The Impact of Language on Strategic Communication. A Discourse Analysis of the Public Debate about Germany’s Mission in Afghanistan between 2009 and 2010

Master's Thesis, 2017

95 Pages, Grade: A- (Class I)


Table of Contents

Student Declaration



List of Abbreviations

One - Introduction
1. Preface

Two - Literature Review
2.1 Introduction
2.2 Definitions of War
2.2.1 Traditional Definitions of War
2.2.2 New Wars
2.3 The Media at War
2.3.1 Media coverage during the Cold War
2.3.2 Television Wars
2.3.3 The Media and the Global War on Terror
2.3.4 New Media in Conflicts
2.4 Conclusion
2.4.1 The Usability of the Term War
2.4.2 The German Media and the ISAF Mission

Three - Methodology
3.1 Introduction
3.2 Epistemological Stance
3.3 Research Methods
3.3.1 Discourse Analysis
3.2.2 Semi-structured Interviews
3.4 Ethical Considerations
3.4 Limitations of the Research

Four - Findings
4.1 Introduction
4.2 “Stabilisierungseinsatz” (2002-2008)
4.3 Kunduz Airstrike (9 September 2009)
4.4 War and War-like Conditions
4.5 Adapted Goals and Messages
4.5.1 End State vs. End Date
4.6 Outcomes of the changed Strategic Communication

Five - Conclusion
5.1 Introduction
5.2 Key Findings
5.3 Conclusions and Recommendations
5.4 Areas for Further Research


Annex A - Table 2

Annex B - Table 3

Annex C - DER SPIEGEL, 2006/47

Annex D - DER SPIEGEL, 2009/49

Annex E - DER SPIEGEL, 2010/16

Interview Questions for Freiherr Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg

Interview Questions for General Frank Leidenberger

Interview Questions for Christian Wussow

List of Abbreviations

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten


I would like to thank my two supervisors, Dr Camilla Fitzsimmons and Dr Tony Walsh for their valuable and challenging guidance and encouragement throughout the journey of my research.

I also wish to thank the members of the 73rd Senior Command and Staff Course for making me a part of them. I greatly appreciated their comradeship, support and humour, as well, as the excellent atmosphere in the course.

But most of all, this thesis is dedicated to my family, Hasret, Klara and Anton. I have to thank them for all the love and support they gave me during my time in Ireland.


([English] Word Count 14,199)

After a series of incidents in Afghanistan, including the so-called Kunduz Airstrike and the Good Friday Battle, German Defence Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg described the security situation in Afghanistan as “kriegsähnlich” (war-like). He later progressed to describing it as “war”. This started a controversial debate. Before his pronouncements, the neutral term “Stabilisierungseinsatz” (stabilisation mission) was in official use. His actions stirred debate amongst the press and politicians in Germany about the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) mission. This debate centred on the political and military objectives in Afghanistan and the label of war.

The thesis examines how language shaped the public discourse concerning the German ISAF mission between 2009 and 2010. It focuses on the political and strategic communication concerning the German contribution to the mission.

This paper examines a variety of definitions of war and discusses their applicability for the ISAF mission in Afghanistan. Although traditional, state-centered definitions of war are still relevant in legal respects, today inter-state wars between two belligerent states are the exception. Therefore, to be useful any definition of wars have to emphasise the effects of warfare and cover inter-state wars, and intra-state wars.

This study also looks at literature concerning the relationship between the media, governments and the military to gain a deeper understanding of the mechanics of communications in a setting with limited access and information such as the one that existed in Afghanistan.

Research examining the dramatic change in Germany’s strategic communication requires a qualitative constructivist approach. To gain a deeper understanding of this phenomena, the research is led by a qualitative approach utilising a critical case study. The primary focus of this thesis is a discourse analysis reflecting the interaction between policy makers and the press. Additionally, interviews with the former Minister of Defence Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, the former Commander of the Regional Command North (RC North) General Frank Leidenberger, and Christian Wussow, an expert on security and defence policy for the Greens give further depth and context to the discourse analysis.

The research reveals the power of the term “war” in a political frame. Strategic communication has to be credible, reflect the realities in a comprehensible language and explain the military as well as the political goals. While the talk about “war” raised the attention of the German public, the term “Stabilisierungseinsatz” (stabilisation mission) had no resonance with the German public.

