After the disagreements over Iraq, some press reports suggested that the U.S. government wanted to move some military bases from Germany to cheaper locations in "New Europe" whose governments supported the Iraq war. I am not sure what happened to those plans. Last October we wrote that the Ramstein and Spangdahlem bases have been upgraded to pick up the slack from the closure of the famous Rhein-Main base. Now the 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment moved to Bavaria, reports the American Forces Press Service:
About 3,000 regiment soldiers uncased the unit's colors at Vilseck Army Airfield here during a ceremony marking the 2nd Cavalry’s return to Germany after a 14-year absence and the arrival of the first Stryker unit in Europe. The cavalry regiment will provide USAREUR the Army's most mobile and modern combat system, one that also will benefit U.S. European Command and NATO, said Army Gen. David D. McKiernan, USAREUR's commanding general. "Putting the 2nd SCR here reaffirms our strong commitment to NATO and our European allies whom we have a long history of sharing our assets with," McKiernan said. "Positioning the regiment here will help to strengthen our ties (within theater)." Previously, the regiment was based at Fort Lewis, Wash., as part of the 25th Infantry Division, but now falls under the 1st Artillery Division.
Operation Gratitude has sent over 150,000 care packages to U.S. troops serving abroad to date and for the cost of a couple of Starbucks grandes you can help support Operation Gratitude and our men and women in uniform. I urge you to take a few minutes to look over this site and if possible make a donation.
Dr. Demarche writes for American Future, a great blog that likes German technology. ;-) If I remember correctly: An advertising agency made that ad for Volkswagen a few years ago, but it was never shown on TV.)
Anatole Kaletsky writes in the The Times about Tony Blair's troubles and Gordon Brown's options. He describes what German monetary policy in the early 90s and U.S. foreign policy today have in common:
Mr Major's failure as a prime minister was down to a fatal policy mistake: his decision to keep Britain in the ERM [= European Exchange Rate Mechanism] regardless of cost. In doing this, the Tories effectively handed control of monetary policy to the Bundesbank, just as Mr Blair has subordinated foreign policy to the White House. (...) Like US foreign policy today, German economic policy in the 1990s was run by a pair of arrogant but incompetent ideologues. Theo Waigel and Helmut Schlesinger, the German Finance Minister and Bundesbank President, were to economics what Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney are to the art of war. The German leaders of the early 1990s managed to turn their once-great economy into the sick man of Europe, just as Mr Rumsfeld and Mr Cheney have reduced America from a military superpower to a paper tiger. (...) To my mind, Mr Blair's truly unforgivable crime was not the invasion of Iraq. (...). No, Mr Blair's crime was to continue backing President Bush after it became obvious that his policies were criminally negligent, politically cynical and doomed to failure. Mr Blair was the one man in the world who could have forced President Bush to back Colin Powell, sack Donald Rumsfeld, close down Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo and launch a serious drive for Palestinian statehood.
Considering the lasting impact of the ERM disaster on British attitudes towards Europe (on top of the already existing Eurosceptism/-phobia), what long-term impact will Blair's foreign policy have on British attitudes towards the United States?
Can't make it to the Octoberfest, which started on Saturday? Interested in silly US-German competition? Want to waste some money? Then watch the U.S. movie Beerfest, which has just opened in US and German cinemas:
When American brothers Todd and Jan Wolfhouse travel to Germany to spread their grandfather's ashes at Oktoberfest, they stumble upon a super-secret, centuries old, underground beer games competition - "Beerfest" the secret Olympics of beer drinking. The brothers receive a less than warm welcome from their German cousins, the Von Wolfhausens, who humiliate Todd and Jan, slander their relatives, and finally cast them out of the event. Vowing to return in a year to defend their country and their family’s honor, the Wolfhouse boys assemble a ragtag dream team of beer drinkers and gamers.
The trailer states: "No Germans were harmed during the making of this film."
The popular blog Davids Medienkritik shows a video of an Anti-Bush and Anti-American commentary in one of Germany's most respected TV news programs, including the English translation of the transcript. The bias against America and the strong dislike of President Bush speak for themselves and are obvious in commentator Christoph Luetgert's opinion, the timing (9/11 anniversary), his choice of words and even their pronunciation. Let's just focus on one issue here: Some of the statements by commentator Christoph Luetgert could be defended, like the one that President Bush was "in effect a help in fulfilling the objectives of the terror godfather bin Laden." (Davids Medienkritik missed the words "in effect" in their transcript, but let's ignore that.) If Luetgert's opinion on President Bush and Bin Laden had been based on a thoughtful analysis, then his statements on Bush and Bin Laden would not be Anti-Bush and Anti-American, because many U.S. experts reached a similar conclusion. However, Luetgert's uninformed opinion that "The recent Lebanon war would not have been thinkable without the Bush inspired radicalization of the Islamic world, likewise the threatening nuclear behavior of the terrible Iranian President Ahmadinejad" indicates that he does not know much about the Middle East and has not analyzed the "Islamic world." Any student of the Middle East knows that the Lebanon war and Iran's nuclear program would have been "thinkable" without any US wrongdoing. Therefore, Luetgert's criticism of President Bush and US foreign policy seems to lack a legitimate foundation. Rather it seems to be based on a lack of knowledge, lack of analysis and perhaps on anti-American and anti-Bush feelings, which could be defined as singling out the U.S. combined with unfair criticism as expressed in blaming the Lebanon war, the radicalization of the "Islamic world" and Ahmadinejad's behavior only on President Bush.
