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U.S. statements on Iran remind Carnegie director of pre-war Iraq debate

Last year former US weapons inspector David Kay compared the debate about Iran's nuclear program with the debate about Iraq before the war. Similarly Joseph Cirincione, the director for non-proliferation at the Carnegie Endowment, now claims that "some U.S. officials have already decided they want to hit Iran hard." He is concerned that the "political or ideological agenda of a small group" will once again "create havoc in a critical area of the globe":
Does this story line sound familiar? The vice president of the United States gives a major speech focused on the threat from an oil-rich nation in the Middle East. The U.S. secretary of state tells congress that the same nation is our most serious global challenge. The secretary of defense calls that nation the leading supporter of global terrorism. The president blames it for attacks on U.S. troops. The intelligence agencies say the nuclear threat from this nation is 10 years away, but the director of intelligence paints a more ominous picture. A new U.S. national security strategy trumpets preemptive attacks and highlights the country as a major threat. And neoconservatives beat the war drums, as the cable media banner their stories with words like "countdown" and "showdown." The nation making headlines today, of course, is Iran, not Iraq. But the parallels are striking. Three years after senior administration officials systematically misled the nation into a disastrous war, they could well be trying to do it again.
Cirincione might be wrong: This time the intelligence information might be better. Iran certainly is a bigger threat than Iraq ever was, but who trusts the Bush administration anymore? Many of those politicians and citizens around the world, who supported the U.S. policy towards Iraq, seem to be more skeptical now about U.S. statements on the extent of the Iranian threat (and the urgency) and doubt U.S. regime change capabilities. Besides, Anti-Americanism has increased, which makes supporting the U.S. even more difficult. "Trust us" is not enough to get support, more information is needed. Cirincione concludes:
The administration should now declassify the information it used to estimate how long it will be until Iran has the capability to make a bomb. The Washington Post reported last August that this national intelligence estimate says Iran is a decade away. We need to see the basis for this judgment and all, if any, dissenting opinions. The congressional intelligence committees should be conducting their own reviews of the assessments, including open hearings with independent experts and IAEA officials.
About the national intelligence estimate see our related post: War against Iran? Populism against the US?

President Bush press conference

In a recent press conference President Bush, whose job approval rates have slipped spectacularly into the low 30%s, acknowledged that he was "spending [his political capital] on the war":
QUESTION: Do you agree with Mr. Allawi that Iraq has fallen into civil war?
THE PRESIDENT: I do not. There are other voices coming out of Iraq, by the way, other than Mr. Allawi -- who I know, by the way; like; he's a good fellow. […]
QUESTION: […] Do you feel that personally you have ever gotten bad advice on the conduct of the war in Iraq? And do you believe Rumsfeld should resign?
THE PRESIDENT: No, I don't believe he should resign. I think he's done a fine job of not only conducting two battles, Afghanistan and Iraq, but also transforming our military, which has been a very difficult job inside the Pentagon. Listen, every war plan looks good on paper until you meet the enemy, not just the war plan we executed in Iraq but the war plans that have been executed throughout the history of warfare.
QUESTION: Just after the 2004 election, […] you claimed a really enviable balance of political capital and a strong mandate. Would you make that claim today; that you still have that?
THE PRESIDENT: I'd say I'm spending that capital on the war.
QUESTION: Mr. President, you've spoken about Iraq being a beacon for democracy throughout the Middle East. Yet, we've had troubles in Iraq and we've seen aggressiveness from Syria and Iran. Are you concerned that the Iraq experience is going to embolden authoritarian regimes in the Middle East and make it tougher to get democracy there?
THE PRESIDENT: There's no question that if we were to prematurely withdraw and the march to democracy were to fail, the Al Qaida would be emboldened. Terrorists groups would be emboldened. The Islamo-fascists would be emboldened. No question about that.
QUESTION: Will there come a day -- and I'm not asking you when; I'm not asking for a timetable -- will there come a day when there will be no more American forces in Iraq?
THE PRESIDENT: That, of course, is an objective. And that will be decided by future presidents and future governments of Iraq.
Read or watch the entire press conference at The White House.

Increasing personal networks and friendships between Americans and Germans

Since the Atlantic Review is dedicated to improving transatlantic relations, we are increasing awareness of small grassroots organisations that promote mutual understanding between Americans and Germans on the people-to-people level. We have already introduced the Oregon Alumni Association.
Now were are presenting the recently established PPP Alumni e.V. of former participants of Bundestag-Congress exchange program. This association's chair Susan Waldow wrote the following introduction:
Continue reading "Increasing personal networks and friendships between Americans and Germans"

Carnival of German-American Relations, Second Edition

Welcome to our transatlantic dialogue! Excellent blog posts about various aspects of U.S.-German relations from both sides of the Atlantic (and the Pacific), in English and in German were submitted and are now introduced to you. A large variety of political opinions and perspectives and well-written arguments provide a lot of food for thought and controversial debates. After a careful selection we are presenting to you 30 of the more than forty submissions.
The posts deal with these topics:
1. American and German perceptions of each other
2. Anti-Americanism and Pro-Americanism
3. The German media coverage of the U.S.
4. "Hitler's Gift" to America and the Nazi Slur
5. German and Muslim Immigration
6. Europe is the empire, not the U.S.
7. More criticism of German policies concerning the U.S.
8. Optimistic Outlook on US-German relations

You don't have to read this entire carnival post at once. Bookmark this page and return anytime ;-) Okay, here we go:
Continue reading "Carnival of German-American Relations, Second Edition"

Why is Abu Ghraib a cover story again, but not Darfur?

