|German Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg addresses the audience during the CSU party convention October 29, in Munich.|
In May, then German President Horst Köhler resigned amid a chorus of criticism after he said that Germany may have to deploy its army in order to safeguard economic interests.
Six months later, Germany’s most popular politician said that he agrees with Köhler.
Köhler stated that “in emergencies military intervention is necessary to uphold our interests, like for example free-trade routes, for example to prevent regional instabilities which could have a negative impact on our chances in terms of trade, jobs and income.” Despite the strong criticism these remarks provoked, many were surprised that Köhler resigned in response.
Now Guttenberg has decided to re-open the debate. “I have repeatedly pointed out this year that we in our country must really do something to articulate the relationship between regional security and economic interests without coming to deadlock,” he said, speaking at a defense conference in Berlin.
Guttenberg warned that growing demand for natural resources could lead to new conflicts. “The raw materials needs of emerging powers are constantly growing, and thus competing with our requirements,” he said.
“I think in particular of what is happening today with rare earths,” he said. China controls 97 percent of the world’s supply of rare earth minerals—which are essential in many high-tech products, used both by the general public and the military.
Piracy was another specific area that Guttenberg said could warrant military intervention. “Piracy in the 21st century is thus not just a side note, but a serious challenge to our economic performance, one to be taken seriously,” said the defense minister. “In a globalized world … common interests are to be protected in order to bring stability.”
Ending conscription was once a taboo in Germany. Yet Guttenberg managed to win the nation over, and is in the process of creating a fully professional army. Just because these kinds of remarks got Köhler into trouble doesn’t mean that Guttenberg will suffer. The charismatic politician may be able to change the nation’s mind on this subject too.Guttenberg is leading the way in creating a newly assertive Germany. Thanks to him, the army will soon be an efficient, outward-looking force capable of fighting oversees. And now he is arguing that Germany should use it.