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Republican Presidents Are Better For Germany

Spiegel International:

Barack Obama, the man most Europeans would like to see elected the next US president, plans to visit Berlin, Paris and London soon. The Democratic candidate is looking for statesmanlike images to boost his campaign and German politicians will be hoping some of his popularity rubs off on them.

Most Germans usually prefer Democrats over Republicans, but conservative US presidents tend to be better for Germany, opines Thomas Speckmann, a regular op-ed contributor for various German newspapers and magazines. He also points out that greater German military involvement will be expected, regardless of who is elected. See his op-ed on

Speckmann is not the only pundit going against the mainstream opinion in his home country: Parag Khanna from the New America foundation argues that despite the Irish no vote, the EU will lead the world on security, trade and climate change. The EU is setting standards for other regions around the world. Thus this will be Europe's Century.


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Nanne on :

Being counterintuitive is one thing, but both of these analyses have such huge gaping holes that a common American [url=]expletive[/url] would be a more accurate description.

Joe Noory on :

Can't permit any dissenting opinions, can we?... I disagree with you. The Clinton years were caracterized by holding in large part, the same economic policies as Bush Sr., and that rendered to the outside world an opportunity, just as the theory would support. Moreover on the war front, the reason you don't hear much from Bill Clinton, is because he would have probably reached the samer conclusions on Near East policy. He quietly ran a war with Iran, and is as aware as anyone was of the explosive nature of Islamism. Under his terms, we also had among a raft of undocumented events, a Naval ship, and two Embassies blown up, one which I had the sorrow-filled opportunity to help rebuild in 89 days. Don - you might be right, but Europeans are pasifistic because they can afford to be. Not for any other reason. There might be some virtues later rationalized about it, but they had the opportunity to aleviate themselves of any need to do otherwise, and they did.

Don S on :

I have to agree with Nanne on this one. There may be an inkling of truth in Speckmann's analysis in that among Democratic presidential candidates after 1972 there has often been a strain of pacifism or at least isolationism than among their GOP opponents and thus the GOP Presidents have been stronger supporters of NATO by and large. In times past when NATO was infinately more important to Europe than it is now this could be interpreted as 'pro-European' as well as pro-NATO. But then is not now. We will never return to the situation of 1980. Continental Europe is extremely pacifist, committed to the ideals of pan-european statism, and increasingly committed to imposing it's own values upon the entire planet. Today a US pleasing to Europe must become a pacifist, demilitarised US, one which none the less is able and willing to carry out the traditional functions of the superpower. This is a paradox, a contradiction, and therefore the US will find it impossible to retain it's close ties with Europe.

joe on :

Well one can only hope the current century is a bit better than the last one was for Europe.

Zyme on :

I am not sure about the point whether pacifism still is alive in Europe. Has it ever been in France and Britain? It certainly went down the drain here in Germany. These days the Quick Reaction Force to Afghanistanīs North has been deployed, by Germans for the first time. Up until now our defense ministry could easily downplay any military involvement as "reconstruction and peacekeeping teams". This is no longer possible here. This unit is a military firebrigade, doing the dirty work. So? Do hundreds of thousands of pacifists get out of their holes and start one hell of a demonstration on our streets? Nothing could be farther from reality. Either the pacifists have found more important things to do than to protest against war, or they have died.

John in Michigan, USA on :

I wonder if German pacifists have just gotten smarter. Instead of taking it to the street, they have worked from inside. While German's quick reaction force is a change, it is still, as far as I can tell, saddled with overly restrictive rules of engagement that virtually guarantee that it will fail -- one hopes, not catastrophically. The pacifists will then trot out the old canard "war always fails".

