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Iraq: Analysis of U.S. Media Coverage and the Mortality Estimates

While "the Bush administration has complained about the tenor of media coverage of the war in Iraq ever since the April 2003 looting that followed the fall of Baghdad," negative stories in the U.S. media have only "outweighed positive ones by a factor of roughly 2.5 to 1 across several major outlets and in the course of the three years of the U.S. presence in Iraq." according to Michael O'Hanlon and Nina Kamp. The Brookings Fellow and his senior research assistant argue in the Washington Quarterly  (pdf) that the ratio between positive and negative stories is an accurate mirror of the negative developments in Iraq. Of course, the ratio is about the general media coverage; the ratio is different for each media outlet. They also write:
Many critics of the media believe that negative coverage could cost the United States the war. By their reasoning, the United States could fail in Iraq only if our national resolve falters, which could only happen if the American public gets an unfairly pessimistic view of the situation as a result of the media's fixation on violence and other bad news. If the United States and its coalition partners do not prevail, however, the failure will most likely result from events on the ground there, not from an untimely wavering of domestic political support. In fact, more than three years into the campaign, the U.S. body politic remains surprisingly tolerant of the mission in Iraq and, in general, resists calls for immediate withdrawal, despite far more bad news than anyone in the administration forecast or even thought possible when the war was first sold to the nation and launched. (...)
Indeed, even as President George W. Bush's personal popularity among the U.S. population has declined to well below 40 percent, a Pew poll conducted in the spring of 2006 found that 54 percent of U.S. citizens still expected some level of success in establishing a democracy in Iraq. If the media are so consistently reporting only bad news and creating an image of a failure in the works, it is not clear on what information this 54 percent is basing its guarded optimism.
US public opinion might have shifted dramatically since that poll was conducted in the spring of 2006...

The latest bad news from Iraq:
The Washington Post reports today (October 30, 2006) that "the U.S. military announced the death of the 100th servicemember in Iraq this month."
And NYT writes about a government report: "The American military has not properly tracked hundreds of thousands of weapons intended for Iraqi security forces." Are US weapons killing US soldiers?

Mortality Estimate:
Shaun Waterman analyzes for United Press International the criticism of the Johns Hopkins survey about excess mortality in Iraq and also points out that "the U.S. military's own estimates suggest that the casualty rate for Iraqis is five times what it was at the beginning of 2004":
The U.S. military's estimates, buried in a little-noticed recent report to Congress, are drawn from a daily tabulation of "significant activity reports," about "incidents observed by or reported to U.S. forces," known as the SIGACT database. do not distinguish deaths from injuries, nor between Iraqi civilians and members of the army, police or other government security forces. The estimates "are derived from unverified initial reports submitted by Coalition elements responding to an incident; the inconclusivity of these numbers constrains them to be used for comparative purposes only," says the report, titled "Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq." But the comparisons they enable show that average casualty rates for Iraqis have sky-rocketed from just over 20 per day in the first quarter of 2004, to nearly 120 per day between May and August of 2006. (...) By way of comparison, Human Rights Watch has estimated Saddam Hussein's regime killed 250,000 to 290,000 people over 20 years.
Let's not forget Afghanistan, writes Bradford Plumer:
Thanks to the colossal cock-up in Iraq, virtually no one has taken a hard look at the flailing occupation of Afghanistan and asked whether, in retrospect, it was also a mistake to invade that country. No one asks that. Afghanistan's the ultimate uncontroversial war—even liberals point to it approvingly to show they're not reflexively dovish. But Stephen Zunes is right -- the Afghan war's not going that well, Osama bin Laden has eluded capture, and second-guessing the various decisions made back in 2001 to go to war really shouldn't be out of bounds.
Related post in the Atlantic Review: Europe Loses Afghanistan and America Looks at Nice Pictures.

When German Universities Were Models for American Universities

The New Yorker reviews Academic Charisma and the Origins of the Research University (, by William Clark, a historian who "has spent his academic career at both American and European universities. Clark thinks that the modern university, with its passion for research, prominent professors, and, yes, black crêpe, took shape in Germany in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. And he makes his case with analytic shrewdness, an exuberant love of archival anecdote, and a wry sense of humor." (HT: Chris, who blogs at Edit Copy.)

Likewise, Louis Menand's Pulitzer Prize-winning book The Metaphyisical Club: The Story of Ideas in America
(, describes how important German universities were in creating graduate studies in the United States. From Dialog International's review:
The first graduate school was established at Johns Hopkins University and was modeled after the University of Heidelberg. Nearly every serious scholar in America made a pilgrimage to the great universities at Heidelberg, Berlin, Leipzig and Goettingen. Of Stanford University's original 30 professors, 15 had received degrees in Germany and the school's unofficial motto which appears on its official seal is Die Luft der Freiheit weht ("the wind of freedom blows") - a quote from Ulrich von Hutten, a 16th-century humanist.

