German advocates of the Afghanistan intervention are cut to the quick. They have always claimed the moral high ground to sell the war. And promised a risk-free campaign. But both pillars of this construct have now collapsed in the wake of Obama’s Afghanistan address. The German government ought to concede by now that the new strategy mapped out by the US and its allies in Afghanistan is based on taking a sober view of the war. And yet without pathos, without the noble warrior myth, there would be no German involvement in this conflict to begin with: the red-green coalition under Schröder and Fischer would never have got any backing for the deployment of the first German troops. And now their successors are clearly afraid of losing the last scraps of support for the mission in the Hindu Kush.

Not only did Obama announce a rapid surge of US troops as well as plans to begin bringing them home in July of 2011, he redefined the war and its aims: it is no longer about democracy, human rights or the dream, harboured not only by the Bush administration, of using military might to build a better world. Instead of a vision, Obama has set forth a strategy. We don’t have to endorse it. Even the president himself does not seem all that convinced of its implementation. But at least Obama has now presented his plan to the public. And more importantly, he has spelled out the consequences in no uncertain terms. His German allies are far from doing anything of the sort. As the Bundestag now votes yet again to prolong the Bundeswehr’s mission in Afghanistan, it is acting as though there had been no change in Obama’s strategy, and as though the Bundeswehr had almost only just begun a hitherto successful campaign. After eight years in Afghanistan, the Bundestag is going to give the Bundeswehr a mandate which, as is plain by now if it wasn’t before, is outmoded.

The German government intends to talk it over with its allies. But not with its own parliament, let alone with the democratic sovereign: the people. The new transparency in German military policy that was announced only a week ago is already passé.