called collateral damage among the civil population. Air operations would make sense only if they were in cooperation with ground troops. However, this was only the case for the Russian Air Force mission in Syria. They are collaborating closely with the Syrian government’s ground troops. And since apart from the Russians nobody had a coordinated command structure, too many over-active cooks were spoiling the broth. And this leads Kujat to the conclusion: “Any additional air power will additionally complicate the situation.” Only political and humanitarian solutions could help.
Even more harshly the obviously distressed former lieutenant colonel and NATO mission planner Ulrich Scholz in an interview in the Tagesschau attacks the German military involvement in Syria2. The mandate was “strategically meaningless… just a gesture towards France”. Scholz also complains about the lack of collaboration between ground troops and air force. In addition, the Tornadoes were simply completely obsolete: “… this is Vietnam technology we have here … drones and F-16 now on site there can do this much better.” So there are some German Flying Dinosaurs plodding behind the up-to-date fighter jets, getting a commission now and then, out of pity and to have them out of the way for a while? Do we have to look at it that way?
It is German tradition that senior officers raise their voice against obvious strategic nonsense. We can safely assume that these veterans are speaking in the name of their active comrades in the “Bundeswehr” who are not allowed to speak up due to their political loyalty to the Federal Government. We can also assume that it is incompatible with the professional ethos of a soldier to perform obvious nonsense abroad.
But: Though this be idiocy, yet there is method in it. Why are there a lot of fighter planes flying over Syria, aiming at the ground, with no overarching strategy (with the exception of the Russian Air Force)? The German Tagesschau cites Guido Steinberg, an expert of the US-related think tank Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik3, an institution officially counselling the German Federal Government, who openly states: “Actually, this is not about Syria”4. Rather it was about Chancellor Merkel trying to support her French colleague François Hollande in his struggle against Le Pen’s right-wing populists in the elections – in France! By the way, Steinberg predicts that the IS would be further strengthened by Germany’s military activism.
In case this was true, an impeachment procedure against the current Federal Government would have to be urgently initiated: German soldiers operating abroad, risking their life as a campaign aide for the French Socialists? However, Steinberg’s statement lacks plausibility. No Government has ever sent soldiers abroad in order to help a foreign chief of state that is stuck in the mud. Steinberg’s hypothesis should rather be understood as an ideological smoke grenade.
The Don-Quixote operation of the Bundeswehr in Syria is in fact only part of a long-term military presence in the Middle East.
The fact is well camouflaged with the term “Syria commitment”. Who precisely examines the mandate approved of by a Parliament majority, notices the following: With this mandate “Bundeswehr” missions have not only been approved in Syria, but actually in all countries where the IS is wreaking havoc.5 Consequently, the mandate provides a carte blanche for military missions in Iraq, the Eastern Mediterranean, the Red Sea, the Persian Gulf and all adjacent sea areas. Only reserve: The affected states must agree to the military mission. The local governments are vulnerable, the infrastructures and security architectures are weak, so are the governments concerned. If required, they will be happy to consent to the dismantling of their national sovereignty. In the post-9/11 era no-one cares about such formalities any longer. Turkish troops have occupied parts of Iraq without asking for the Iraqi government’s permission. Turkey is a member of NATO. So far, NATO has not prompted Turkey to immediately reverse this invasion – not to mention NATO possible sanctions against Turkey.
The Bundeswehr is now firmly caught in the cobweb of Middle Eastern entanglements. Officially, the mandate is limited to 31 Decembre 2016. Well, that’s an old story: How often was the deadline for the Afghanistan engagement extended? We will not get out of this adventure so soon. That much is certain, the German taxpayer presently contributes amounting to 134 million EUR for the engagement in Syria and surrounding areas. However, this will probably resemble the cost estimate for a new home: After completion the cost will exceed the budget by far. But actually we would urgently need these 134 million plus euro to support the states and municipalities in their crisis management in the refugee disaster.
Let’s go back to the two former top officers of the Bundeswehr, General Kujat and Lieutenant Colonel Scholz. In the above mentioned interview both emphasize that from now on, Germany will be the target of terrorist attacks more than ever before. This is as sure as day follows night. Just as Paris, sooner or later Berlin will burn and blood will flow. And Germany as well is going to become a high security prison. Just as is already the case with France. For the first time since the Second World War residents of a Paris suburb have been placed under collective house arrest. “Security” forces in full gear dominate the street. People are in shock and simply tolerate everything.
France is being transformed into a military state. And every act of terrorism accelerates the already long-planned armament of our western neighbour. The assassination of the editor of the magazine Charlie Hebdo in spring of 2015, gave the Grande Nation the opportunity to bleed their taxpayers dry with a monstrous four billion euro increase of the defense budget.6 The massacre in Paris in the autumn of the same year created the atmospheric conditions to extort from the French citizens an additional one billion euro for armament.7 Shocked, the citizens of France are willingly giving their money and renouncing their civil rights and their entitlement to social progress.
All of that is held in store for us, too. The Federal Republic of Germany and in particular the capital city of Berlin are currently still very open and relaxed compared to the highly controlled and in sections locked up public spaces in France, England or the USA. If we bury our heads in the sand and hope that all things will be fine; if we do not prepare ourselves immediately and seriously for the terrorist attacks that will happen in retaliation for our military intervention in already now hopelessly muddled combat situations; we indeed have already given up our civil society. Germany with its wealth is in fact an extremely interesting growth market for the cancer-like growing global military industrial complex.
After the dreadful massacre in Paris on Friday, November 13, 2015, champagne corks popped in arms companies. The following Monday the shares of the arms industry at the New York Stock Exchange sky-rocketed.8 The shares of Lockheed Martin rose by 3.5% and Northrop Grumman increased by 4.4%. Of course, the arms industries have their own analysts, as for example the company Stifel located in Missouri in the United States. For the year 2016 Stifel predicts Golden times for the arms industry: “As the most likely outcome we will see political support for defense spending, and that in the year 2016 more focus will be put on national security and terrorism in the debates on the occasion of the elections, which will bring positive headlines for military corporations with high probability.”   •

