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Corona as a Security Risk: On the Role of the Military in an Insecure Society

By Markus Vogt and Rolf Husmann

The Bundeswehr is getting to grips with a new role. An important aspect of this self-image is the relationship between the military and civilian society. During the corona crisis, the armed forces have assumed the function of a backup resource, which has increased the resilience of society. This article examines the ways in which the military can contribute to society, as well as the limits to such engagement in a liberal democracy. It begins by explaining the concept of resilience, which addresses the ability of individuals and societies to adapt and develop, and asks what potentials exist for solving unforeseen problems and crises. From this perspective, contingent events are viewed not as disruptive factors, but as a spur for development. This is followed by an outline of the various forms of support and assistance provided by the Bundeswehr and other national armed forces during the corona pandemic. These increase the state’s capacity for action, support the public’s trust in the government, and therefore can also contribute to a positive image of the military. Nevertheless, it is also important for politicians and civil society to keep their expectations of assistance from the Bundeswehr within the limits prescribed by the German Basic Law, instead of reflexively attempting to eliminate risk at the expense of freedom. The article argues for a complementary “risk maturity” and a balance – which has to be constantly maintained – between freedom, risk, resilience and safety. 

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