Germany Needs an Expert Panel for Armaments

Building a Smarter German-American Partnership

Amid the current decision by the German Bundestag to support the Kurdish fighters in Northern Iraq with arms exports, Arsland Deichsel and Rana Deep Islam (an AGI Non-Resident Fellow) make the case for a new council of armament experts in their recent article “Deutschland braucht einen Expertenrat für Rüstung” [in German].

The export of arms has become a highly controversial topic in German politics, as Germany’s role in international politics moves toward taking on more responsibility. Formerly, debates on arms exports were guided by clear-cut party politics with pacifist arguments from left-wing politicians and arguments of Realpolitik from conservatives. The disastrous situation in Northern Iraq, however, let German politicians abandon all party principle, with proponents and opponents of arms exports on all sides of the political spectrum. This short and highly emotional debate influenced the German Bundestag in its decision to accept the government’s proposal to export German arms to non-governmental actors in a crisis region. The long-term consequences of this abandonment of former tenets of German foreign policy for Germany, and especially for Iraq, are questionable at this point.

For these reasons, Deichsel and Islam take the Wirtschaftsweisen (German Council of Economic Experts) as a positive example to provide objective and coherent advice to German politicians. The authors suggest the establishment of a similar advisory panel for questions of armaments and arms exports. In contrast to the existing Bundessicherheitsrat (German Federal Security Council), which meets secretly and consists of politicians only, the new panel would analyze the consequences of arms exports, weigh the arguments, and provide stronger coherence in the future. This would make German foreign policy more transparent, more credible, and less dependent on party politics.