Force, Statecraft and German Unity: The Struggle to Adapt Institutions and Practices

  • December 01, 1996
  • Dr Thomas-Durell Young
  • Dr Thomas-Durell Young

One can make two general observations concerning Bonn's ongoing attempt to adapt institutions and practices. First, confusion in German policy making is clearly a manifestation of officials largely navigating in a little-known policy milieu. Realpolitik, let alone Machtpolitik (either as mere terms, let alone as concepts) are neither freely used in "polite" political discord in Germany, nor widely contemplated. As a result of a wide-spread political culture governed by self-restraint, confronting difficult issues in their proper context has made decision making frequently complicated and confusing to outside observers. What we are presently witnessing is a learning period in German external policy making, with all of its attendant errors. It is an open question how long this educational process will last or if the German body politic is prepared for such straight forward discussion.

Second, perturbations in policy formation are partly a result of Bonn's approach to foreign and security policies which remains exclusively defined and expressed by the German government in the context of the North Atlantic Alliance and the emerging European Security and Defense Identity. Indeed, there is no sizeable political bloc in the Federal Republic that argues otherwise. In consequence, there is no evidence that Bonn is prepared to consider adopting a national approach to national security.

In sum, German statecraft has the unenviable task of legitimizing its new national status, not only before its allies and neighbors, but also before a skeptical German public. Given the history of statecraft in a unified Germany, this will surely be a difficult and potentially time- consuming process. To the Federal Republic's credit, one must recall that, unlike previous historical experiences, contemporary German democratic traditions and institutions are universally accepted in Germany, and they have been tested.