Eleven months ago, on the day Russia invaded Ukraine, Lieutenant General Alfons Mais took to his LinkedIn account. “The Bundeswehr, the army that I have the privilege to lead,” he wrote, “is more or less broke. The options that we can offer the government to use in support of the [NATO] alliance are extremely limited.”

Rather than a proud symbol of Germany’s rejection of war, the country’s ill-equipped army is taken as a sign of Western Europe’s inability to defend itself.

According to press reports, Mais’s pessimistic outlook was based in hard facts. The Bundeswehr had participated in NATO’s long mission in Afghanistan, and German soldiers were still deployed to Mali as part of a UN peacekeeping mission, but the army clearly lacked the resources to confront a nuclear power like Russia. As of last February, the Bundeswehr possessed only forty modern tanks, and some 60 percent of its helicopters were considered unfit for action. The navy, meanwhile, could not confirm that it had enough ships to carry out previously planned operations, let alone take on new missions.

These statistics stand in stark contrast to the rampant defense spending and military might of the United States—evidence of Germany’s turn from aggressive militarism to pacifist restraint in the decades since 1945. What use, after all, are tanks and helicopters for an army that never intends to confront a great power on the battlefield? With war raging in Ukraine, however, the image of a bungling, ill-equipped Bundeswehr suddenly took on a different valence: it became a popular symbol not of Germany’s proud rejection of war but of Western Europe’s apparent inability to defend itself.

German leaders’ vigorous efforts over the last year to better equip the Bundeswehr—and thus prove their commitment to the security of Europe—have been described as a dramatic turning point in postwar German history. Chancellor Olaf Scholz himself used such language last February to justify his pledge to take out an unprecedented 100 billion loan, which he referred to as a “special fund” for “necessary investments and armament projects.” Unwilling to leave any doubt about his commitment to strengthening the armed forces, Scholz announced that annual defense budget increases would follow. Speaking to parliament three days after the war began, Scholz justified this orgy of defense spending by arguing that the Russian invasion marked a “watershed in the history of our continent.” The claim must be understood in reference to the elephant in the German historical imagination: World War II. “Many of us,” the chancellor explained, “still remember our parents’ or grandparents’ tales of war. And for younger people it is almost inconceivable—war in Europe.” His arguments were widely accepted. By June parliament had passed the constitutional amendment required to follow through on Scholz’s plan for the huge increase in Bundeswehr funding.

In reality, the actual watershed isn’t the sudden appearance of “war in Europe” for the first time since World War II—a breathtaking instance of historical amnesia, erasing not just the hot wars of the 1990s in Yugoslavia but also decades of militarization during the Cold War. The real, deeper change has elicited little commentary: the culmination of Germany’s transformation over the last three decades from a post-fascist country—which seemed to have overcome its Nazi past on account of its “culture of peace,” as historian Thomas Kühne has put it—to a post-pacifist country eager to ramp up defense spending and convey a posture of readiness to fight back against heavily armed aggressors. To be sure, both East and West Germany rearmed soon after World War II and hosted hundreds of thousands of American and Soviet soldiers during the Cold War, but throughout this period a significant bloc of Germans also advocated passionately for “making peace without weapons” (Frieden schaffen ohne Waffen), as two East German dissidents famously put it. This Cold War pacifism, and its striking transformation beginning in the 1990s in the face of widespread calls in the West for armed self-defense and humanitarian intervention, are erased in Scholz’s rhetoric.

Ignoring the wars of the past seventy-five years may help to convey the severity of Putin’s war of aggression, but it also overlooks significant changes in the way Germans have thought about war and peace in light of their past, especially the lessons of World War II. It also obscures the risks and consequences of Germany’s hawkish response to the war in Ukraine. Where many Germans once took World War II as a reason to oppose all forms of militarization, today it is being deployed in arguments to justify ramped-up defense spending in the name of preventing atrocities.

German opposition to militarization emerged almost immediately after 1945 and developed throughout the Cold War. Chastened by the experience of defeat and occupation, both West and East Germany wished to be perceived as peaceful countries. The constitutions of both states forswore wars of aggression and limited the role of their armed forces to maintaining peace, while legal restrictions prohibited West German armaments manufacturers from exporting weapons into conflict zones. The commitment to peace only went so far: neither German state neglected to rearm or to become an active member of its respective Cold War bloc’s military alliance. Positioned along the Iron Curtain, both states hosted hundreds of thousands of American and Soviet troops, and both adopted conscription; more than half a million Germans were in active military service at the Cold War’s height. Still, official statements and government policies were focused on limiting military conflict in the hopes of preventing World War III.

