Renee Schwaller:    Willkommen - Welcome

Nach 32 Jahren Mitarbeit beim Auslandsrundfunk Deutschlands, Deutsche Welle, bin ich nun freiberuflich tätig.

After having worked for 32 years as a full-time employee with Germany's international broadcaster, Deutsche Welle, I now work as a freelance translator and journalist.


Die neue


Der deutsche Auslandssender sendet in 30 Sprachen.

In den Studios, Redaktionsräumen und Fluren trifft man auf Menschen aus 60 Nationen







Dipl.-Übersetzerin / Journalistin
Englisch - Deutsch
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Kolumnistin für
Zeitschriften in Pakistan:
Contributing editor for
newspapers in Pakistan:

THE STAR (DAWN group of publishers)
Der folgende Beitrag erschien im 'Defence Journal' im Dezember 2006 (siehe unter .. / Gender)

The following article was published in the 'Defence Journal' of December 2006 (see under ... / Gender)

nach der Rückkehr aus dem Iran,
mit einer Kette aus Isfahan

Die Zeitschrift DEFENCE JOURNAL erscheint monatlich und wird in Karatschi, Pakistan gedruckt. Die Reichweite liegt bei schätzungsweise 80.000 Lesern. Ein Übersee-Abonnement kostet 80,- US Dollar im Jahr.
The monthly magazine DEFENCE JOURNAL reaches around 80.000 readers. It is published in Karachi, Pakistan. An overseas subscription costs 80,- US Dollars per year.






M I L I T A R Y       M I G H T

In search of some DISARMING arguments for conflict prevention

To represent a nation that started a world war and caused the deaths of millions of people around the world is a pretty heavy load for an 11-year-old schoolgirl. But this is in fact what happened to me when my family left Germany, and we all moved to England. I was told that my behaviour would throw a light on my country, and people would have the impression that this behaviour might be standard for all Germans. I came from the country of the ‘Nazis’ – or the ‘National Socialists’ - a term used worldwide for brutal, radical fascists to this day. I should therefore behave in a ‘correct and polite manner’. Of course my parents meant well with me and wanted me to get along nicely with my school friends and neighbours in the new country. They had experienced a devastating war with death, destruction, hunger and the loss of homeland all along the way.

Luckily at the time I was not informed about the horrors committed by my German compatriots in detail, considering other human beings as ‘inferior’ and using them as slaves of labour and in some cases maltreating them to the point of torture and finally death in the concentration camps. I was not to learn about all these facts until some years later.


But what had made Germans so 'aggressive' and cruel? What mistakes were made where and when? Why did a country with a considerable number of successful composers of music, philosophers and poets turn itself into a military machinery with little tolerance for anything and anybody other than what the central regime considered appropriate? Of course there was the depressing number of six million unemployed people (out of around 62 million) in the 1930s as a result of the Wall Street crash and the subsequent depression. The forced acceptance of the "war guilt clause" by the Germans - an over-simplified explanation of how World War I (1914 - 1918) began - and the huge amount of reparations that Germany had to pay afterwards all contributed to the burden that led to the later disaster. In 1919, John Maynard Keynes, the economist, wrote his vigorous attack upon the Peace Settlement after World War I in The Economic Consequences of the Peace. He concentrated his fire particularly on reparations. Keynes argued that Germany would be unable to pay and that reparations would bedevil European economies for years to come. He was proved correct. Excessive punishment therefore, or punishment perceived to have been administered unjustly, is likely to increase hatred which in turn may lead to retaliation and therefore further violence.

When a society is undergoing a severe economic breakdown and civil institutions have become powerless, there is a strong temptation to follow leaders who propose an authoritarian course of law and order. The latent hatred and feelings of revenge for the humiliation that was suffered by the people can easily become exploited by ambitious men - or women - to obtain positions of power for themselves. Hitler harboured personal feelings of revenge and hatred on account of his own deficiencies and failures. These matched well with the underlying feelings of most Germans for what they saw as having been treated unjustly. Hitler became popular when he managed to secure work for the unemployed. He did this by building motorways for the later transport of tanks, soldiers and weapons. In other words, he invested in the military and in the armaments industry. People cheered him and overlooked the rather sinister aspects of Hitler's ambitions and plans which he had actually laid down in his book "Mein Kampf" (My Struggle).