One - Introduction

1. Preface

On 2 April 2010, a platoon of paratroopers of the Airborne Infantry Battalion 373 was ambushed, close to Kunduz (Afghanistan), by the Taliban and members of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. 1 During the battle - which would later be known as the Karfreitagsgefecht (Good Friday Battle) - six Afghan and three German soldiers were killed, and a further four Germans were severely wounded (Jenssen, 2014). All the German soldiers were part of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan (ISAF) and came from my home base in Seedorf. Some of the soldiers who reinforced the attacked platoon served in my company.

When I heard the news, I was at home, preparing for Easter celebrations with my family. After the bodies of the dead soldiers had been returned to Germany, I attended the remembrance ceremony. The public sympathy was impressive. More than 1,000 mourning politicians, soldiers and civilians were far more than the small church in Selsingen (Lower Saxony) could facilitate (Marquart, 2009; Focus, 2010). Specifically, I remember the speeches of the former Minister of Defence zu Guttenberg and Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor. In their addresses, both politicians indicated that they could honestly understand why the soldiers called the ISAF Mission a war. It was the first time a German Chancellor talked so distinctly about the perception of war since 1945 (BILD, 2010).

A month later I was deployed to Kunduz. While serving there, I went on patrol with soldiers who fought in the Good Friday’s Battle and lost their comrades. For most soldiers on the tactical level, there was no doubt that they were operating in a war scenario. Every time we left the camp, we expected to be attacked, either by improvised explosive devices (IEDs), rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs) or small arms fires. Our bases were also attacked regularly - mainly by rockets.

For the soldiers, the Good Friday Battle did alter the perceived threat. However, in Germany, the public became aware that the mission at the Hindu Kush was not just about drilling wells and building schools and hospitals. Apparently, there had been a disconnection between the soldier’s experiences in theatre and the public perception of the ISAF mission.

In the official news, the reporting about the German mission at the Hindu Kush had slowly but gradually changed in the months before the Good Friday Battle. When former Minister of Defence, Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, (rather cautiously) used the term war in November 2009 for the first time in connection with the mission in Afghanistan, he started a controversial debate (DIE ZEIT, 03.11.2009). Before this, the neutral term “Stabilisierungseinsatz” (stabilisation mission) was in official use. Leading newspapers and politicians in Germany debated whether the ISAF mission could or even had to be called a war (Wefing, 2009). They also questioned the political and military objectives in Afghanistan. After the influential German magazine, DER SPIEGEL titled its issue “Im Krieg” (“At War”)2 the ambush became synonymous with the situation of German ISAF soldiers:

43 gefallene deutsche Soldaten konfrontieren das Land mit einer Wahrheit, welche die friedliebende Nation nie hören wollte. Die Deutschen führen einen Krieg, und der SPIEGEL dokumentiert die Aussagen von Bundeswehr­angehörigen über den Alltag an der Front und den Umgang mit dem Tod.

43 German soldiers killed in action confront the country with a truth which the peace-loving nation never wanted to hear. The Germans fight a war, and DER SPIEGEL documents the statements of members of the Bundeswehr about everyday life at the frontline and their dealings with death.

(DER SPIEGEL, 2010/16: 18)3

An examination of the radical change in label for the ISAF mission from stabilisation mission to “war” (or “war-like”) promises to contribute to the understanding of how the use of language can affect public discourse. Cognitive scientist Elizabeth Wehling (2016: 65) states that the meaning of single words is relevant because it generates an interpretative framework in the brain.

In this respect, this thesis will analyse the significance of political framing - especially the avoidance, of the use of the term war. The fundamental question is: How did language shape the public discourse concerning the German ISAF mission between 2009 and 2010?

Thus, I will focus on the political and strategic communication concerning the German contribution to the mission at the Hindu Kush4 and its perception in the press. The media’s role is far broader than just repeating the words of the politicians: It involves contextualising, framing and debating the issues. Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky (2008) describe the interaction between politicians and the media as to “manufacture consent”. This research will be limited to the years 2009 and 2010. The focus on this time frame is suitable because it covers important events including the national elections in 2009, the change of the Ministers of Defence, the Kunduz Airstrike5 , and the Good Friday Battle. It also enables an exploration of the time before and after these events, to investigate the effects of these developments on strategic communication.

In the literature review, presented in the next chapter, I will discuss the consulted literature and give an overview of the secondary literature on this topic. In this chapter, I will emphasise literature dealing with the definitions of war and research about the relationship between media, governments and the military in times of conflict or war. The third chapter will outline my methodology, and explain the research methods as well as my epistemological stance.

