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"Citizens in uniform" or "German warriors" – Innere Führung put to the test?

By Reinhold Janke

The Bundeswehr’s deployment in Afghanistan has not only highlighted the importance of intrinsic motivation and an overriding sense of purpose, in short the “why”. The experiences of the soldiers also pose questions for politics, society and military leadership about the soldierly self-image and the relevance of Innere Führung, which inherently defines itself as a dynamic concept.

Within a broader historical framework, Sönke Neitzel’s latest book, Deutsche Krieger (German Warriors), critically examines Innere Führung at various levels. He is right in concluding that politics and military leadership have failed to communicate the legitimacy and meaningfulness of the mission – a core objective of Innere Führung. If the primacy of politics is rightly emphasized, it must also live up to its responsibility for the Bundeswehr.

Neitzel’s account is based on the juxtaposition of two spheres: the military and civilian. In his view, the soldier’s profession leads to the formation of a world with its own values and norms, in which “tribal cultures” within the troop genera are more effective for horizontal and vertical cohesion than loyalty to abstract values.

This finding falls somewhat short of the mark: the reduction to the comradeship and shared humanity experienced in the heat of deployment and fulfilling the mission does not, per se, contradict the constitution’s unshakeable foundation of values – one “why” level should not deny the other. For a serious discussion with soldiers, however, neither of the two must be ignored.

In conclusion, five points are formulated for further conceptual and concrete engagement with Innere Führung, including a return to its core ideas, a willingness to accept constructive criticism and consistent personality development. In general, more seriousness rather than complacency is called for in dealing with the concept, which is as demanding as it is valuable.

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