Many once viewed World War II as a reason to oppose militarization; now it is being used to justify it.

This attitude was evident throughout German society. In the Cold War years ordinary people forged a significant “culture of peace” through popular sentiment and grassroots activism. The misery Germans had experienced late in World War II and the deprivation they endured after defeat in 1945 promoted the first wave of peace protests. Immediately after the war, ordinary Germans expressed their unwillingness to participate personally in their country’s rearmament through their participation in the bottom-up “Without Me!” (Ohne mich!) movement. With the founding of the West and East German states in 1949, grassroots protest became difficult in the state socialist East. But protests against rearmament and nuclear weapons occurred throughout the 1950s in West Germany, in some ways overshadowing rearmament and the West’s accession to NATO in 1955. To be sure, unlike its central European neighbors—Switzerland, Austria, and Sweden—the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) was not a neutral country, but it succeeded in cultivating an image of opposition to war, and the protest culture that developed in these years would have long-lasting implications.

As the arms race ramped up again in the early 1980s, launching what historians have come to call the “Second Cold War,” citizens of both Germanys once again became more active proponents of peace. They primarily did so by protesting NATO and the Warsaw Pact’s stationing of intermediate range nuclear missiles in Europe. In the West, opposition to NATO’s Dual Track Decision, which underpinned its own stationing of new intermediate range missiles in Western Europe, developed into a “mass movement the likes of which the Federal Republic had never seen before,” in the words of political scientist Peter Graf Kielmansegg. On October 22, 1983—the largest single day of protest during West Germany’s “hot autumn”—some 1.2 million Germans were in the streets. Anti-missile activism went even broader and deeper. West Germans compelled local officials to establish nuclear-free zones in numerous cities and towns, and they trained themselves in civil disobedience in order to blockade NATO missile bases.

In a country where social movement activism could still conjure up memories of the “marching columns of the SA” (the paramilitary wing of the Nazi Party) and thus be equated with a wholesale rejection of the democratic order, these widespread protests were a significant development. To be sure, the protests could not stop parliament from approving missile deployment. On November 22, 1983, with support from the governing coalition of Christian Democrats and Liberals as well as a few Social Democrats, the West German Bundestag dutifully voted to allow the missiles to be stationed. The U.S. Army began transporting missiles to Germany at 1:00 a.m. the next morning. It was precisely West Germans’ acceptance of parliament’s decision, despite their enduring opposition to it, that helped to prove that street protests could exist within parliamentary democracy. As a result, historians have argued that the 1980s peace movement “normalized” protest in West Germany.

In East Germany, too, opposition to the nuclear arms race shaped a significant upswing in protest during the early 1980s. It was Robert Havemann and Rainer Eppelmann, in their 1982 Berlin Appeal, who challenged the socialist regime to live up to its pacifist ideals by “making peace without weapons!” Arguing that weapons stockpiles in East and West alike “will not protect us, but instead destroy us,” Havemann and Eppelmann demanded their government “get rid of the weapons.” Pastor Harald Bretschneider turned the socialist bloc’s own “Swords to Ploughshares” slogan into a critique of its military policies, making that phrase the motto of the fledgling peace movement that developed under the aegis of the Protestant Church. Despite the socialist regime’s prohibition of independent social activism, Bretschneider’s group managed to organize a “Peace Forum” in 1982 with some 6,000 participants. Facing scrutiny from the secret police, East German peace activists found new ways to work toward peace, including creating “personal peace treaties” with individual West Germans. The practice was widespread and noteworthy enough that the West German Green MP and peace activist, Petra Kelly, asked East Germany’s leader, Erich Honecker, to sign a “personal peace treaty” with her during an October 1983 meeting. After a whispered intervention from one of his aides, Honecker refused to agree to the personal treaty’s final point: “We hereby undertake . . . to support the start of unilateral disarmament.”

During the Cold War ordinary Germans forged a significant “culture of peace” through popular sentiment and grassroots activism.