Historical Comparisons: Fritz Stern Publishes "Five Germanys I Have Known"

"Can It Happen Here?" is the headline of the NY Times review of the Fritz Stern's memoir:
In November 2005, Fritz Stern received an award for his life's work on Germans, Jews and the roots of National Socialism, presented to him by Joschka Fischer, then the German foreign minister. With a frankness that startled some in the audience, Stern, an emeritus professor of European history at Columbia University, peppered his acceptance speech with the similarities he saw between the path taken by Germany in the years leading up to Hitler and the path being taken by the United States today. He talked about a group of 1920's intellectuals known as the "conservative revolutionaries," who "denounced liberalism as the greatest, most invidious threat, and attacked it for its tolerance, rationality and cosmopolitan culture," and about how Hitler had used religion to appeal to the German public. In Hitler's first radio address after becoming chancellor, Stern noted, he declared that the Nazis regarded "Christianity as the foundation of our national morality and the family as the basis of national life."
Stern was of course not suggesting an equivalence between President Bush and Hitler but rather making a more subtle critique, extending his idea that contemporary American politics exhibited "something like the strident militancy and political ineptitude of the Kaiser's pre-1914 imperial Germany." At 80, Stern has just published a sprawling memoir, "Five Germanys I Have Known," (, and as with that speech, he does not file away his experiences of Nazism in a geographical or temporal box.
About the frequent Nazi comparisons:
Outraged by the facile interpretations of Nazism floating around in the 1950's — "all the tomes and slogans about Germany’s inevitable path 'from Luther to Hitler'" — he charts his own, more subtle interpretation of what caused the Third Reich. Over the years Stern protests the ways radicals abuse the memory of Nazism to support their present-day political agendas, whether the 1960's students who called authority figures fascists and Nazis, or those today who compare foreign leaders they dislike to Hitler and cry "Munich" at every diplomatic gesture.
Yet the value of Stern's work is precisely that it has refused to keep Nazism safely on the other side of a historical and geographic chasm. His first book, "The Politics of Cultural Despair" (1961), is one of the durable masterpieces of 20th-century history because it seems to locate the roots of a peculiarly modern malaise. As he explained in a later edition of the work, "I attempted to show the importance of this new type of cultural malcontent, and to show how he facilitated the intrusion into politics of essentially unpolitical grievances."
Hitler comparisions are still very popular:
•  Secretary Rumsfeld has German roots, used to visit his relatives in Germany in the 80s, and should know German history.
Continue reading "Historical Comparisons: Fritz Stern Publishes "Five Germanys I Have Known""

Leading Role for NATO in Germany's New Security and Defense Policy Review

UPDATE: Marco Overhaus, a research fellow at the University of Trier and Fulbright Alumnus, describes Germany's new White Paper on security policy as a "Solid Basis for a Needed Debate.":
The White Paper devotes considerable space to describing the comparative advantages of both NATO (with its integrated military structure) and the European Union (with its broad array of foreign and security instruments) and quite frankly states that the current state of cooperation between both organizations is unsatisfactory. Certainly, a distinct feature of the present White Paper is its clear and unequivocal commitment to NATO as "the cornerstone of German security and defence policy." This is probably the clearest departure of German security policy under the previous government of Chancellor Schroeder who was willing to confront Washington and put more emphasis on the development of the European Security and Defense Policy (ESDP). (...)
Yet, the principal test will be whether the German government will put these ideas into practice. Not surprisingly, a major obstacle to the implementation of the stated goals will be their financial implications. A broad security strategy also necessitates greater financial resources, and at least some of the propositions in the White Paper imply higher expenditures.
Overhaus also criticizes that the White Paper "shies away from honestly addressing the problems of German and international efforts to deal with the decreasing stability" in Afghanistan. His general assessment, however, tilts towards the positive. He concludes that "the White Paper should also be understood as a starting point for a national debate on security policy which is urgently needed as increasing international demands on Germany meet more scepticism on the domestic front."