Popular German magazines such as Der Spiegel frequently put US critical pictures on their cover. Critical reporting about the world's sole superpower is necessary, but statements like "Torture in the Name of Freedom" (as seen on a recent Spiegel cover) appear to  be malicious distortions to sell more copies rather than critical, ethical journalism. (More at Medienkritik)
The German media (e.g. Die Welt) reported that Salon.com published more Abu Ghraib torture pictures. Bild published some pictures. 
Those responsible for the torture in Abu Ghraib have done great harm to their victims, their families and the US reputation in the world. The number of insurgent attacks increased dramatically after the Abu Ghraib scandal first became public. The torturers and the high ranking officers who failed to maintain discipline in Abu Ghraib have unintentionally aided the US enemies.  Continue reading "Why is Abu Ghraib a cover story again, but not Darfur?"

Germany has become more attractive to U.S. investors

The American Chamber of Commerce and The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) surveyed 150 U.S. investors and found out:
With 120 billion euros in investments and 850,000 direct jobs, Germany is a center of U.S. investment in Europe and has gained in attractiveness relative to Great Britain. (...) More than 30 percent of U.S. companies in Germany anticipate hiring in 2006; 44 percent want to increase investment; 72 percent view the recent change in government as positive; the automotive and pharmaceutical industries give Germany only middling grades: competitiveness must be ensured. The year 2005 was good for U.S. companies in Germany: 58 percent saw increased revenues, and 76 percent expect further growth in 2006. The AmCham Business Barometer 2005/2006 suggests cautious optimism among U.S. investors.
More about the survey, incl. criticism of the state of research and development in Germany in the BCG press release.

Bipartisan outcry against Dubai Port Deal

In an unusually unanimous, bipartisan outcry, both politicians and the public reacted to a proposed deal of the Bush administration which would have put a company from Dubai in charge of six major ports in the US, including Newark, New York, Baltimore and Miami. The company has since withdrawn its bid, saving Bush a showdown on the matter. But the discussion has once more drawn attention to some of the prevailing security gaps that frighten the population. According to the New York Times, only 5.6 percent of containers headed into the US are screened by gamma-ray machines or manually. Experts have been quoted calling port security "a card house.". With New Orleans still lying in ruins half a year after hurricane Katrina, more Americans seem to loose faith in the government's ability to protect them - and their interest in even thinking about it. Three articles about the port deal in the International Herald Tribune.

Conservative experts critical of Democratic Peace Theory

In its February 27 issue, The American Conservative writes:
When it comes to DPT [Democratic Peace Theory], the Middle East has become a laboratory with Iraq serving as a test tube for the experiment. And it’s a test that seems to be failing. […] In a way, neoconservative foreign policy is bursting with explosive self-contradiction. It urges Washington to use its military power to establish a hegemonic position in the Middle East, while at the same time it calls for holding free elections that empower forces opposed to the American hegemon and its allies. In Turkey, South Korea, Brazil, Chile, and Bolivia, free voting has resulted in the election of political parties that are less than enthusiastic about American’s goals. [In the Middle East,] a process that challenges the current authoritarian regimes and permits free elections gives rise to illiberal regimes and makes the region safe not for liberal democracy but for nationalism and other combative forms of identity.
The author also quotes professors Edward D. Mansfield and Jack Snyder, who in their recent book Electing to Fight: Why Emerging Democracies Go to War (Amazon.de, Amazon.com), as well as in a recent article for The National Interest, analyze many historic examples to argue that “early stages of transitions to electoral politics have often been rife with violence”, and that democratic transition can indeed become a potent cause of war:
Without a coherent state grounded in a consensus on which citizens will exercise self-determination, unfettered electoral politics often gives rise to nationalism and violence at home and abroad. […] When authoritarian regimes collapse and countries begin the process of democratization, politicians of all stripes have an incentive to play the nationalist card. […] The nationalist and ethnic politics that prevails in many newly democratizing states loads the dice in favor of international and civil war. […] In all of these varied settings, the turbulent beginning phase of democratization contributed to violence in states with weak political institutions. Statistical studies show that countries with weak institutions undergoing an incomplete democratic transition are more than four times as likely to become involved in international wars than other states, and that incomplete democracies are more likely to experience civil wars than either pure autocracies or fully consolidated democracies.
In order to avoid such disastrous outcomes in various democratization processes including the Arab World and China, the authors propose a whole lot of patience as well as a much stronger use of diplomatic measures. They also note that
A successful long-term project for promoting democracy globally by inducement would require the United States and Europe to work together. Separately, each has liabilities. […] Acting together, the United States and the EU would have adequate resources and political legitimacy to mount a program of encouraging preparations for democracy worldwide.
The German government and the European Union seem to believe that securing a few polling stations in Congo, would help democratisation: Our post or Bissige Liberale in German.

Update: Related article: After Neoconservatism by Prof. Francis Fukuyama, who gets a spanking from the Wall Street Journal (hat tip: Protein Wisdom).

A good read about Iraq as the "laboratory for ideas about how to wring stability out of chaos" is also "The Coming Normalcy" by Robert Kaplan, available as a free pdf at Michael Yon. Discussion at the great The Coming Anarchy Blog as well as the great American Footprints.