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Social changes in Europe responsible for transatlantic rift

Our growing transatlantic estrangement has less to do with George W. Bush's foreign policy than with deep social changes in Europe, contends Niall Ferguson in the current issue of The Atlantic Monthly. His examples: a growing number of Muslims (especially once Turkey joins the EU), and a tendency towards secularism even in traditionally catholic European countries like Spain.

The forgotten US relief operations in Europe during and after World War I

The BBC reminds us:

It does not detract from the relief operation in Asia to question the title almost routinely given to it as the ‘world's largest relief operation ever’.  The huge American undertakings that fed millions of people during and after the World War I rescued not sections of populations but whole peoples. Today they have been largely forgotten.  Yet 10 million people relied on food shipped in during the German occupation of Belgium and Northern France between 1914 and 1918. Tens of millions more were kept alive right across continental Europe after the war.

US spies look for targets in Iran

Seymour Hersh, the Pulitzer Prize winning investigative journalist, who broke much of the Abu Ghraib story, writes in the New Yorker about preparations for the “the coming wars”, especially with Iran:

The Administration has been conducting secret reconnaissance missions inside Iran at least since last summer. Much of the focus is on the accumulation of intelligence and targeting information on Iranian nuclear, chemical, and missile sites, both declared and suspected. The goal is to identify and isolate three dozen, and perhaps more, such targets that could be destroyed by precision strikes and short-term commando raids.

Iraq and Social Security: “President of Fabricated Crises“

The Washington Post gets tough:

Some presidents make the history books by managing crises. Lincoln had Fort Sumter, Roosevelt had the Depression and Pearl Harbor, and Kennedy had the missiles in Cuba. George W. Bush, of course, had Sept. 11, and for a while thereafter -- through the overthrow of the Taliban -- he earned his page in history, too.

But when historians look back at the Bush presidency, they're more likely to note that what sets Bush apart is not the crises he managed but the crises he fabricated. The fabricated crisis is the hallmark of the Bush presidency. To attain goals that he had set for himself before he took office -- the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, the privatization of Social Security -- he concocted crises where there were none.

The new State Department

Clinton’s former UN ambassador and Kerry’s foreign policy advisor Richard Holbrooke assesses Condoleezza Rice’s new team at the State Department in the Washington Post:

So far, she has opted primarily for outstanding career diplomats and professionals, not ideologues or partisan political appointees, especially in the critical regional assistant secretary jobs.

(…) Their nominations may offer an important indication of the kind of foreign policy that Rice (and George W. Bush) want to conduct: more centrist, oriented toward problem-solving, essentially non-ideological, and focused on traditional diplomacy as a way to improve America's shaky image and relationships around the world. These men believe in American values and a strong, even assertive, foreign policy -- but they are not what the right and neoconservative wings of the Republican Party wanted in a post-Colin Powell State Department.

One of our readers wants to share this quote by the Canadian Laurence J. Peter (1919 - 1988):

America is a country that doesn't know where it is going but is determined to set a speed record getting there.”