Chapter four (findings) will present the discourse analysis and three one-to-one interviews. Referring to the outcomes of the literature review, chapter four will present and discuss the findings from the discourse analysis and interviews conducted for this study. It will examine the following questions: How did language influence strategic communication? Was it reasonable to call the ISAF mission a war ? Did political calculation or a change to the threat situation drive the renaming? And, did the change of the strategic message affect public opinion?

Two - Literature Review

2.1 Introduction

This chapter establishes the theoretical basis for my thesis. It will reflect current knowledge including essential findings, regarding the following questions: How is war defined? Can this definition be applied to the ISAF6 mission? How does the media affect public opinion during a conflict? How do political or military leaders influence media coverage? And finally, how does language shape strategic communication (StratCom)?

For this, I will divide this literature review into two parts. The first section will discuss a selection of recent views on the definition of war. The second part will examine important discussions about the relationship between the media, governments and the military during armed conflicts.7 This will lead to a brief consideration of the importance of language in strategic communication.

2.2 Definitions of War

War is, therefore, not only a true chameleon, because it changes its nature in some degree in each particular case, but it is also, as a whole, in relation to the predominant tendencies which are in it, a wonderful trinity, composed of the original violence of its elements, hatred and animosity.

(von Clausewitz, 1873: 13)

The nature of war is not static: Technical development goes hand in hand with tactical evolution; political, economic and social change each have an enormous impact on belligerents and warfare itself. It is not surprising that the diversity of combat gives the reason for versatile contested definitions of war.

Initially, I will introduce the traditional approaches to defining war . The social and the political frameworks of ancient and medieval wars are completely different to those in present times. To gaining comparable results, it is necessary to investigate the modern European national state. Thus this examination is limited to the Post-Westphalian Era.8

The end of the Cold War, globalisation and little noticed inner-state conflicts shaped the political and the academic discussions about war. The following sets out some new approaches and terms - such as the distinction between new and old wars (Kaldor, 2007; Münkler, 2005) that have been introduced. After that, I will present and discuss several alternatives to the definition of war, before I develop a useful definition which will then serve as a focus for this thesis.

It is necessary to examine some definitions and discuss their benefits for the present study. These definitions have always been and continued to be reflections of the political zeitgeist. The moral perception of war changed within the last centuries. While you can find numerous historical approaches that describe wars positively or at least as necessary (Howard, 2000), it can be considered as a delicate topic in modern democracies.

Alongside the dominating political explanations and definitions, alternative attempts have been made to give a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of warfare and offer a different perspective. Some of them examine cultural9 and sociological issues,10 while other focus on legal aspects11 of war. This study will not discuss these multiplicities of approaches since many aspects of them are already incorporated in the new wars theory.

2.2.1 Traditional Definitions of War

In traditional definitions of war, the state is the sole agent of violence. This point of view reaches back to the year 1648 when the Peace of Westphalia sealed the end of the European Wars of Religion, including the Thirty Years War.12 Until then transitions between private and regular belligerents were fluid. Before the establishment of states, the objectives of wars were often based on individual goals and often (at least) one of the warring parties was not organised.13 Mary Kaldor stated:

[In post-Westphalian Europe the] establishment of standing armies under the control of the state was an integral part of the monopolization of legitimate violence which was intrinsic to the modern state. State interest became the legitimate justification for war, supplanting concepts of justice, jus ad bellum, drawn from theology.

(Kaldor, 2007: 19)14

The Prussian general, military theorist and writer Carl von Clausewitz (1780-1831), who fought in the Napoleonic Wars on the Prussian and Russian side, had been influenced by these developments. His major book “Vom Kriege” (“On War”) became the most influential writing about the nature and the character of war, in the western hemisphere. Even 200 years later, scholars refer to von Clausewitz, if they seek to define war. Von Clausewitz’ defined war as “an act of violence to compel the enemy to fulfil our will” (von Clausewitz, 1873: 14). There was no doubt for him that (only) national states would have the monopoly on the legitimate use of force for political purpose.

We see, therefore, that war is not merely a political act, but also a real political instrument, a continuation of political commerce, a carrying out of the same by other means.