While both German governments refused to recant their policies of armed defense and pursue unilateral disarmament, the networks that peace activists formed and the criticisms they voiced had deep implications. Though West Germany hosted numerous U.S. military bases, as well as a vast arsenal of NATO weapons, the powerful peace movement seemed to capture the popular pacifist mood and promoted grassroots political engagement. In East Germany the peace movement likely had an even more significant impact. It played an important part in building the networks that helped to organize the mass street protests of autumn 1989, which in turn precipitated the downfall of the GDR. The largely nonviolent end of the Cold War provoked visions of a future free from armed conflict: a world in which peaceful popular protest—not violent struggle, let alone war—could foster geopolitical change.

The years after the collapse of state socialism brought hot war—and the debates surrounding it—closer to home in newly reunified Germany. Confronted with the responsibilities of a restored major power in a continent where war was raging, as well as those of an alliance with the United States amid its interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan, Germany’s antiwar culture wavered. Its reluctance to support the U.S.-led military response to Iraq’s August 1990 invasion of Kuwait was the swan song of the country’s Cold War–era pacifism, which had been epitomized by the seemingly paradoxical combination of outwardly rejecting armed conflict while serving as a faithful military alliance member amid the Cold War arms race.

Although the 1990 conflict in the Persian Gulf began with Iraq’s overpowering invasion of Kuwait, many Germans saw little reason for force to be deployed against the Iraqi aggressors. Instead, opposition to the U.S.-led Operation Desert Storm, which eventually routed Iraqi forces from Kuwait and pushed deep into Iraqi territory, led to protests throughout reunified Germany and boosted anti-American sentiment. Peter Schneider, for one, commented with concern on Germans’ simultaneous criticism of the U.S. intervention and reluctance to denounce the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait—attitudes evident in actions like German nurses’ proclaimed unwillingness to treat American soldiers harmed in the conflict.

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It was not only armed overseas interventions that incited protest and initiated furious debates in reunified Germany. The Yugoslav Wars—which lasted most of the decade and included such terrible events as the brutal siege of Sarajevo for nearly four years and the horrific Srebrenica massacre, eventually provoking the German military’s first foreign deployment since 1945—also had a dramatic impact on these questions. The Bosnian and Kosovo Wars, in particular, provoked debates over such fundamental issues as when the German armed forces could be deployed abroad and what reunified Germany’s role in peacekeeping efforts ought to be. It was amid these debates that the anti-militarist belief that one should never add fuel to the fire of war—a conception to which a significant number of Germans had clung throughout the Cold War—was transformed.

Perhaps the clearest evidence of the transformation of German attitudes about armed intervention is to be found in the Green Party, which first entered the West German Bundestag in 1983 at the height of the peace movement. Widespread engagement in anti-missile demonstrations helped propel the Greens into parliament. While leading Greens went so far as to refer to their party as the peace movement’s “parliamentary wing” (or, more specifically, as the movement’s “playing leg,” in the words of prominent Green MP Petra Kelly), the party’s program called for “a government that is ready for the Federal Republic to work single-handedly for peace and disarmament.” In the run-up to the 1983 election, the political establishment on both sides of the Atlantic raised the alarm that the Greens’ support for unilateral disarmament would somehow cause Germany to exit NATO. Writing in US News and World Report, for example, Robert Haeger warned that “The Greens could team up with radical socialists to form a disruptive minority bent upon leading Germany down a neutralist path.” Such hyperbolic concerns were unwarranted. After all, the Greens won barely 5 percent of parliament’s seats. They lacked the numbers to stop the Bundestag from voting to approve the deployment of new NATO nuclear missiles on German soil, let alone remove the country from the alliance altogether.

The culture of anti-militarism was transformed in the 1990s, when military might was deployed in the name of humanitarian interests.

And yet, the party that had once been understood as the parliamentary expression of Germany’s grassroots peace movement adopted new positions that helped it move toward supporting NATO with force amid the wars of the 1990s. Joschka Fischer, a leading Green politician who became Germany’s foreign minister in 1998 when the Greens entered the governing coalition of Social Democratic Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, stood at the forefront of this shift, which suggested that the lessons Germans drew from World War II were changing, too. In an interview given shortly after the 1995 Srebrenica massacre, where more than 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys were murdered by Bosnian Serb military units, Fischer referred to lingering unwillingness to contribute to Bosnian Muslims’ armed self-defense as “naked and bloody cynicism.” Rather than denouncing interventionism or proposing that armed resistance would only feed the fire of the conflict, he argued on behalf of Bosnian Muslims’ “right to self-defense.”

