The Bundeswehr has fundamentally changed, but the concept of Innere Führung has not. If this is not addressed soon, the guiding principle of the German armed forces will become a relic. This is the conclusion reached by Prof. Dr. Elmar Wiesendahl, former director of the German Armed Forces Command and Staff College in Hamburg. Structural change in the Bundeswehr has changed its political and social position. It has moved away from being a territorial defense army towards becoming a volunteer army and combat force. This has had serious impacts on soldiers’ professional self-image. And yet the old guiding principle of Innere Führung has been left untouched. “Innere Führung has proven itself during operations as well” is the official statement from the leadership of the Bundeswehr.
Wiesendahl believes that this has created a “vacuum of meaning”. Soldiers are left to their own devices when it comes to dealing with their deployment experiences and their search for identity. “The official guiding culture from the top and the actual organizational culture experienced at the bottom are drifting apart” Wiesendahl states. The military leadership level is holding onto the guiding principle of the “citizen in uniform”. In contrast, a “combat-mission generation” is promulgating a very different guiding principle: that of the professional fighter with an elitist special morality for soldiers. In this school of thought, the military craft, military “upbringing and formation of character”, take priority over anything pertaining to the citizen. Wiesendahl sees a great danger here. A new idealized “cult of the fighter” could emerge with significant remilitarization and decivilianization tendencies.
In view of this current development, the military and political leadership should urgently “show their colors” Wiesendahl warns. They should very clearly position themselves against the misguided model of the elite fighter. But this will only credibly take place if a reform debate is initiated at the same time. Wiesendahl believes that the concept of Innere Führung should be adapted to the current challenges of the deployment reality. In his opinion, a viable guiding principle that gives meaning to and comes up to the requirements of the “combat-force soldier” is needed more than ever.