Friday, July 14, 2017
A band of Neo-Nazi officers allegedly conspiring to commit a false-flag terrorist attack was only the most bizarre of the scandals that has rattled Germany’s military in the past year. Other allegations include sadistic practices in training, sexual harassment, and revelations about World War II memorabilia on various Bundeswehr bases.
At the root of such scandals is a wide gap between Germany’s military and German society. The military is sent into combat, but society often refuses to acknowledge that preparedness to fight and to make sacrifices requires heroism — a term Germans are deeply uncomfortable with. Society’s failure to understand the military profession opens the door for right-wing ideologues in the Bundeswehr to lay exclusive claim to military values and to commit abuses in their name. Where extremism and excessive violence occur, the Bundeswehr regularly turns a blind eye to misconduct within its own ranks, expecting blanket condemnation of their profession if failures come to light. Germans need to understand what sets the military apart: the readiness to serve, kill, and die for society. Otherwise, the Bundeswehr will retain the painful sense of rejection that lies behind the cowardly failures of its leadership to prevent and prosecute criminal acts and breaches of honor.