Building bridges: Forum discusses U.S.-German relations

Lt. Col. Rod Dorsey
USAFE Air Operations Command and Control Division

The world is in a state of flux, and America’s involvement in the War on Terrorism has not always been met with universal acceptance. Controversy stood as a backdrop as the armed forces commenced with Operation Iraqi Freedom. Some of America’s historical allies, namely Germany, took a firm stance against U.S. actions.
The resulting tension between the two countries hasn’t disappeared altogether, but several recent events display a willingness by both parties to move forward. German military forces are engaged in the operations in Afghanistan, and the transition of airlift operations from Rhein Main to Ramstein and Spangdahlem demonstrate that both allies see the value in working together to meet mutual goals. In addition, there is also a grass-roots effort to help the next generation of workers, leaders and citizens deal with and understand the problems they see around them in a constructive way.
A recent political education seminar in Wessling brought together about 80 German students in an open forum with a German-speaking U.S. military representative to discuss U.S.-German relations.
Sponsored by the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, the students are in their final year of college and come from a variety of backgrounds – studying subjects from finance to languages. The week-long program consists of tours and speakers from state and federal government, foreign state departments and during the final session, a member of U.S. Air Forces in Europe.
Topics of interest included the torture at the Abu Ghraib prison and reasoning behind U.S.-initiated hostilities in Iraq. Moral issues struck a heavy chord. They were interested in what U.S. soldiers, many of whom are in their age group, are thinking when they return from combat. They wanted to know how the soldiers deal with having to take human life. The students also posed more fundamental questions about why U.S. forces are in Germany. It’s clear this generation has broken its ties with World War II and the Cold War. The guilt is gone, and they are focused on their responsibilities to democracy and their future.