Syria, Libya, Ukraine - wherever violent conflicts break out, a standard sentence comes from Europe: there is no military solution. As good as that sounds, the sentence is wrong. Because of course there are military solutions to conflicts. The war in Syria has been decided in favor of the dictator Bashar al-Assad. The war in Libya could also be a military decision in these days. The warlord Chalifa Haftar appears to be about to take Tripoli, the country's capital.
However, none of these solutions work in favor of Europe, and they are probably not permanent. In Syria, however, Europeans have practically no influence today, in Libya it disappears to the extent that Haftar approaches his goal. Although both countries are in the immediate vicinity, and as far as Europe is concerned, Europeans have to see how other actors shape this neighborhood in their sense - Russia, Turkey and Iran, for example. The self-proclaimed global player EU is rather helpless towards its competitors.
The EU does not want to be like the other major powers. There are good reasons for this. In her understanding, she made her own war-torn story what she is: an all-round friendly power that may threaten others, with laws, tariffs, and regulations, but never with soldiers, tanks, and planes. Fortunately, that's the case. But can it stay that way?
In Angela Merkel's words, Europe must "take its own destiny into its own hands". French President Emmanuel Macron has filled this sentence with content in the past few months. The EU must have military means to assert its interests. That is a question of sovereignty and in the end also a question of freedom. In fact, a lot has happened at European level in the past. Cooperation between the European armies has been improved, the EU Commission has set up a fund to promote the development of a European arms industry. All in all, there is a consensus that Europe must be able to defend itself.
Escape from reality
How does that fit with the repetitive phrase "there is no military solution"? Well, it doesn't fit at all. We're upgrading, but we don't think armies can solve a conflict. It's an obvious contradiction. This is an escape from reality.
Europeans, and especially the Germans, imagine a world without war. That is worth it. But they don't want to let go of this pacifist dream, even if the war plows up their neighborhood, as is currently happening. The Europeans are blind because they continue to live in peace, as they have been able to do in the past decades.
This blindness can be culpable. Let us recall the Yugoslav wars of the nineties of the twentieth century. Europe watched for almost four years as the European city of Sarajevo was besieged, shot at and bombed. For years, Europe watched under his eyes, so-called ethnic cleansing, on European soil. Back then, it was said from the European capitals that there was no military solution - while the Balkans continued to sell, murder and rape. This solution did exist: NATO finally intervened and ended the war. This was only possible because then US President Bill Clinton and his Secretary of State Madeleine Albright took the lead and no longer wanted to stand idly by to watch the massive crimes.
This is not a plea for a warlike Europe, nor is it a fundamental plea for interventions in other countries. It's about a sense of reality. This warns Europeans to be military, but at the same time to exercise caution. It is not the case that Europe has not participated in wars in the past decades. But every war is different and produces different results. The intervention in the Balkans was correct and it led to an acceptable result. The wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, on the other hand, have had catastrophic consequences for the countries concerned, but also for Europe.
However, even these experiences must not lead Europeans to adhere to their mantra: there are no military solutions. You have to break out of this mental prison, not to unleash wars, but to be able to contain warlike violence in your own interest.