(von Clausewitz, 1873: 12)

Although there have been various examples of non-interstate violence - even in von Clausewitz’ times - this view remained unquestioned for the next 150 years.15 Even after the importance of the nobility in the 19th and 20th centuries gradually declined, the key role of the state as the sole actor in war remained untouched. No matter if bourgeois, autocratic or monarch governments ruled the country, it needed a state’s effort to build up and maintain an army that had sufficient power to fulfil its need. War was understood as a duel between two states for a limited, politically defined goal (Münkler, 1985). Thus the ideal warfare was completely nationalised and enclosed by codes of conduct such as The Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907 (Geis, 2006).

In the aftermath of the two World Wars, the use of war as a political tool was brought into question. In response to millions of dead soldiers in the trenches of the Western Front, bombed cities, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and the Holocaust, it seemed reasonable to question, if the price to utilise war for political benefits was not too high. Nevertheless, Clausewitz’ approach, to defining war in a political context remained valid.16

During the Cold War, the state’s monopoly on the use of violence persisted, and the United Nations constituted a new framework for the Westphalian System. The security policy had been dominated by the rivalry between the North Atlantic Treaty Organization

(NATO) and the Warsaw Pact states. The arms race17, which consumed significant amounts of the state’s GDPs, underlined that position (Kaldor, 2007; Smith, 2015).18

2.2.2 New Wars

The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the collapse of the Warsaw Pact 1991 were not only the end of the bipolar world; these events also shattered the nation-centric definitions of war. The (civil) wars in the Balkans and Somalia, the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center (9/11), followed by George W. Bush’s declaration of the “War on Terror” (WoT)19 provided the reason for a broad discussion regarding the evolution of modern conflicts.

To describe the phenomena of intra-state armed conflicts 20 authors introduced a variety of terms like asymmetric wars (Paul, 1994), hybrid wars (Hoffman, 2007), fourth generation warfare (Terriff and Karp, 2008), war amongst the people (Smith, 2005), or postmodern wars (van Creveld, 2000).

Mary Kaldor (1998, 2007), who witnessed the civil war in Bosnia-Herzegovina, proposed the term new wars and gained support from Martin van Creveld (2002) and Herfried Münkler (2005). According to the new wars theory, inner-state conflicts are on the rise, while the conventional inter-state conflict is an obsolescent model:

The classical model of war between states, which largely marked the Cold War scenarios, appears to have been discontinued: states have given up their monopoly of war, and what appears ever more frequently in their stead are para-state or even partly actors (from local warlords and guerrilla groups through firms of mercenaries operating on a world scale to international terror networks) for whom war is a permanent field of activity.

(Münkler, 2005: 1)

New wars are fought between state and non-state actors in asymmetric warfare. Advocates of the new wars theory state that new wars claim an increasing number of civilian victims. “The aim is to control the population by getting rid of everyone of a different identity (and indeed of a different opinion) and by instilling terror” (Kaldor, 2007: 9). Since the relative strength of the opponents in inner-state conflict is out of balance, the government’s opposition aims to control the population through terror and fear, rather than aiming at the physical seizure of a territory. This effect can be achieved with little means. Therefore, belligerents are not dependent on a state’s infrastructure to sustain an asymmetric war. Kaldor and Münkler pointed out that in many respects new wars are undignified because they do not only aim for political objectives, but also seek economic profit (Münkler, 2005; Kaldor, 2007). In this regard, local participants have an interest in maintaining the conflict. Ultimately, they are the product and amplifier of the decline of nations - caused by the adverse effects of globalisation (Kahl and Teusch, 2004: 386).

While it is contested as to whether the number and quality of inner-state conflicts have risen since 1991, they do play an increasing role in the modern security environment.21 Exploring the dynamics of inner-state conflicts, their funding and the relationship between globalisation and failed states, the new war approach has widened the academic perspective.

2.3 The Media at War

One of the key assumptions of this thesis is that strategic communication between 2009 and 2010 was mainly channelled through the established media.

Compared to the U.S. or other European nations the Federal Republic of Germany has a short history of military missions. After decades of a policy of non-intervention (outside NATO territory), German soldiers became involved in U.N. missions in the early 1990s. Therefore, German governments had limited experience in dealing with the media in armed conflicts.

Public interest in the mission in Afghanistan promoted academic research on the topic (Bulmahn, 2011a). However, these studies have for the most part lacked focus. Studies like Gerhard Kümmel’s and Nina Leonhard’s (2005) research on German casualty shyness were limited in that the German Defence Forces have little experiences with casualties. They overall state that

[...] (1) death receives greater attention [...] in the military than in other subsystems of society: and that (2) death in the armed forces entails the potential for inter-subsystem repercussions.

