by Jeffersonian Democrat
Thu Oct 26th, 2006 at 09:41:54 AM EST
Some folks here have expressed an interest in the foreign press and what is going on outside of US domestic politics. So, here is my contribution in that spirit, to bring to light a huge issue now happening in Germany complicated by an incident yesterday.
(x-posted at Booman and European Tribune)
A report in the German press, released Wednesday by Der Tagesspiegel, claims Israeli F16s conducted a low level fly-by and shoot twice in an "over the bow" warning, on the German Navy conducting UNIFIL operations off the coast of Lebanon. Today's follow up is at:
Nach einem Bericht des "Tagesspiegel" sollen bei dem Vorfall zwei israelische Kampfflugzeuge vom Typ F16 ein deutsches Schiff überflogen und zwei Schüsse in die Luft abgegeben haben. Außerdem hätten die Kampfflieger Infrarot-Täuschkörper zur Raketenabwehr abgefeuert. Die deutsche Marine kreuzt im Rahmen des Nahost-Einsatzes der Vereinten Nationen vor Libanons Küste. (tso/ddp)
(I am not a translator, so all mistakes from the German are mine; anyone with a better translation is more than welcome to correct me or rephrase it less awkwardly and more concisely and I will update if this is a successful diary.) It basically, very roughly, states that:
After a report from Tagesspiegel, two Israeli F16 type fighters are said to have overflown a German ship and released two shots in the air. Additionally, the pilots had fired infra-red counter measures [against] the anti-missile defense. The German Navy patrols off of Lebanon's coast within the framework of the United Nations Middle-East mission.
Translation Update from Migeru: According to a report from Tagesspiegel, two Israeli F16 type fighters would have overflown a German ship and released two shots in the air.
Today, Der Tagesspeigel (link above) as well as Haaretz have stated that the Israelis denied firing on the German ship:
An Israel Defense Forces spokesman on Wednesday confirmed that Israel Air Force jets had been involved in an incident with a German vessel and helicopter, but denied reports that the jets had fired shots over the ship.
The Germany daily Der Tagesspiegel earlier on Wednesday quoted a junior German defense minister as telling a parliamentary committee that two Israeli F-16 fighters flew low over the German ship and fired two shots.
The jets also activated infra-red countermeasures to ward off any rocket attack, the paper quoted him as saying, in an advance release from Thursday's edition.
In fairness to the Israeli authorities, they also stated in the same report:
IAF jets had been launched early Tuesday when a helicopter took off from a German aircraft carrier in waters close to Rosh Hanikra without identifying itself in accordance with United Nations regulations. The incident was quickly solved without confrontation, the spokesman said, and only flares were fired.
The German Navy doesn't have an aircraft carrier, many surface ships have helicopter capabilities, but oh well.
This leads to my op-ed portion of the diary. Living in Germany as a permanent resident awaiting citizenship, I've been on the position in this internal debate of German military presence in the world or just within Germany's borders, as keeping the military within the borders. It is also within the Party line of my political party here as well:
I don't know what the Chancellor was thinking when she sent the German Navy to Lebanon. No, I do know what she was thinking. She is on the other side of this debate that German forces have a responsibility to Europe and the UN to participate in peacekeeping missions overseas. The German military is currently in the Former Yugoslavia, Afghanistan - with a scandal there brewing in the German press:
Published photos of German soldiers desecrating a skull in Afghanistan have triggered a full blown image crisis for Germany. Officials are struggling to minimize what they fear could be major consequences.
Also, they are in Congo, and now Lebanon. Aside from the growing scandal, on the surface, it may seem like a good idea, we should all support irradicating things such as genocide in places like Dafur and this is an opportunity to show that Germany is now committed to stopping such things rather than the old wounds of inflicting them.
Well, it is exactly those old wounds that trouble me. Especially in Lebanon. We all know, and without judgements to whether it is right or wrong - that's for a separate diary that when it comes to issues of Israels borders, security, and the IDF, that Israel is very aggressive in pursueing those issues. Just in the last couple of weeks there was an incident with the French forces in UNIFIL, from the same Haaretz report:
In response to threats by French forces to open fire on IAF overflights, Peretz said, "we will in no way take these threats, and we've made that clear in conversations with all parties."
Now my concern is this. In modern Naval warfare, as the Falklands clearly demonstrated, one hit on a vessel is likely to be catastrophic. Therefore, in order to protect the vessel, there must be a split second decision to employ counter-measures and/or counter attack the threat. There isn't much time due to the speed and velocity of naval weapon systems and their corresponding counter-measures. Normally in a warzone there is no question to return fire, but with peacekeeping the ROE (rules of engagement) are more complicated and demand human decision making.
There are plenty of former US and non-US Naval surface warfare officers here on Kos, Booman, and I am sure ET, please feel free to correct me in any of my analysis if I got it wrong.
There was already a lot of debate in this country about sending ground troops to Lebanon and what would happen if German troops were forced to come into conflict with Israeli troops. This is why the Navy was sent instead. The implications of a conflict between German and Israeli troops, or more plainly put, between Germans and Jews, is not lost on neither the German population nor the German Bundeswehr. Nevertheless, Israel reaffirmed that the Germans are most welcome and for their part, they are not thinking of the past - however, the Germans are.
Whether it turns out that the Israelis fired or not is really irrelevant. What is relevant is the position that German forces are put into when they must decide to return fire on Israeli forces and whether it is self-defense. For a German skipper of a Naval vessel this is a very heavy burden as he or she would be the first to engage in combat against Jewish forces since WWII. Is that a decision that can be made in the few seconds necessary to defend one's ship? What is the human hesitancy factor here?
No, I believe it is a bad stew with bad ingredients. There is a great potential for something tragic to happen either way, whether there is return fire or not. Luckily, this incident didn't turn out as bad as it may have. Yet this is the debate that we here in Germany must confront (I say we because, as a legal resident, I may vote in regional elections but not federal, until I gain my citizenship.) It is on the forefront of politics here and there are measures coming up in Parliament on whether to decide to let the military further participate in world-wide peacekeeping mission or whether to bring them home and operate only within the borders of Germany.
I, for one, vote with the latter camp.