When the sun goes down and makes the Alps glow... then there are worse workplaces than the George C. Marshall Center (GCMC), the European Center for Security Studies, in Garmisch Partenkirchen, Bavaria. The center is one of five regional centers of the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) and, as a bilateral institution of the DoD and the German Federal Ministry of Defense (BMVg), represents the decades-long partnership between the two nations.
A very special flair…
The center is justifiably popular with those who have already enjoyed the pleasure of a visit. Bavarian evenings for seminar participants or recreational vacations for members of the U.S. Armed Forces at the Edelweiss Lodge at the foot of a majestic Alpine panorama only briefly distract from the center's serious mission, though. Among the clichés cultivated on the American barracks grounds with their unmistakable American flair is the payment for services, such as a coffee, by credit card in U.S. dollar, a problematic procedure should the same plastic have been whipped out just an hour earlier while shopping in the Garmisch costume store. Because then a credit card block threatens, tell insiders. The rules of payment security dictate that you cannot debit your account with U.S. dollar since you are unable to travel from Bavaria to the States within such a short period of time. Whether the same danger still brews today, at the age of unrestrained global online shopping, could not be verified.
…which cannot overrule reality
Despite all the magic of the mountains and a picture-book Bavaria, no one should be under any illusion that the content of the Seminar on Regional Security (SRS) is a very serious one, especially in times of unrest. The seminar is attended by many nations, by participants from the Baltic States, the Balkans or North Africa. Participation is reserved for diplomats or members of armed forces, whom the center specifically invites by approaching foreign embassies.
An overview of artificial intelligence as a key technology of the 21st century in a geopolitical context was given by two representatives of 21strategies on April 27, 2022. They drew a comparison of how different political systems use artificial intelligence - either in a competitive, commercial context, as seen in Western democracies, or to consolidate political power. For the latter, China has already perfected technology for surveillance purposes far more than is the case in democracies where civil rights, separation of powers and the rule of law prevail. Not unexpectedly, representatives of the German armed forces in particular raised the question of the ethics of artificial intelligence. Awareness of the problem is particularly strong in Germany, since the Bundeswehr has a unique selling point compared to all other armed forces: Its members basically do not act according to orders and obedience, but according to the principle of “Innere Führung”.They are called upon to examine orders for their legality under international (humanitarian) law, conformity with fundamental rights and, not least, their own conscience, in order to then decide as a sovereign individual whether an order can be carried out or even refused. How artificial intelligence can be brought into line with this principle of leadership, or even contained, is a question of great relevance for the German troops.
A finish full of hope
With one last Bavarian cliché of the day, the day came to an end with a local snack in the evening, which was not served until after sunset out of consideration for Ramadan. Moving and worth remembering, when the “United Nations” are gathered around the same dinner table, are as always the joy and respect for and towards the other, her origin, her political opinion, her culture, her experiences and daily challenges. Evenings for international groups, such as those organized by the GCMC, nourish the hope that the reality of life will remain a peaceful one in the future for its seminar participants, their families and their nations.
Author: Yvonne Hofstetter