(Kümmel and Leonhard, 2005: 530)

Their hypotheses will be examined in the following chapters of this thesis.

Fabian Virchow’s (2012) article “Militär und Medien” (“Military and Media”) which reflects recent academic discourses about the relationship between the media and the Defence Forces tackles this challenge. Although he aims to examine developments in Germany, he had to rely on literature dealing primarily with the U.S. government and military.

An exception is Robin Schroeder’s and Martin Zapfe’s (2015) studies on the evolution of Germany’s strategic narratives concerning the ISAF mission. This work offers a sound overview on German StratCom over a period of ten years, without emphasising on a particular period.

While there is only limited secondary literature concerning the German perspective on the media in modern conflict, there are a vast number of primary sources available in respect of the Federal Armed Forces in respect of Afghanistan. Those sources include newspaper articles, interviews and speeches, the Jahresberichte des Wehrbeauftragten des Bundestages (the annual reports of the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Bundeswehr) and statistics published by the Zentrum für Militärgeschichte und Sozialwissenschaften der Bundeswehr (ZMSBw, the Federal Armed Forces’ Center of Military History and Social Science).22 Inter alia the SOWI (now ZMSBw) conducts and publishes surveys about the general perception of threat and the acceptance of the government’s security policy in German society (Virchow, 2012: 204; Bulmahn, 2011a). While not relevant to this chapter, a selection of these sources will be discussed later in this work.

It is, therefore, necessary to look at studies concerning other democratic states that focus on the interactions between the military, the government, and the media during a conflict (or even a war). For this purpose, I will rely to a large extent on literature dealing with U.S. Forces in modern conflicts to gain an understanding that may be projected on the situation Germany faced in the Afghan scenario.

Mass media, movies or autobiographic books about experiences in Afghanistan may offer further insights into the topic. Some books attracted a lot of attention and became bestsellers in Germany, a fact that reflects the public interest in the subject.23 A deeper analysis of this literature is beyond the scope of this thesis. Nevertheless, it would be of interest for further research.

2.3.1 Media coverage during the Cold War

While media studies emerged as a field of study in the early 20th century, it was not until the 1970s that it reached any prominence. It was around this time too that the relationship between the press and policy makers began to receive interest from both scholars and military academics.

There are some recognisable trends in the literature about the media in war. Scientific literature which deals with the time before the Vietnam War is focused on the impact of print media. Until then it was an agreed assumption that the political discourse was dominated by the newspapers. Therefore, authors tended to analyse - in particular - the use of language, graphical material or the way the military (or the government) reacted to the publications.

However, the literature about the Vietnam War emphasised the rising importance of the television (Hooper, 1998; Thayer, 1992) increasingly.

While the domestic support in the United States of the U.S. troops was unquestioned in World War II, at the end of the Vietnam War a majority of the American people opposed the war. The role of television and the press is a highly debated subject and has been controversially discussed in the literature (Hooper, 1998; Thayer, 1992; Virchow 2012). It has been observed that the media enjoyed almost unlimited freedom in reporting from Vietnam because there was no effective information policy or even censorship. It is a common assumption that the media coverage assisted by the student movements was responsible for the declining support of the war in the United States (Kennedy 1993). When North Vietnamese troops overran South Vietnamese positions in 1975, James Reston, a New York Times’ correspondent, wrote: “The reporters and the cameras forced the withdrawal of American power from Vietnam” (Kennedy, 1993: 104).

Fabian Virchow (2012: 209) and Michael Anderegg (1991) disagree with this view. They pointed out that the negative coverage grew during the war, but did not dominate it. Other factors like the corruption of the South Vietnamese regime or failures in U.S.-Information management had not been considered.

There is a consensus in the literature that their experiences in Vietnam shaped the military’s view on the press. Political decision-makers and the general staff perceived the media as a threat to military freedom of action. Therefore, the United States began to implement practices to suppress the media which have been evident in all conflicts since Vietnam (Thrall, 2000; Kennedy, 1993; Virchow, 2012).

Trevor Thrall (2000) questioned the idea that press restrictions were implemented by the U.S. military directly after the Vietnam War. He came to the conclusion that the Pentagon, in fact, did not develop concrete plans to keep the press away from combat zones or to restrict its work before Operation Urgent Fury in Grenada in 1983. For him, the information policy was far too important to leave it to the Pentagon.

