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Guttenberg to slash military, end draft

DDP/DPA/The Local · 23 Aug 2010, 17:50

Published: 23 Aug 2010 17:50 GMT+02:00

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Guttenberg shared his five reform models with leading members of Chancellor Angela Merkel's centre-right coalition in the hopes winning support for streamlining the Bundeswehr.

The defence minister announced his intention to cut troops numbers from 252,000 soldiers to 163,500 and effectively abolish conscription by mid-2011. Guttenberg said, however, that he intended to keep military service anchored in the German constitution.

"It's incredibly important to me that we keep military conscription in the Basic Law," he said. "I'm always amazed by those geniuses who know what the world will look like in the 20 or 30 years. I don't and therefore believe we need the option of drafting young people if that becomes necessary."

Since young men will no longer be called to compulsory military service, Guttenberg said he would instead push for a “trial” period of between 12 and 23 months, which would serve as a recruitment pool for men and women interested in joining the professional army.

Guttenberg said he wanted a smaller, more streamlined, efficient and modern Bundeswehr, which would actually be strengthened by increased competence.

But the two conservative parties in the coalition, Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) and Guttenberg’s Bavarian sister party the (CSU), are at odds over ending conscription.

Lower Saxony’s new state premier and CDU member David McAllister encouraged the conservatives to conduct a fundamental debate about the issue.

“I can only recall that our CDU has since 1955 always been the party of conscription,” he said. “It’s already known that I am a supporter of conscription.”

The state of Hesse’s outgoing premier and CDU member Roland Koch said: “We have very little financial means, but we must still anchor the Bundeswehr in our society.”

Chancellor Merkel plans to decide her stance after an intensive debate, her spokesman Steffen Seibert on Monday said, adding that she sees the discussion as a “starting point” for reform and supports “new thinking.”

Her cabinet’s current position is that the reform should save the country some €8.3 billion by 2014, though Merkel has since said this sum could be lowered.

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The CDU and CSU party conventions in October and November are expected to be key in deciding on the final reforms.

Meanwhile Merkel’s junior coalition partners, the pro-business Free Democrats, are in favour of abolishing conscription, as are the opposition parties the Social Democrats, Greens and Left party.

But politicians will also have to address ways to handle the end of compulsory community service, or Zivildienst, which was the alternative for young men who opted out of military service.

Charity organisations have expressed deep misgivings about ending the programme for fear they will not be able to make up for the loss of the free labour. However, Family Minister Kristina Schröder said on Monday she planned to implement a voluntary Zivildienst for some 35,000 people.

DDP/DPA/The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

23:24 August 23, 2010 by whatzup
As it is now the US does most of the defense heavy lifting for western civilization. Now, as far as Germany is concerned America will be doing almost ALL the lifting. Nice for germans, not so nice for overburdened America. The strain is beginning to show across the pond and Guttenberg wants to pile it on.
23:39 August 23, 2010 by William Thirteen
a leaner, more professional force with longer enrollment times seems like it would be more capable, more flexible and better able to carry out its constitutional role.
01:04 August 24, 2010 by whatzup
Smaller automatically means more capable and flexible? These adjectives are just a smokescreen to camouflage a downsizing in year when Germany is the only european country to show any promise of economic fitness. This is a of case of "let someone else do it" pure and simple.
02:13 August 24, 2010 by Gretl
Ending conscription would increase quality in the military, as those who are in actually want to be there. Maybe it will help with that labor shortage they wanted to bring foreigners to fill.
06:07 August 24, 2010 by nepo77
America will protect us. They wont let us down.
07:34 August 24, 2010 by Der Grenadier aus Aachen
All this is going to do is reduce the diversity of the military population to the economically disadvantaged. Everyone must be ready and willing to defend, and if need be, die for our democracy. It doesn't matter if your father is rich or not. If you're not willing to make that base level of commitment to your fellow citizens, then get out.
14:22 August 24, 2010 by heathen
****the reform should save the country some €8.3 billion by 2014****

This token amount should be paid to the USA as an outsourcing cost for national defense.

****But politicians will also have to address ways to handle the end of compulsory community service, or Zivildienst, which was the alternative for young men who opted out of military service. Charity organisations have expressed deep misgivings about ending the programme for fear they will not be able to make up for the loss of the free labour. ****

Simple solution...in order to get free university or vocational training, then put these entitlement f*cks to work for the common good to cover their tax-payer paid education.
14:56 August 24, 2010 by William Thirteen
and from whom is the US currently protecting Germany?
15:02 August 24, 2010 by whatzup
Russia and Iran to start with. Looks like Iran will have the missile technology to strike anywhere in europe shortly. Want to take a chance that country will act with any restraint once they get the bomb?
15:19 August 24, 2010 by bernie1927