In order to make this argument while continuing to reject war, Fischer articulated two conflicting principles: “Never again war!” (Nie wieder Krieg!) and “Never again Auschwitz!” (Nie wieder Auschwitz!). War was acceptable—even necessary—for Fischer insofar as it might be used to prevent genocidal atrocities like the Srebrenica massacre. Fischer’s explicit reference to Auschwitz made clear that his arguments drew on his contemplations of the German past. At the same time, his ideas were aligned with a wing of his own party that had long embraced the right to armed self-defense and even armed uprisings of threatened or exploited minority groups. The West Berlin Green activist and later MP Hans-Christian Ströbele, for example, stood at the forefront of a fundraising campaign with the unambiguously militarist slogan “Weapons for El Salvador” amid the Salvadoran civil war.

The big difference now was that Fischer was hardly contemplating grassroots fundraising campaigns that might send small arms to Bosnia. Instead, he was thinking about whether national armed forces—including those of the FRG—should be deployed abroad in support of an outgunned minority. In the same interview in which he insisted that genocide must be combatted by armed force, Fischer rued a German role in the project of protecting Bosnian Muslims, proclaiming “Never again a role [in war] for Germany” (Nie wieder eine Rolle Deutschlands). It was well and good for other European powers to intervene in Bosnia in order to prevent heinous war crimes, but from Fischer’s conflicted perspective, his country’s unique historical crimes precluded German involvement in efforts to stop genocide with military force.

Four years later, the question came to a head. With the Greens having entered the governing coalition, it fell on Fischer, now foreign minister, to shore up support within his party for German involvement in NATO’s intervention in Kosovo—a mission that would become both NATO’s first active use of military force and the first foreign deployment of German armed forces since 1945. On May 13, 1999, fifty days after NATO forces—including German Air Force units—intervened in the Kosovo War with air strikes on Bosnian Serb infrastructure, the Greens held a special party congress in the city of Bielefeld to retroactively debate NATO’s actions and Germany’s participation in them.

The press speculated that the party would tear itself apart debating its representatives’ assent to the use of military force in Kosovo. The atmosphere outside the convention center was no less volatile: some 1,500 police were deployed to protect Green Party delegates from a crowd of protesters who demanded the end of NATO air strikes. Rather than disintegrating, the Green party voted narrowly, 444–318, to retroactively approve NATO’s intervention. The enduring image of the Bielefeld Party Congress came when a demonstrator pushed his way into the meeting hall and attacked Fischer with a paint bomb, breaking his eardrum. There remained significant numbers of Germans who vigorously rejected a contribution by their own country’s armed forces to the armed defense of an outgunned, threatened group. At the same time, for many Germans the logic of military intervention was shifting. For the second time in five years, Western intervention had ended the hot phase of an armed conflict in the former Yugoslavia.

The lessons of the 1990s were quickly absorbed not only in Germany but across the West. The idea that military might was the most effective means of stopping war crimes and genocide gained purchase, and with the UN member states’ unanimous endorsement of the “Responsibility to Protect” (R2P) framework in 2005, the international community adopted the idea that collective action was necessary in cases where states were failing to protect their own populations from genocide. In short, taking action—including military intervention—against war crimes and genocide had become a norm in the new international order. 

This legacy resonates down to the present. Leading Green politicians, in their role as ministers in Scholz’s cabinet, have been among the foremost advocates of sending German arms to Ukraine. The press has portrayed these calls as marking a sudden shift within the erstwhile pacifist Green Party, but this transformation has actually been in the works since the 1990s. For a case in point, take an April 2022 Der Spiegel cover story calling the party’s leaders “Olive Greens” on account of the Greens’ transformation from a party of “pro-peace idealists to tank-fans.” This language directly echoes the headline of a November 2001 article, published in the same newsmagazine, featuring “Olive Green” Angelika Beer, the Green parliamentary delegation’s spokeswoman on defense who worked tirelessly to shore up support for the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan. Already in 2001 Der Spiegel spoke of the Greens as a party that “was once pacifist.”

By 2005 militarization for the sake of protecting against war crimes had become a norm of the new international order.