Zyme on :

The restrictions, as far as I can tell, do not apply here. The only restriction to the QRF is that only the defense minister can start an offensive - even in the South if he wants to do so. Of course from an american perspective this is totally unflexible and irresponsible. 200 soldiers directly under the command of a minister? Our military has no different opinion of it. The reasons for all those caveats are political: The smaller partner of the 'Grand Coalition', the moderately left wing SPD is in a precarious state. With the question of its interior leadership unsolved and future political direction totally unpredicable, the other partner of the Coalition (Merkelīs conservatives) have good reason to fear that in the campaign for the general elections in 2009 the SPD will play the peace-card again and try to distinguish itself as an enemy of the largely unpopular engagement in Afghanistan. While I believe that pacifism no longer plays a major role in my country, I also notice that the engagement in Afghanistan is very unpopular. This is mostly because the people do not believe it is in our interest. These people could be attracted by playing the peace-card in the campaign. So you can see that there are more important interior german affairs that prevent our conservative leaders in the defense ministry from complying with the requests of our Allies.

John in Michigan, USA on :

"from an american perspective this is totally unflexible and irresponsible" There is nothing particularly American about insisting that soldiers not be placed in harms way without the tools and doctrine to allow them to succeed. Napoleon knew that if you set out to take Vienna, you must take Vienna. Change 'american perspective' to 'non-pacifist perspective' or 'realistic perspective' and I would agree. "the engagement in Afghanistan is very unpopular. This is mostly because the people do not believe it is in our interest." Sad, but true. The only time in the history of the alliance when article V of the NATO treaty was invoked, and the German people forget their promise. I am still an Atlantacist because of shared values, but it is sad to see the NATO treaty reduced to mostly words, or an agreement whose fulfillment is optional, at least in the popular imagination in Germany. I wish this were a case of the German people in effect saying "we want to help, but we dare not go too far, because of history". But I do not think that is the main reason why the German people to not see it in their interest to help. I acknowledge the German government has made an effort to fulfill article V, but I feel the response has been inadequate, due mostly to the failure of the German people to realize their obligation.

Detlef on :

John in Michigan, [i]The only time in the history of the alliance when article V of the NATO treaty was invoked, and the German people forget their promise.[/i] Thatīs not quite true, Iīd think. First, a bit of history. :) 1) Till the early 1990s the German armed forces were a strictly Central European force. Doctrine and equipment didnīt allow for any deployment outside Europe. In fact if I remember correctly there were only a few air-mobile units slated to be deployed outside Germany in case of war (Norway, Turkey). For obvious historical reasons. And one might add, something all other NATO allies enthusiastically endorsed. :) (Iīve had read too that until reunification Germany still had some restrictions on military equipment? For instance no submarines above a certain tonnage, no long-range planes etc.) 2) Following that it was more or less (politically) unthinkable for decades to deploy German troops outside Germany. Kind of like forbidden territory. Remember the Gulf War 1991? The then German Kohl government (conservative, very pro-American) tied themselves into knots just to deploy some Patriot batteries to Turkey and some mine-hunters to the Persian Gulf. (Actually some of the British newspapers were pretty funny during that time. In 1990 - German reunification - you could read some articles warning about the possible future military threat from Germany. In 1991 - Gulf War - you could read headlines in the exact same newspapers screaming "Where is Rommel?". Understandably Germans were a bit confused about it. :) ) 3) It was the Schroeder government of the late 1990s who started to change things. Serbia and Kosovo. Which "violated" another post-war German doctrine. :) No German soldiers in countries we occupied during WW2. Once again for obvious historical reasons. That was a Social Democrat-Green government and they faced quite some domestic opposition. 4) All of this means that from a German point of view things are actually changing pretty fast. In less than 10 years from a non-deployable army to interventions in the Balkans. Followed by Afghanistan. Naval units in the Mediterranean and the Indian ocean. 5) Repeating myself with regard to Afghanistan. (A few months ago I posted a comment here with lots of links about the timeline.) As far as I can remember there wasnīt that much opposition in 2002 / early 2003. And the same was true for other European NATO members too. In fact lots of them were eager to send troops to Afghanistan. It was the US government, especially the Pentagon and Rumsfeld who didnīt want NATO troops in Afghanistan back then. Rumsfeld didnīt want to have to consult with allies so he accepted only a few special forces troops. Remember? And after months of negotiations he accepted a few thousand NATO troops but restricted only to Kabul. So that the Pentagon wouldnīt be restricted in any way outside Kabul. Then the situation started to get worse and suddenly "Provincial reconstruction teams" (do I remember the term right?) were acceptable to Rumsfeld. The situation still got worse and suddenly NATO combat troops were welcome everywhere in Afghanistan by the US administration. But now itīs the fault of Germany (and maybe other European NATO members) that the situation in Afghanistan is getting worse? Itīs not our fault that the Bush government for months, maybe years resisted real NATO involvement in Afghanistan. It isnīt our fault that Rumsfeld didnīt deploy enough US troops in Afghanistan to catch Bin Laden and Mullah Omar (Tora Bora?). You know, the guys responsible for invoking that article V of the NATO treaty? It isnīt our fault that the Bush administration in 2002 choose to rely on the corrupt Afghan warlords instead of deploying some more US or NATO troops. It isnīt our fault that the Bush government started to plan for Iraq in late 2002 and didnīt pay enough attention to Afghanistan. It isnīt our fault that the Bush administration was arrogant and incompetent enough to fight two wars on the "cheap". It isnīt our fault that Rumsfeld didnīt want to hear European expertise and knowledge about Afghanistan. I do believe that a real effort in 2002, maybe even 2003 might have worked. But now itīs 2008 and Iīm sorry to say it, the Bush administration created a mess in Afghanistan. What might have worked back then with several 10,000s of troops would now require lots more. Wasnīt it an American general saying in an interview this year that we would need 400,000 troops in Afghanistan now? If thatīs true then blame your current US government for opportunities lost because I donīt see a NATO force of several 100,000 soldiers deployed to Afghanistan.