*    Hermann Ploppa is a political scientist and publicist. In addition to numerous articles for Telepolis, Junge Welt, radio Deutschlandfunk, Nachdenkseiten, Crashkurs or Current Concerns, Ploppa published two books on contemporary history: “Hitler’s American Teachers - The elites of the United States as an obstetrician of National Socialism” (2008), and “The people behind the scenes – a s transatlantic networks subvert democracy “(2014).

1    Former-Nato-General Harald Kujat. Interview in armed forces and strategies, NDR, 28.11.2015, 19.20 h www.ndr.de/info/sendungen/streitkraefte_und_strategien/Anti-Terror-Kampf-Gesamtstategie-nicht-in-Sicht,streitkraefte366.html
2    Interview with retired lieutenant colonel Ulrich Scholz in Tagesschau of 26.11.2015 www.tagesschau.de/multimedia/video/video-136135.html
3    zur SWP: Hermann Ploppa, Die Macher hinter den Kulissen – Wie transatlantische Netzwerke heimlich die Demokratie unterwandern; Frankfurt 2014. p. 92f.
4    Tagesschau of 6.12.2015, report by Michael Stempfle, quoted Steinberg www.tagesschau.de/inland/bundeswehr-syrien-111.html
5    Tagesschau, Hintergrund, 1.12.2015 www.tagesschau.de/ausland/syrien-einsatz-bundeswehr-101~_origin-57931567-6f5a-4dcc-b7cd-a5ac1b8b2c88.html
6    Grande Nation, Charles Liebherr, 29.4.2015 www.chli.paris/2015/04/29/frankreich-erhoeht-militaerbudget-um-10-prozent-nach-den-attentaten/
7    Manager Magazin, 17.11.2015, Frankreich bittet EU-Länder formell um Beistand. www.manager-magazin.de/politik/europa/eu-frankreich-bittet-formell-um-beistand-a-1063231.html
8    Mother Jones, 18.11.2015, Weapons Companies’ Stock Surge after Paris Attacks. www.motherjones.com/politics/2015/11/weapons-company-stock-rally-paris-attacks-isis 
as well as CNN Money, 18.11.2015, ‘War on ISIS’ stocks rise after Paris attacks. http://money.cnn.com/2015/11/16/investing/paris-attacks-defense-stocks-isis/
9    Mother Jones, loc. cit.

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