Strong criticism of the US policies in the German media is of course legitimate, but it seems that far too often strong criticism is expressed by those journalists, who have not studied U.S. policies thorougly and do not understand the complexities of the world, but nevertheless feel that they know enough to blame the United States.
Davids Medienkritik points out that the German Handelsblatt strongly criticizes Christoph Luetgert's commentary in the article: "Durchgeknalltes Weltbild" which translates roughly as "Totally Manic World View." Handelsblatt describes the commentary as "perfidious stupidity" ("perfide Duemmlichkeit") by an "Anti-American conviction culprit" ("antiamerikanischer Ueberzeugungstaeter"). Medienkritik labeled Luetgert without any explanation as "another of the German media's Schroeder-lapdogs" although Schroeder has been out of power for almost a year. David's Medienkritik repeatedly accuses German journalists of suffering from "Bush Derangement Syndrome", while they themselves might suffer from a "Schroeder Derangement Syndrome" which does not help their reputation and in effect makes their valid criticism of the German media less credible for many Germans.
"Some of America's closest Nato allies have abandoned Washington on the key battleground of the War on Terror, the bloody struggle against Islamic militants for control of southern Afghanistan," writes The Times (HT: Kathy):
Five years after the world stood "shoulder to shoulder" with America in the aftermath of 9/11, The Times has learnt that many of the countries that pledged support then have now ignored an urgent request for more help in fighting a resurgent Taleban and its al-Qaeda allies. Turkey, Germany, Spain and Italy have all effectively ruled out sending more troops.
Captain's Quarters is one of many American blogs that makes a good point by saying "The same nations that scolded us over our supposedly unilateral approach now refuse to answer the phone when NATO calls on them to meet their pledges of troop support", but is wrong in suggesting that German troops should "redeploy" from the "quiet north" to assist NATO allies in the south. Sending additional troops is a fair demand, but redeployment makes no sense, since the north is far from being "quiet," and indicates a lack of appreciation for the hard and challenging work of the Bundeswehr in the north of Afghanistan. The impression of a "quiet north" is reinforced by the German defense ministry which refuses to tell German journalists about attacks against the Bundeswehr. Conservative bloggers have criticized that the media "emboldens the terrorists" and demoralizes the public by writing so much about the daily attacks in Iraq. Therefore, they should be glad that the German defense ministry keeps quiet about the attacks in the north rather than "helping the terrorists" and demoralizing the German public. Having said that, of course, the south is much more dangerous. Besides, the Bundeswehr mission does include assissting NATO allies in the south, when needed.
The Bundeswehr has been deployed in Afghanistan since January 2002. In February 2003 the Bundeswehr mandate was increased to a maximum of 2,500 troops and in October 2003 increased again to a maximum of 2,900 troops. Most European countries have contributed far less troops to Afghanistan in recent years. Britain has only recently increased its troop strength of 1,200 to 5,400 to re-establish order in the South. Poland only promised a few days ago to finally increase its committment from currently 100 military police to 1,000 almost exclusively combat troops. Poland should be applauded for this huge contribution. Simon Tisdall writes in The Guardian about NATO's difficulties to get more troops and has this to say about Germany:
"Germany, with about 2,800 troops in Afghanistan, was already involved in "sharp-end" operations in the north and had quietly contributed special forces to counter-insurgency missions further south, said Constanze Stelzenmüller, a security specialist at the German Marshall Fund in Berlin. "There is already a very robust engagement. And although there is public criticism, there is an understanding that we have to get the job done. What we are seeing is very usual. Nato can't quite bring itself to commit sufficient forces. But everyone knew that once Nato took over from the US, things would get a lot tougher. One reason is the drug trade. It is not a counter-insurgency on the scale of Iraq. It's more about money and local warlord power than ideology." Stabilising Afghanistan was "do-able", she said. And she predicted Germany would do more if necessary.
The pressure to provide more help to NATO in the south of Afghanistan has certainly increased, but the Bundeswehr does not have many troops or money to spare. Austria, Belgium, Norway and others could do more, see related post: NATO's Increasing Involvement in Afghanistan.