Thrall (2000) raises an important consideration that has not been raised in the introduced literature so far. Just because journalists may be briefed by military personnel, it does not mean the information policy is run by the Department of Defense. Although the military may have reasons (e.g. for operational security) to keep the media away from the battleground, information policy is one of the core instruments of a nation’s power (the others being diplomacy, military and economy).24 From the government’s point of view, it makes no sense to leave the information policy to the military. Crises, operational disappointments or failures may threaten the voter’s support for the president while opportunities to exploit operational success may be left out.

Presidents believe that if they dominate the messages reaching the public through the media, they will be more likely to win support for both their war policies and themselves.

(Thrall, 2000: 6)

2.3.2 Television Wars

Susan L. Carruthers called the War in the Gulf in 1991 the first real television war (Carruthers, 2011: 130) broadcasted into the households in a 24-hour-live-coverage. This gave birth to the so-called CNN-effect, a theory that seeks to explain the impact of how television coverage affects the public opinion in the United States and therefore influences U.S. foreign policy (Carruthers, 2011: 142; Thrall, 2000: 252-254).

There is general agreement in the literature that the Gulf War 1991 represented the peak of the U.S. press’ repression. Misleading or incorrect information was given to the press to exaggerate effectiveness or to conceal operations. The U.S. Forces limited journalist’s freedom of movement and excluded them to the greatest possible extent from the theatre (Virchow, 2012: 212). Therefore, the press had to rely on the information and film footage provided by the U.S. Forces. Carruthers claims:

Dazzled by this display of hi-tech weaponry and anaesthetized by the military’s sense-dulling language, many journalists failed to probe the veracity of what they were told the tapes showed.

(Carruthers, 2011: 136)

The U.S. practice of press repression was aided by restrictive censorship in Saudi Arabia that further hindered the journalist’s work. While the press criticised (mainly after the conflict) this treatment (Carruthers, 2011: 140; Virchow, 2012: 212), George H. W. Bush celebrated not only the outcome of the campaign, but also the success of the restrictive media policy with the words: “By God, we’ve finally kicked the Vietnam Syndrome” (Bush, 1991, cited in Carruthers, 2011: 140).

From this perspective, the Gulf War 1991 was not only the last inter-state conflict (van Creveld, 2000; Kaldor, 2007) but also the last war (of a Western country) with an extensive suppression of the media. It seems likely that the demise of this policy can be traced back to the election of the Democrat Bill Clinton. However, Thrall pointed out that there is no evidence that conservatives were more restrictive with the media than liberals.

He argues the U.S. presidential actions are motivated by their perception of the “national interest” and their self-interest in being re-elected (Thrall, 2000: 260).


1 The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) is an Islamist terrorist organisation which was founded in the early 1990s in Uzbekistan. Its main objective is to implement Sharia law in Uzbekistan. After the Taliban regime in Afghanistan had been overthrown, the IMU also established cells in northern Afghanistan where many ethnic Uzbeks live (University of Maryland, 2015).

2 Full title: Im Krieg. Deutsche Soldaten über das Töten und Sterben in Afghanistan (On War. German soldiers [report] about the killing and dying in Afghanistan) (DER SPIEGEL, 2010/16).

To avoid confusion and promote the reader's orientation, DER SPIEGEL will be referenced as follows: DER SPIEGEL, 2010/16 (year and number/week of the issue).

3 Because this thesis analyses the importance of language in strategic communication, it will present the original German quotes, followed by English translations. By this, the reader gets an unfiltered impression of the statements and the wording, which allows him/her to engage further with the subject.

4 Hindu Kush is the name of the mountain range that stretches along the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan which is eponymous for the whole region.

5 The Kunduz Airstrike took place in the early hours 4 September 2009. After two fuel tankers were captured by Taliban, the German commander of the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) Kunduz requested an airstrike by an U.S. Air Force F-15E fighter that eventually destroyed both tankers and approximately 100 people, including civilians. The numbers of the civilian casualties vary depending on the sources. The incident dominated the political discourse for months and finally led to the withdrawal of Labour Minister Franz Josef Jung, who was the Minister of Defence at that time (Süddeutsche Zeitung, 2015). After the Federal Republic Prosecutor at the Federal Supreme Court of Justice had examined the incident, he did eventually not bring a lawsuit against the German PRT commander (Generalbundesanwalt beim Bundesgerichtshof, 2010).