Partly as a result of Beer’s work, only four green MPs declined to vote in support of the U.S. invasion, and with the vast majority of the Green delegation backing the decision, German armed forces were deployed to Afghanistan. Fischer, once again advocating in support of the military intervention, argued afterward that the vote had “decisively renewed the republic.” But for Paul Hockenos, who has written a biography linking Fischer’s political career with “the Making of the Berlin Republic,” it was not so much renewal as transformation that defined the foreign policy of post-reunification Germany. Under the Schröder-Fischer government, Hockenos argues, Germany “demonstrated itself a confident, at times independent-minded actor”—a far cry from Cold War West Germany, which was famously described as an “economic giant, political dwarf.” It was in this way that reunified Germany made its peace with waging war. Among many of the country’s onetime pacifists, the shift from opposition to war in all its forms to support for armed self-defense had come in terms of a shifting view of World War II that emphasized the crimes of the Holocaust over German defeat and deprivation, a pivot toward consistently privileging the principle of “Never again Auschwitz!” over the principle of “Never again war!”

As a result, a country where the very idea of intervening in foreign conflicts had once provoked widespread protest is now at pains to prove its commitment to assisting the armed self-defense of threatened groups. This development has been readily apparent since the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Despite his quick call for significantly increased defense spending, Scholz was initially hesitant to supply Ukraine with weapons; for this he was roundly and repeatedly attacked not only by the Conservative opposition but also by his own coalition partners. Scholz’s foreign minister, the Green politician Annalena Baerbock, has continuously beat the drum in support of sending “more military material, including heavy weapons” to Ukraine. (According to American journalist Stephen Kinzer, Baerbock’s hawkish statements epitomize the position of a younger generation of German politicians who “grew up without any of the embedded shame and anti-militarism that shaped previous German generations.” It seems more likely that politicians like Baerbock were significantly influenced by the experiences of the 1990s, when armed intervention played a part in ending the Bosnian and Kosovo Wars.) Facing pressure from the likes of Baerbock, Scholz slowly backpedaled, authorizing ever greater arms shipments to Ukraine.

By July the federal government had begun delivering tanks. Since the Bundeswehr had precious little equipment to spare, the government helped arrange the €1.7 billion sale of 100 self-propelled artillery pieces from German arms manufacturers to Ukraine, to be delivered in the years ahead. Nearly a year into the Russian invasion, with no signs that either side is open to peace talks, voices rejecting the use of weapons to achieve peace have been routed from the German debate. In parliament, only the Left Party, which saw its support halved in the fall 2021 election—in part due to rampant criticism of its call for Germany’s exit from NATO—continued to frame its position on the Russian invasion with a perspective that promoted peace over armed struggle. While the Left continued to oppose Germany’s arms build-up and warned against “risking a firestorm” by “sending weapons into crisis areas and warzones,” the party was engulfed in a dire internal crisis and appeared increasingly irrelevant in Bundestag debates.

The situation has been much the same for extra-parliamentary advocates of peace without weapons. In April prominent feminist Alice Schwarzer published an open letter to Scholz signed by twenty-eight intellectuals and artists on the website of her magazine Emma calling for the end of German arms aid for Ukraine. “The escalating arms buildup taking place under pressure could be the beginning of a global arms spiral with catastrophic consequences, not least for global health and climate change,” the letter implored. “It is necessary,” they concluded, “despite all differences, to strive for a global peace.”

In the wake of Putin’s invasion, advocacy of armed struggle is quickly becoming a new kind of common sense.

In a striking premonition of the controversy that ensued in the United States following the release of a similar letter from the Congressional Progressive Caucus in October, the signatories of the Emma letter were met with a barrage of indignation from across the German political establishment—not least from the Greens. Britta Haßelmann, one of the chairpersons of the Green Party’s parliamentary delegation, suggested that the entire idea of working toward peace was naïve “when Putin has invaded a free, European country in violation of international law, levelled entire cities, murdered civilians, and rape has been systematically deployed as a weapon against women.” Meanwhile Ralf Fücks and Marieluise Beck, two veteran Greens, responded by organizing a second open letter to Scholz, starting with fifty-seven signatories. In direct contradiction of Schwarzer’s warning about the consequences of the “escalating arms buildup,” Fücks and Beck argued in favor of the “continual supply of weapons and ammunition, in order to shift the military balance of power in Ukraine’s favor.” Only by stopping Putin from “leaving the field as the victor” could the “European order of peace” be preserved, they maintained. In other words, peace could not be created without weapons: it was to be made at the barrel of a gun.

