The biggest German foreign policy sin post-1945

Back in 1990/91 a coalition of 28 countries defeated the Iraqi military and drove it out of occupied Kuwait with roughly 2/3 U.S. troops. It seemed like a post-Cold War triumph for peace among nations at the time.
Some countries did not participate much or not at all with military means, but provided subsidies to support in particular the U.S. effort fiscally.

The U.S. Department of Defense has estimated the cost of the Gulf War at $61 billion.

Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states covered $36 billion.

Germany and Japan covered $16 billion.
(source CNN)

In hindsight, I think this was the biggest German foreign policy sin in many decades. Even the decision to de facto go to war against Yugoslavia in 1999 pales because without this earlier sin, it would likely not have happened.

To make a "won" war almost for free gave a terrible, utterly misleading signal to the people in the United States; a signal that war may be profitable. No doubt all that glory with a neat parade in best weather through flag-decorated streets, the testing of military equipment, the prestige gain et cetera was worth a very few billion dollars and about a hundred dead war heroes?

The U.S. had regained its appetite for great power games post-Vietnam already under Reagan and Bush sr before the 1990/91 Gulf War, but afterwards it was altogether different, public approval was much easier to get and sought after instead of rather sudden and previously unannounced military action. "Cruise missile diplomacy", the casual bombing of other countries, was born soon after 1991. Iraq had met all disarmament requirements by 1996, but wasn't left alone at all, and eventually broken for good in 2003.

What seemed like a moment of triumph for a world in which invading other countries was unacceptable and to be punished by the international community turned into the moment when one country decided that bombing and invading other countries does cost little, is fun and perfectly fine as long as it's the only country that does it. The German government helped to create that impression, with German public funds, fed by German taxpayers.



  1. Two additional thoughts to that:

    1 The US Victory in Iraq/Kuwait at this time was in reality a hollow one, because the war was not decisive. The US Forces should have marched straight to Bagdad in this year and eliminate the Saddam-Clique (but not the Sunni-Rule / Baath Party) and the whole world tody would be very different and much for the better. Many bad developement in this area are today not so much a result of this war, but of the years long embargo/air-campaign/unrest which followed in the years after 1991 until the second war. This around 10 years did much more harm to iraq and were much more important for radicalising the moslems then the war itself. Overal the 90/91 war is in my opinion a missed opportunity (i know: this position is against your political beliefs)

    2 Interestingly it was mainly the catastrophic defeat of the iraqi army which lead to the chinese arms race because the PLA of china after the victory of the us forces nearly panicked and decided that modernisation and strengthening of their own forces is absolut priority. Without this war, china would be much weaker militarily.

    1. I disagree. The Neocon myth that the 1991 Gulf War did an incomplete job is bollocks.

      They made up this myth to make people more open for their idea of attacking Iraq again for no reason.

      In reality, the 1991 war went too far; the Iraqi army was withdrawing from Kuwait after about 20 days of bombardment and the failed Kahfji probe. The invasion of Iraq after it became obvious that Kuwait was about to be liberated without such an invasion was already excessive and a bit of a stain. I understand the intent to reduce the Iraqi military strength to a level that's not much of a threat to its neighbours any more, though. Still, an air force general as commander of the campaign may not have chosen to launch an unnecessary ground war.

      The Chinese followed the pointless idea that military spending should grow as the economy grows - instead of orienting military power at threats or other problem-oriented rules.

    2. Indeed, if US forces had continued to Baghdad in 91, that would accelerate the developing of AlQaeda, ISIS, Shia-Sunni conflict, kurds fight for independence, perhaps a 911 type event, etc. Not sure where we would be now in that reallity should be as volatile as this one.