Thursday, December 30, 2010

German Extroverts?

The NYT has an interesting editorial saluting Germany for altering the composition of its armed forces that will double the number of troops that can be deployed abroad.  Of course, just because 14,000 troops will be deploy-able does not mean that they will be deployed or, if deployed, that they will be effective.  To be sure, the German forces in Afghanistan have had more ability to do stuff, like shoot first, than they could before.  Still, Germany is not sending troops to Southern Afghanistan.  Only now does the argument that these troops are needed in the North bear weight with the insurgents shifting there to evade the American/British/Canadian/Danish/Australians in the south.

How many helicopters does Germany have in Afghanistan now?  How many will htey deploy in future scenarios?  There are lots of ways to limit the risks to one's troops, with caveats being just one of them.  So having more troops to deploy (only 14k?!)  is significant, but coalition politics will limit where these folks are sent, how much freedom of action they will have on the ground, and how much other stuff will be deployed with them so that they might make a difference.  Sending them to Sudan, for instance, with eight or ten helicopters would be a symbolic effort, but unlikely to make a huge difference on the ground.

Still, the NYT is right to give:
Most of the credit for pushing these changes ... to Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg. Since taking over a scandal-plagued ministry last year, he has refashioned German military doctrines to fit the new requirements of the post-cold-war world.
I am just suggesting that we will have to wait and see if the changes in Berlin show up on the battlefields of today and tomorrow.

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