At the end of World War II (1939-1945), the Allied Powers, (Great Britain, France, Russia, USA), began by dividing Germany into four zones of occupation in accordance with their agreements at Yalta and Potsdam. But ideological differences inevitably became involved in the disputes. The German fascist military machinery had been beaten, yet a new enemy appeared on the horizon. The USSR fostered communism in the Russian zone. The failure to distribute wealth and opportunities equally among its citizens had previously led to a revolution and an authoritarian regime - communist Russia. The other Allies in their respective zones discouraged it, the USA in particular arguing that communism would be less likely to make an appeal if economic recovery was rapid.

In 1946 Churchill declared that from the "Baltic to The Adriatic Sea, an 'Iron Curtain' has descended upon the Continent". To the east of this Iron Curtain lay the Russian zone of Germany and states such as Poland, where communism had taken root. To the west lay the other zones of Germany and states which remained capitalist. Suspicion between the two sides hardened into a Cold War with an almost total lack of co-operation between them. Germany was trapped in the conflict and it became clear that the German problem of being a divided country would not be solved for many years to come.

The horrors of the Second World War war had left their mark on Germany. A popular Bavarian politician, called Franz-Josef Strauß, exclaimed in 1946 that: “may the hand drop off anyone taking up a gun once more”. His comments were met with wide acclaim amidst all the rubble and ruins that remained after the war. But nobody’s hand dropped off when just nine years later, this same politician became minister of defence and had German civilians conscripted and sent to the barracks to take up guns yet again. Having sided with the western allies, Germany agreed to rearmament from 1955 onwards. It was the start of the ‘Bundeswehr’ - the German army. The policy of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, (NATO), which had been founded in 1949 and which Germany joined in 1955, was to have a strong military force that was able to deter the communist power in the East.

Germany has to date enjoyed more than 60 years of freedom, peace and prosperity, - unique in its history. Yet finally Germany had to be persuaded to join western forces to help solve the military aggressions by the Serbs in Kosovo (1999). With great reluctance on behalf of many politicians and citizens, but with a majority in parliament, German soldiers were sent to the Balkans into a combat zone.
The Bundeswehr has shed former military traditions and has learnt from past experiences. It prides itself on being founded on the military resistance against the terror regime of the national socialists. The German officers and generals of the resistance movement of the 20th July 1944, during which Hitler’s assassination was planned, have shown that in the midst of all the barbarity and inhumanity that was taking place during the Second World War, feelings of humanity had prevailed among some courageous representatives who were willing to give up their lives for a good cause. They wanted to end the unjust war and prevent a further loss of human life. In the light of this experience, article 1 of Germany’s constitution brought the individual into the central focus of all state action: “The dignity of man is inviolable. To respect and protect it is the duty of all state authority” – in line with the charter of the United Nations and the Declaration of Human Rights in December 1948: all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.

“Deterrence” was for many years the key word: Being able to fight, in order not to have to fight. There has always been a big temptation to invest in military equipment. It was military expenditure which helped both Germany as well as the United States to overcome the Great Depression after 1930, and had later helped to ‘outspend’ the Soviet Union, leading to a weakening of the communist system. Yet spending money on arms can turn into a senseless and dangerous vicious circle that feeds itself from death and destruction. No other than the 34th President of the USA and an active soldier and general in the Second World War, who had commanded the Allied Forces and finally became NATO Commander-in-Chief, Dwight D. Eisenhower, warned of the excessive influence of the military-industrial complex, and the uncontrolled power which might lead to disastrous consequences and threaten peace and democracy. He knew about the horrors of the war, and warned that the next general war could mean the end of civilization.

Between 1940 and 1996, for instance, the United States spent nearly $ 4.5 trillion on the development, testing, and construction of nuclear weapons alone. By 1967, the peak year of its nuclear stockpile, the United States possessed some 32,000 deliverable bombs. None of them was ever used, which illustrates perfectly Keynes’s observation that, in order to create jobs, the government might as well decide to bury money in old mines and “leave them to private enterprise on the well-tried principles of ‘laissez-faire’ to dig it up again.”