September 6 marks the 60th anniversary of the landmark "Speech of Hope" by James F. Byrnes, secretary of state under President Harry S. Truman. Gary Smith, executive director of the American Academy in Berlin, explains the importance of the speech at a time when Germans "faced disorientation and uncertainty":
The future of a devastated Germany was ambiguous at best; the French wished to partition off the Ruhr Valley and another plan envisioned a smaller, pastoral Germany of farmers and bed-and-breakfasts. But a year after Stunde Null, US Secretary of State James Byrnes took the train from Berlin to Stuttgart to deliver what became the defining speech of postwar transatlantic relations: the "Speech of Hope." Byrnes brought a simple, if unexpected, message: the US would provide massive support for Germany’s path to recovery. (…) Some critics argue that there is a dearth of gratitude in Germany for America's monumental support for the country’s reconstruction. I think that gratitude is not only ubiquitous but a vital component of postwar German identity. Yet in recent years some Germans have forgotten what America is -- a land of diversity and debate, of writers and innovators, of checks and balances – and that it deserves a measure of confidence in turn. Today there are more potential catastrophes facing the Western world than ever before; and no nation or organization is capable of effectively dealing with these alone. (…) Both Germans and Americans must question the current national preoccupations with inwardness and the day-to-day.
Read his entire editorial (in English or German), which was part of the American Academy's semi-annual supplement in German papers like Der Tagesspiegel and Das Handelsblatt. Anne Applebaum is one of the academy's fellows this year. Her essay on the Hungarian revolution -- quoted in the last post To Defeat the Beast, Don't Feed the Beast -- was published in that supplement as well, along with those by the other fellows. The German state of Baden-Wuerttemberg commemorates the speech on a special website and will hold a ceremony on October 4, 2006 (i.e. the day after the national holiday of reunification...) that will be attended by Chancellor Merkel and former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. Full text of the speech in English and in German and audio files of the speech and more.
Germany's former Foreign Minister Fischer started teaching at Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School. The cause of the 9/11 attacks was not U.S. foreign policy, but the lack of modernisation in the Arab world, he explained at a discussion to mark the fifth anniversary of 9/11. Prof. Fischer, however, is concerned that U.S. mistakes increase the conflicts. His candid advice according to the German Der Tagesspiegel was: "To defeat the beast, don't feed the beast." He said more or less the same, but less outspoken in the NYT, as Dialog International reports.
"Stop blaming America for terrorism,"demands says Washington Post columnist and Pulitzer Price winning author Anne Applebaum in a British Telegraph op-ed (HT: Don). She criticizes that many Europeans started blaming the United States already right after 9/11:
While not entirely incorrect, the notion that President Bush has wasted international post-9/11 sympathy is not entirely accurate either. As I say, at the time of the attacks, influential Europeans, and influential Britons, were already disinclined for their own reasons to sympathise with any American tragedy. Instead of pointing fingers, the fifth anniversary of 9/11 might be a good time to reverse course. If "war on terrorism" has become an unpopular term, then call it something else. Call it a "war on fanaticism". Or – as we used to say in the Cold War – call it a "struggle for hearts and minds" in the Islamic communities of Europe and the Middle East. For whatever it's called, it won't succeed without both American and European support, without American and European mutual sympathy.
I don't think the term "war on terrorism" is a significant problem that stands in the way of more cooperation, but rather it is the strategies and policies and their implementation that matter. Besides, what is often ignored is that American and European intelligence and law enforcement agencies have increased their cooperation significantly and successfully. Doyle McManus discusses in The Los Angeles Times, whether the U.S. is winning this war:
In a series of recent speeches to mark the anniversary of the attacks, Bush has declared: "America is winning the war on terror" and cited a list of achievements: "We've removed terrorist sanctuaries, disrupted their finances, killed and captured key operatives, broken up terrorist cells in America and other nations, and stopped new attacks before they're carried out." But terrorism experts worry that those successes have been mostly tactical, short-term gains -- the equivalent of winning the first few battles in a long war. On longer-term strategic issues, they warn, the U.S. may have lost ground since 2001:
"A majority of Americans (57%) now believe the United Nations should be scrapped and replaced if it cannot be reformed and made more effective", according to a telephone poll conducted on behalf of the Hudson Institute:
75% believe the UN is no longer "effective" and "needs to be held more accountable." 71% believe the UN "needs to be considerably reformed." 67% believe "there are too many undemocratic nations in the UN that do not care about promoting democracy and freedom."
Nobody doubts the need for reform, but there are strong disagreements among the member countries about how to do so. To support more cooperation among the democracies in the world, the Community of Democracies should be strengthened, but I am not aware of any serious efforts to strengthen this forum founded in 2000. The United Nations, however, cannot and should not limit its membership to democracies. The UN is not an alliance like NATO, but has a different purpose. Besides, you don't make peace with your friends, but with your enemies. The Foreign Policy blog writes:
The poll confirms that since 9/11, Americans have become more skeptical of the global body. Fifty-two percent of respondents feel more unfavorable toward the United Nations and just 27 percent feel more favorable. (...) A plurality—44 to 37 percent—feels that the United Nations generally opposes U.S. interests. (...) The poll, though, is far from all bad news for those who support greater U.S. engagement with the United Nations. A whopping 73 percent favor the United States taking a "a more active role in the UN" as it is "the best way for us to influence world affairs."