From 'civilian power' to 'civilizing power': The German mission to the Hindu Kush 2001-2011

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This article examines how an analogy for war can go badly wrong. This contribution explores why the toponym 'Hindukusch', referring to the mountain range of the Hindu Kush, became a popular German synonym for the war in Afghanistan. Tracing the use of the term both in elite discourse and in the mass media, this analysis suggests that the term has multiple meanings, reflecting both an inability to acknowledge Germany's combat role in the mission, but also a desire to evoke a colonial fantasy in which Germans can play the role of the benevolent onlooker. Thus, the term was initially intended to allow Germans to modify their well-known foreign policy position as a 'civilian power' and imagine a role for themselves as a 'civilizing power'. However, the reality ofwar has not lived up to the myth, and recent opinion polls suggest Germans have no idea what their troops are doing in Afghanistan
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)215-225
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of War and Culture Studies
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2013


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