Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law

First Page



In 1994, the German Federal Constitutional Court handed down a landmark decision redefining the constitutionality of German use of military force. For more than forty years, the German government claimed that the German Constitution forbade the use of military forces for other than the defense of NATO territory. The Federal Constitutional Court, however, held that a majority vote of Parliament was all that was required to commit forces to military actions sanctioned by collective security agreements. In 1995, for the first time since World War II, Germany sent offensive military forces into a combat zone. These events raise the question of how far Germany will go toward unrestricted use of military force as a tool of foreign policy. This Note begins with a summary of the history of restrictions on German use of military force from their genesis in the World War II Treaty of Surrender to their recent redefinition in the 1994 Federal Constitutional Court decision. The author examines Germany's current collective security agreements and their potential effect on future use of force. The Note continues by reviewing relevant social and political factors bearing on German decision making, both within Germany and in the international community as a whole. In conclusion, the author analyzes the range of use of force options now available to Germany and predicts which option the German Parliament is most likely to adopt.