There is a clear continuity between these attitudes and the debates of the 1990s, when preventing wars of aggression—especially genocide—began to supersede the avoidance of armed struggle at all costs among Germany’s pacifists. For Antje Vollmer, herself a veteran Green and a co-signatory of Schwarzer’s letter, the change is evidence that today’s Green politicians are “Joschka’s children.” Fischer’s contrast of “Never again war!” and “Never again Auschwitz!” masterfully expressed shifting Germans attitudes to war. If the defeat of 1945—along with the desolate circumstances in which postwar Germany found itself—was once an inspiration to reject war at all costs, growing willingness to process Germans’ responsibility for the Holocaust provoked a different lesson. It is not so much a lack of experience of war that explains young German politicians’ relative bellicosity in debates on the Ukraine war. On the contrary, the experience of looking on while horrific war crimes were committed in Yugoslavia, in Rwanda, and elsewhere buttresses the righteous indignation that prompts young politicians’ outspoken support for Ukrainians’ efforts to defend themselves against the Russian onslaught. Baerbock, who was a teenager in the 1990s, made a point of traveling to the Balkans in April. Upon visiting an exhibition on photos documenting the Srebernica massacre, she commented upon how that horrific event had “shaped her generation in Germany, socially as well as politically.”

Applying the lessons of the 1990s is made all the easier given that the aggressor this time is a major military power backed by a vast nuclear arsenal. Whereas Fischer once framed the slogan “Never again Auschwitz!” as an unfortunate exception to his rejection of war, advocacy of armed struggle is quickly becoming a new kind of common sense.

Some will see the waning of German pacifism as a positive development: an acceptance of Germany’s responsibility on the international stage and an admission of the hypocrisy of the country’s Cold War–era culture of peace, underpinned as it was by the vast NATO and Warsaw Pact arsenals hosted on German soil. But we should not be so quick to celebrate the demise of a public culture of peace in Germany and the sidelining of the country’s staunchly pacifist voices.

If even talking about working toward peace—rather than marching to armed victory—is beyond the pale of debate, saber-rattling, with all its ugly consequences, becomes the norm.

For one thing, doing so risks institutionalizing a new sort of fatalism where spiraling violence is concerned. Direct German military intervention in Ukraine is not currently in the cards, it is true. Nor does the sorry state of the Bundeswehr inspire much confidence that direct intervention would make much difference on the battlefield. But growing unwillingness to contemplate the idea that peace could be achieved without weapons has arguably prevented Germany from using the considerable resources and power it does have to work toward peace. With the country’s top diplomat, Baerbock, repeatedly pledging to “supply Ukraine with weapons as long as it takes,” and fellow Green politicians arguing that cease-fire negotiations “would weaken Ukraine’s position,” no one seems to be thinking about how a non-military resolution to the conflict might be brought about.

Instead, the widespread sentiment—in Germany and across the West—that “Ukraine must win” expresses a belief both that war can be won and that victory, not peace, should be the goal of German policy. Whatever limitations diplomacy will face in confronting Putin’s war of aggression, this attitude embodies not only a striking sense of resignation but also a disregard for what will happen whenever the guns finally do stop. As Adom Getachew has noted in these pages, writing about the failures of R2P:

Critics of humanitarian intervention are always maligned for refusing to “do something” in atrocities, but more often than not that “something” is equated with military intervention. Instead, responses to humanitarian crises and civil wars such as the kind that prompted NATO’s airstrikes in Libya should prioritize multilateral and diplomatic processes that emphasize the role of regional partners, aim at the de-escalation of conflicts, and include all stakeholders in political transition. . . . ultimately our responses to specific cases of humanitarian crisis must be nested in a broader campaign of demilitarization. . . . a transnational effort at collective disarmament must be part of a wider response to violent conflicts around the world.

If even talking about working toward peace—rather than marching to armed victory—is beyond the pale of public debate, saber-rattling, with all its ugly consequences, becomes the norm, while strivings for peace become the exception. Awkwardly enough, this form of hawkishness can easily be justified by appeals to the righteous responsibility to protect against war crimes and genocide. Indeed, it underwrites the conceit that superior weapons—and, where necessary, Western military intervention—are the surest and most righteous means for resolving international conflict, a sentiment summed up in Baerbock’s recent remark that “our weapons deliveries save lives.” This lionization of Western military might leaves the dire human costs of war off the ledger and threatens to support spiraling militarization that goes well beyond the parameters of protecting against another Auschwitz.

From the perspective of a post-fascist and now post-pacifist country, it is the culmination of this long-developing change—the operationalizing of humanitarian concerns on behalf of militarization and war—that marks a historical watershed.

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