24 March 2011

Last of the July 20 Plotters

Andrew Cusack has a link to an interview at Spiegel Online with Ewald von Kleist, the last surviving member of Operation Valkyrie. Among his insightful remarks:
SPIEGEL: The Bundeswehr is defending universal values -- that is, human rights -- in Afghanistan. Isn't that an honorable goal?

Kleist: The real question is whether it's right for our people to have to die so that girls can go to school in Asia. The answer to that doesn't seem very clear to me.

SPIEGEL: So, what is worth dying for?

Kleist: Risking the lives of German soldiers is only justified when our vital interests are threatened. Exactly what those vital interests are has to be decided on a case-by-case basis. Then, we have to determine whether we have the means to achieve our goals. And, finally, I have to ask myself how I can get back out. A military mission is only justified when we have a convincing answer to these questions.
And on decision-making in war:
Kleist: If only the people who talk about war today and make the decisions had experienced what it's really like. A father-son relationship develops between the commanding officer and the soldier, even if the officer is much younger. And then those things happen that happen in war. Someone gets hit and is lying there, and you have to go to him and watch him die, watch one of your own children die. And he had believed he was sacrificing his life for something just and necessary. It's horrible, you know.

SPIEGEL: Do you get inured to it after a while?

Kleist: Many people got used to it, but I never did. I still feel that way today, which is why security policy interests me. And that's why I'm worried that we sometimes treat these issues very recklessly.