Since the Bundeswehr was established, its guiding principle – the concept of Innere Führung – has remained unchanged. This has caused the Bundeswehr to come under repeated criticism throughout its history. Especially during the 1960s and ’70s, doubt was cast on whether the Bundeswehr was indeed closely integrated with society and the concept of Innere Führung was thought to be too theoretical and therefore impractical. There was a resurgence of protest in the 1980s during the arms race debate and discussions over the extent to which Innere Führung is compatible with a modern combat force continue to the present day.
The team of authors at the Leadership Development and Civic Education Center of the German armed forces (Zentrum Innere Führung, ZInFü) regards this ongoing discussion as a sign of the strength of Innere Führung. The Bundeswehr has survived all these debates for precisely this reason, they argue, and has been further strengthened as a result. This is true even in view of the suspension of compulsory military service and the transition to a volunteer army. The concept thrives on criticism and a constant examination of current problems. At the same time, particular importance is attached to every soldier individually, as they always decide for themselves the extent to which they put Innere Führung into practice and integrate it into their everyday lives.
The authors at ZInFü demonstrate the success and applicability of Innere Führung by pointing out that the common values of the armed forces after German reunification contributed to German unity. Moreover, in more than 25 years of deployment for peace and security, no member of the Bundeswehr has been prosecuted before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) or convicted of crimes under the law of war. Despite all of this, however, the authors do not conclude that the concept will necessarily work for other countries as an “export hit”. Instead, each nation must develop a concept based on its own history and culture which is appropriate for the military situation in that country. But a conversation about the values and principles of Innere Führung can certainly be helpful to this end.