The Financial Times comments on the White Paper as well and argues that Germany"needs to get rid of conscription, a tradition that limits the country's military effectiveness." That won't happen anytime soon. [END of UPDATE]

The New York Times writes about the new German Defense White Book:
Germany will publish a defense and security policy review on Wednesday [October 25, 2006] that says the country is poised to play a major role in Europe without distancing itself from the NATO alliance. The review -- the first in 12 years -- is a sign that Germany has grown more confident and assertive about its place on the international stage, after decades spent living down the aggression and atrocities of the Nazi years and then knitting itself back into a single nation. (...)
Continue reading "Leading Role for NATO in Germany's New Security and Defense Policy Review"

Comparing Chancellor Merkel's and Schroeder's Perception of Russia and the US

Ex-Chancellor Schroeder is giving outspoken and controversial interviews to promote his autobiography. He is very critical of Chancellor Merkel, the trade unions, and of the growing influence of religious conservatives in the US, while at the same time defending Russia's president Putin.
As probably most Germans (and perhaps even Schroeder), Chancellor Merkel considers the US-German friendship much closer than the German-Russian strategic partnership.
Continue reading "Comparing Chancellor Merkel's and Schroeder's Perception of Russia and the US"

Brain Drain: German YouTube Founder Enjoys the American Dream

Observing Hermann writes about the third YouTube founder, Jawed Karim, who was born in East Germany in 1979:
Ironically, Karim's family (his father was originally from Bangladesh) left Germany in 1992 after the infamous post-Wall racist incidents in Hoyerswerda, Rostock and Mölln; not the first time that Ausländerfeindlichkeit (hatred of foreigners) has led to the brain drain from one country and to the benefit of another. That's entrepreneurial power that Germany could be using right now, too (should we Americans say thanks to Germany now or later?)."
In spring 2006, Jawed Karim left YouTube for graduate studies at Stanford. He remained an informal advisor and major shareholder. The NYT writes:
Mr. Karim said he might keep a hand in entrepreneurship, and he dreams of having an impact on the way people use the Internet -- something he has already done. Philanthropy may have some appeal, down the road. But mostly he just wants to be a professor. He said he simply hopes to follow in the footsteps of other Stanford academics who struck it rich in Silicon Valley and went back to teaching.
UPI writes about the brain drain (HT: Observing Hermann):
Some 145,000 people in 2005 emigrated from Germany to other countries, the highest emigration total since 1954, according to latest numbers. Mainly young and well-educated people leave Germany, often for better working conditions, such as scientists researching in the United States; a higher pay check, like teachers working in Switzerland; or better chances to quickly find a job, for example in many of the Scandinavian countries.
Related posts in the Atlantic Review: Germany loses the brightest minds to the US and Racism in East Germany.

German Intelligence Analyst Mediates Between Israel and Hezbollah

Spiegel writes about the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND) analyst:
Since he's taken part in previous German-negotiated prisoner exchanges, he knows the bizarre rules of hostage-trading as well as the main people involved. The German government has twice been a successful mediator between Hezbollah and Israel, and the work is as delicate and demanding as it is prestigious.  The difference this time is that the new talks, technically, shouldn't be happening. Last year BND chief Ernst Uhrlau threatened Hezbollah that the German wouldn't be available if the militia tried to use kidnappings again as a negotiating tactic. (...) The German government was then appropriately reserved when a spokesman for Israel's Foreign Ministry, Yigal Palmor, openly asked for negotiating help. "Right now the same officials from Germany would be useful again," he said.
Now the BND agent is negotiating on behalf of United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan and Spiegel concludes:
Even if the current negotiations fail, though, the mission will already count as a success for the German government. Any failure in talks will lie at the UN's feet, but a success will bring at least some credit back to Germany.
Related posts in the Atlantic Review:
•  Perception of Germany in Israel,
•  NYT: German Intelligence gave U.S. Iraqi defense plan, and
•  German spy received US medal for support to combat operations in Iraq in 2003

Unrelated endnote: Why is Dailykos (picture) celebrating the fall of the Berlin Wall already now? It's still more than two weeks until November 9th...

Negotiations with Syria and Democracy Promotion in the Arab World

While a German Intelligence analyst negotiates with Hezbollah for the release of Israel's kidnapped soldiers, what has the United States been doing lately in regard to the Middle East conflicts? Recently Secretary of State Condoleezza visited Israel for the sixth time in the course of a year and a half, writes Gideon Levy in Haaretz and then asks about those trips:
What has come of it? Has anyone asked her about this? Does she ask herself? It is hard to understand how the secretary of state allows herself to be so humiliated. It is even harder to understand how the superpower she represents allows itself to act in such a hollow and useless way. The mystery of America remains unsolved: How is it that the United States is doing nothing to advance a solution to the most dangerous and lengthiest conflict in our world?
Levy's criticism of the US and Israel in the rest of his article is even harsher. [Via The Washington Note]

While Secretary Rice visits Israel and "US friendly" Arab governments (Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan) often, she has not yet visited Damascus, as far as I know. The Bush administration does not even have an ambassador in Syria, because he was recalled in February 2005 in the wake of the Hariri assassination, according to the State Department.
Jim Lobe writes for the
Inter Press Service News Agency about the Bush administration's refusal to talk to Damascus and about
former Secretary of State James Baker, who stresses that he believes in talking to enemies:
Continue reading "Negotiations with Syria and Democracy Promotion in the Arab World"