I fully agree with you. Just look at our army. We have trouble filling the ranks and now permit even felons to join up. Is that what you want? I believe that, if the politicians would have to send their sons and daughters, we would have fewer wars and, in the process, save a lot of money.
16:05 August 24, 2010 by Major B
Oh Bernie. Some patriotism friend. That swipe at the US Army hurt. You mean the U.S. Army under Bush 1 and Powell(Cheney too then -- the GOOD Cheney) that smashed Sadaam the first time with the help of the British, French and that grand coalition. Germany sat that one out though. You mean the U.S. Army that has been royally overstreched these past 9 years. Would you look at our young people in the eye, who have served their nation unfailingly these past 9 years with mutiple deployments and tell them they are no good. By the way, US Army recruiting is just fine now. And Americans, who work concept is so different from Europeans, are finding it isn't so bad when they get in. You are right about politicians sending their sons and daughters though -- the last U.S. president with two daughters and they couldn't even join the part time military. Germany has had it good these past 60 and there is justified resentment and it not pulling its load. Now the hate mail comes.
18:56 August 24, 2010 by koolbreeze
I have mixed emotions here. I can understand what the Germans are doing for economical reasons. But I also remember serving in the US Amy at the beginning of the Balkan conflict. When the European countries did not have enough military trucks to start a convoy to that area. Unfortunately we saw that history does repeat itself. After the U.S pulls out of Iraq AND Afghanistan, It will be in no shape to help defend other countries It will have to rebuild like it did after Vietnam. China and North Korea are already testing us. Do not be so naive or complacent
23:14 August 24, 2010 by bernie1927
@Major B

I suppose you were a major in the army. I only got as far as officer cadet but then, that was 66 years ago. I am 100 % behind our boys in the service. It is not the soldiers but the missions that I harp about. Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan, in my opinion, were unnecessary and ended up to be disasters, and very costly ones at that. Okay, so I forgot that brilliant victory in Grenada. Wars are not fought the way they used to. Rules of engagement are unknown. You can't tell friend from foe. Korea was a draw, Vietnam was a defeat, and it looks like we are going to leave Iraq and Afghanistan no better off than they were before we came. Why should the Germans risk a single soldier for such needless adventures? Give them credit for brains.
04:18 August 25, 2010 by Der Grenadier aus Aachen
On an aside; it's amusing that the US expects much from Germany, but isn't willing to support it becoming a full security council member.
15:17 August 25, 2010 by Major B
@ Bernie. Sir I generally support your comments. No, I wasn't a major in the US Army. I totally agree the US was in unnecessary conflicts, ESPECIALLY the current Iraq situation it is getting out of. Afghanistan was necessary and had the US just concentrated on that effort, its standing internationally would be much better. I will always speak for the courageous young Americans and Germans who serve their nation in uniform.

The reason the U.S. didn't disarm after WWII was the the VERY real Soviet threat. Germany benefited greatly from the U.S military umbrella doing those years. Had some good German citizens had courage in the early 1930's, they would have stopped that madman and wouldn't bear responisiblity for the absolute hell the world went through afterwards. There is a shared cost that it is responsible for now and as the Bundeswehr Parliamentarian makes a point that I hope many officials will echo.

@ Der Grenadier_ Germany should have a seat on the Security Council ything military, that umbrella
18:15 August 25, 2010 by cobalisk
As a former member of an all volunteer service I must say with a straight face that I favor conscription. It is the only proven method to actually create equality both in the armed forces and, most importantly, society at large. The option of civil service is an excellent subset of this giving valuable skills to the majority of participants. This is a proven and effective program for society.

While it is certainly true that volunteer forces are more efficient and often are better fighting units, they are also quite distant from society at large and much, much easier to use and overuse. Yes, reducing costs and improving efficiency is important but there are other ways to do it that simply removing any obligation to their country for almost everybody.
04:15 August 26, 2010 by bernie1927
@Major B

I am usually in agreement with you, but I must tell you that I do not agree with your remark about a courageous German who could have changed history back in the 30's etc. In the beginning, Hitler was a savior, and he was respected, even by the Brits. Don't forget the absolute misery that Germany was condemned to after WW 1, and today we know that Germany was by no means solely responsible for the start of WW 1. When Hitler appeared on the scene, he initially changed everything very positively. Then things changed and by that time he was solidly and brutally entrenched. You should not see it in black and white only. I lived through the brutality of the time. Parents were afraid of their children, because the kids had been indoctrinated.
13:37 August 26, 2010 by Prufrock2010
I'm still laughing over the reference to "the GOOD Cheney!" That man is the earthly incarnation of Satan.
20:44 August 26, 2010 by Major B
@ Bernie. Thanks trully for the reminder about the initial promise of "the madman" to many Germans. Ditto. I remember being taught/reading though that much of German high society didn't think much of him when he first came on the scene. I totally agree with you that Britain and France bore equal responsibility for WWI and that the harshness of the WWI settlements and the unfair reparations afterwards gave fertile ground for someone like "the madman". The way young Americans were used as chattel by the British and the very realization that all were equally guilty is one of the reasons the U.S. Congress insisted and mandated U.S. neutrality the first two years of WWII. However, everyone wasn't fooled by "the madman's" jingoistic and nationalistic talk -- the past U.S. administration was so roundly criticized for doing the same thing.

Also, much respect for your past military service and the service of your family members in Europe. You an example of a previous remark I made on this forum. Although Eisenhower wanted U.S. soldiers not to mix with the German population, there was no way soldiers such as yourself with German heritage would not communicate with their cousins.

@ Prufrock2010_ Actually there is somewhat of a comparison and I had better be careful. Secretary of Defense Cheney and Vice President Cheney were two totally different people. Many commented after he became VP that they no longer knew or recognized him. And he wasn't right/correct about ANYTHING!!
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