John in Michigan, USA on :

In none of the examples you provide (before Afghanistan in 2001) was article V invoked, so I am not sure of your point. Also, I was referring mainly to the lack of popular support, not the actions of the German government (which I noted had at least attempted to give NATO some support). I was responding to Zyme's insight that "the [German] people do not believe it is in our interest", in other words, that the lack of popular support for Afghanistan is based on more than just the historical reasons you mention. Do you really believe the German popular attitude is merely "we want to help, but we dare not go too far, because of history"? Evidence please.

Detlef on :

My examples were just provided as an example of real world politics in the years after 1990. You kmow, things like you and Rumsfeld and Bush would ignore. [i]In none of the examples you provide (before Afghanistan in 2001) was article V invoked, so I am not sure of your point.[/i] Duh! Maybe you need some explicit examples. Simply put, unlike the UK, France or the USA we donīt have any experience in intervening in former colonies after 1918? Not to mention that your administration wasnīt that eager to get the persons responsible for that article V violation. Where is Bin Laden and Mullah Omar today? [i]Also, I was referring mainly to the lack of popular support, not the actions of the German government (which I noted had at least attempted to give NATO some support). I was responding to Zyme's insight that "the [German] people do not believe it is in our interest", in other words, that the lack of popular support for Afghanistan is based on more than just the historical reasons you mention.[/i] My point 5 dealt extensively with Afghanistan after 9/11. And it also mentioned that domestic opposition in 2002 / early 2003 was pretty low key. Back then support for deployment in Afghanistan was pretty high. Simply put, your American administration made a mess in Afghanistan. We are not responsible for that mess. And we (Europeans) donīt have the troops to relieve you of that mess today. Before you blame us, kindly look into a mirror! Your Bush administration - through incompetence or simple ignorance - created that mess. We canīt clear up this mess on our own. Not to mention that your system probably broke down in late 2002 / early 2003. How else can you justify cases like Dilawar? "The coroner, Lieutenant-Colonel Elizabeth Rouse, told a pre-trial hearing that his [Dilawar] legs 'had basically been pulpified ... I've seen similar injuries in an individual run over by a bus.'" Care to tell me about the results of that pre-trial? Why should we support war criminals?

Eskimo on :

"Statesmanlike images"? Instead, I wonder if Obama's advisors are nervous about the American media paying too much attention to his upcoming visits to Europe. After all, John McCain was criticized for seeming out-of-touch when he visited Colombia and Mexico recently. Even when Colombia was big news and Mexico's always important for the US. And John Kerry had to deal with this notion that he seemed foreign or French, which to Americans means wimpy or elitist (the new buzzword).

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