6 International Security and Assistance Force in Afghanistan

7 Most of the literature focusing on the media in conflict is not very precise in handling the terms of war or conflict. An exception is Peter R. Young’s (1992) “Defence and the media in time of limited war” which dedicates an entire chapter to the definition of limited conflict (Woodman, 1992). Since the definitions are not crucial for the overall understanding of the topic, this question will be ignored in the third chapter of this literature review.

8 From the end of the Thirty Year’s War (1648) until now.

9 According to John Keegan, war “is always an expression of culture, often a determinant of cultural forms, in some societies the culture itself” (Keegan, 1994: 14). To this effect, war is to be seen as a socially constructed category, and it differs from where and when it takes place. Like other social constructions, such as marriage, the market, or society, it bears strong material implications. From this perspective, definitions of war depend on the subject’s view: What one defines as a war, does not have to be a war for others (Williams, 2013: 193).

10 War can also be seen “as a socially generative form of relations” (Williams, 2013: 193) which influences, changes or even overthrows political or social systems. Combat and fighting may be the most apparent characteristics of warfare, but from a sociologist’s view, they are just the tip of the iceberg: War affects the whole range of “social, cultural, economic and political relations, shaping everything from matters of state to gender relations, from high politics to popular culture” (Barkawi, 2011: 713).

11 A juridical definition is an alternative approach. War can be considered as “the legal condition which equally permits two or more hostile groups to carry on a conflict by armed force” (Wright, 1994: 7). This means war is to be understood as a legitimate and hostile dispute between two groups equipped with military power. Within the international legal framework, those groups are defined as states. This definition does not necessary mean that both groups have to fight each other. A good example would be the Korean Conflict between South and North Korea after the Korean War (1950-1953).

12 The Peace of Westphalia became an archetype for peace treaties based upon diplomatic effort and promoted a new political order in Europe. The concept rested upon the idea of peacefully co-existing sovereign states. Interference in domestic affairs by another state became unacceptable. The normative system - later called the Westphalian sovereignty or Westphalian system - should be protected by a balance of power. These principles - the belief in the power of diplomatic negotiations and most of all, the idea of sovereign states - were exported all over the world. Later they became an integral part of International Law.

13 For further information about the nature and belligerents of medieval warfare see Ohler (1997).

14 Wars were fought in so-called Kabinettskriegen (Cabinet Wars), which were fought by relatively small armies with perceived limited goals. Although military capabilities were rather small, the cost of maintaining a standing army was very expensive: Mary Kaldor pointed out that in 18th-century, most European states spent approximately 75% of their total budgets on their military (Kaldor, 2007: 20). The horrendous costs stretched the state’s resources and called for domestic reforms. As a result, the pressure for modernisation became a major cause that promoted the nation-building in Europe (Kantner and Sandawi, 2012: 41).

In 1793, in the aftermath of the French Revolution, France introduced Levée en masse (mass levy). Conscription enabled the mobilisation of mass armies that involved large parts of the state’s resources and population. With this, the French government laid the foundation for its success during the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars.

As a side effect, the mobilisation enhanced the people’s political power. Gradually the state’s inhabitants were emancipated from being peasants and became citizens of a national state. The people became the real sovereign of the national state (Anderson, 1988: 55). Whereas the French idea of a nation in 1789 aimed at the difference between the ruling classes and the bourgeoisie (state’s nation), its perception differed in the countries occupied by Napoleon, where a nation was widely understood more ethical - as a cultural nation (Wodak, 2009: 19).

15 For example riots and guerrilla warfare against the French occupation by civilians during the Peninsular Wars (1807-1814), by German Freikorps (Free Corps) during the German War of Liberation (1813-1815), or raids on French soldiers at the end of the Campagne de Russie (1812).

16 A good example for this is Hedley Bull’s state-centered definition of war: [War is] Organised violence carried on by political units against each other. Violence is not war unless it is carried out in the name of a political unit; what distinguishes killing in war from murder is its vicarious and official character, the symbolic responsibility of the unit whose agent is directed against another political unit; the violence employed by the state in the execution of criminals or the suppression of pirates does not qualify because it is directed against individuals. (Bull, 1977: 178)

17 In this case, the arms race refers to (mainly) a nuclear arms race, which occurred between the Soviet Union and the U.S. (and their allies). To deter the opponent and achieve strategic advantages, both sides invested largely in nuclear arsenals and armaments. The arms race ended with the economic breakdown and the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

18 However, this view was very Eurocentric and focussed on the two antagonist superpowers and their allies and satellites. Kahl and Teusch (2004: 383) stated that regional, non-international conflicts raging on the brink of the bipolar worlds were marginalised and simply described as proxy wars or variations of the East-West conflict.