The state, its institutions and its alliances must be able to protect its citizens as well as those of its allies from outside aggression, from inside rebellions, as well as from inside or outside uncontrolled and organized crime. Another important function is the need to protect citizens from exploitation by the state or by private elites. What is the German army’s legitimacy if not the rule of law? The army’s task is to know the public support in carrying out its duty with a good conscience. The ‘Bundeswehr’ considers itself to be a parliamentary army and is obliged to respect the primacy of politics. In return, the soldiers need to be able to rely on the correctness of parliamentary decisions. They are the foundation for correctly giving the order to go into action. As late as on the 18th March 2005 the German lawmakers concluded that parliament is the legal body and representative of the people to decide on whether military operations abroad are to take place or not.

Religions of course preach peace, but war is an unfortunate reality in this world and it causes great destruction, misery, and loss of life. Sometimes, nations unjustly go to war to take spoils from other countries. There is a strong temptation in human beings to take advantage of others who are seen to be physically weaker. Such a reckless attitude, however, is bound to have negative repercussions. When nations go to war, it is declared lawful by the countries going to war – sometimes for moral reasons and other times for immoral reasons. It is difficult to determine when war would be a righteous endeavour. It should certainly be the last resort. Christians are told to love their enemy, and to treat others in the way they wish to be treated themselves. Islam – like Christianity – permits fighting in self-defence as well as in defence of religion, or on the part of those who have been expelled forcibly from their homes. The Qur’an says: “Fight in the cause of God against those who fight you, but do not transgress limits. God does not love transgressors.” (2: 190) And: “If they seek peace, then seek you peace. And trust in God for He is the One that heareth and knoweth all things.” (8:61).

To fight, to kill, and to die – those are the key words when it comes to a correct sharing of the burden in missions that were initiated by the USA and its close allies. NATO allies frequently scold Germany for leaving the dangerous operations to the Americans, British, Canadians, French and Dutch, while Germany itself wishes to merely engage in civil reconstruction. Germans should at last wake up and ‘adapt’ to modern times. The days of Germany’s ‘special course’, i.e. its ‘checkbook diplomacy’ - which means paying instead of fighting - should be a thing of the past. And yet, adapting and adjusting policies can be a two-way process. In its new definition of security, made public in July 2008, the United States of America have advanced a position which encompasses humanitarian, ecological as well as military dimensions of nation-building and places them at equal levels. The main emphasis is being shifted from military operations to psychological strategies, development, and humanitarian relief actions. The primacy of politics is to become the essence. Political empowerment, economic growth and protection of minorities are seen as necessary measures to be implemented in order to win the ‘long war’ against radical behaviour by extremists. Finding out the root causes of the emergence of conflicts is the ultimate tool.

A consequence of Tony Blair’s controversial decision to support America’s war against Iraq has been that, as of March 2008, the Prime Minister of Great Britain is no longer able to decide a military operation on his own. In future, he will need the approval of parliament. Merely secret operations or situations of an acute ‘emergency’ are excluded from this rule.

Likewise in France, for the very first time, the national assembly debated on the French military operations in Afghanistan. According to the constitutional amendment proposed by Nicolas Sarkozy, the national assembly must decide on military operations abroad which exceed four months. As in Germany, any extensions of such an operation must be approved by parliament. Until this date, the national assembly has had no right to a say in the matter.

In the United States such demands are at present also being made. In July a law was proposed which would oblige the President of the USA to consult congress before military actions.

Basically war can only be justified in self-defence. As soon as the opposite side signals the intent to stop fighting, arms should be laid to rest immediately. The more the people directly involved are able to determine the course, the less likely that an outright war will be decided upon.
On account of its history, Germany has a particularly high number of pacifists among its citizens. Yet German soldiers are sent to many regions of the world where fighting is taking place. In the course of the past years the number of armed conflicts around the world has been increasing. But is it leading to any success? The politics of confrontation has failed rather more than succeeded. Europe has shown what other ways there are to resolve territorial disputes, cultural and ideological differences, inequality and an unjust income distribution – without waging war. The countries of the European Union can look back on many decades of peace. The trouble is that this might be mistaken for weakness, - but is learning from past mistakes a weakness? Perhaps luckily, the horrors of the past war still linger on in Europe, and people are anxious to avoid a similar disaster. Will some of these ideas find a following? War is not an enlightening prospect. Schoolboys and schoolgirls wherever they are shouldn’t have such heavy loads to carry.

January 2009