19 Also known as the Global War on Terror (GWOT), see for example Woodward (2002).

20 In contrast to an inter-state (armed) conflicts (a war between two or more states), intra-state (armed) conflicts (also intrastate) is sustained political violence between a government and one or more non-state groups. Usually, the violence takes place within the borders of a single state. Nevertheless, it may have an adverse impact on the security situation of the neighbouring countries (Human Security Research Group, 2010; Uppsala Universitet, 2017).

21 Although the current conflict between Russia and Ukraine shows that the threat of inter-state warfare is still present, there is a general agreement that inter-state warfare has been more frequent in recent years. Nevertheless, there is no evidence that the number of inter-state conflicts is continuously increasing - as stated by some of the supporters of the new wars theory. Compare Kahl and Teusch (2004) and data from the Correlates of War Project (2017), Sarkees and Wayman (2010) or the annually published Conflict Barometer of the Heidelberg Institute for International Conflict Research (HIIK, 2017).

22 The ZMSBw was founded in 2012 when the Sozialwissenschaftliche Instituts der Bundeswehr (SOWI, the Bundeswehr’s institute of social science) and the Militärgeschichtliche Forschungsamt (MGFA, the Department of Military History Research) merged.

23 Most of these books such as Achim Wohlgethan’s “Endstation Kabul” (“End of the line: Kabul”; Wohlgethan, 2014) or Johannes Clair’s “Vier Tage im November” (“Four Days in November”; Clair, 2014) were written by former soldiers who served as privates or noncommissioned officers in Afghanistan. They present a personal view of the mission from the tactical level. Others, such as Robert Sedlatzek-Müller’s “Soldatenglück” (“Soldier’s Fortune”; Sedlatzek-Müller, 2012) deal with the struggle to live with posttraumatic stress disorders (PTSD). Publications from active soldiers such as Joachim Hoppe’s and Sascha Brinkmann’s “Generation Einsatz” (“Generation Mission Overseas”; Brinkmann and Hoppe, 2010) or “Feindkontakt” (“Enemy Contact”; Brinkmann, Hoppe and Schröder, 2014) are an exception.

24 For further reading see David Jablonsky’s essay about National Power (Jablonsky, 2008) or the White Paper 2006 on German Security Policy and the Future of the Bundeswehr (Federal Ministry of Defence, 2006: 28-31).

Excerpt out of 95 pages


The Impact of Language on Strategic Communication. A Discourse Analysis of the Public Debate about Germany’s Mission in Afghanistan between 2009 and 2010
National University of Ireland, Maynooth  (Military History and Strategic Studies)
Leadership, Management and Defence Studies
A- (Class I)
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
Afghanistan, Krieg, War, Media, Medien, language, definition, warlike, zu Guttenberg, Defence, MoD, Verteidigungsministerium, CDU, Die Grünen, Greens, Veteran, PTBS, ISAF, Resolute Support, Kabul, Kunduz, Gefecht, Battle, War in the media, Krieg in den Medien, Militärsoziologie, Bundeswehr, Federal Armed Forces, US Army, United States, NATO, Auslandseinsatz, mission, overseas, Ministry, Verteidigungsminister, Jung, RC North, Regional Command, PRT, Deutschland, Germany, Perzeption, perception, End State, End Date, airstrike, Stabilisierungsmission, stabilization, Resolution 1368, Vereinte Nationen, United Nations
Quote paper
Aaron Faßbender (Author), 2017, The Impact of Language on Strategic Communication. A Discourse Analysis of the Public Debate about Germany’s Mission in Afghanistan between 2009 and 2010, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


  • No comments yet.
Read the ebook
Title: The Impact of Language on Strategic Communication. A Discourse Analysis of the Public Debate about Germany’s Mission in Afghanistan between 2009 and 2010

Upload papers

Your term paper / thesis:

- Publication as eBook and book
- High royalties for the sales
- Completely free - with ISBN
- It only takes five minutes
- Every paper finds readers

Publish now - it's free