When President Bush, in his second inaugural address, pledged to "support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world," he seemed to be speaking for the whole country. But two years later, a disillusioned American public, sobered by the war in Iraq and still fearful of more terrorist attacks here at home, is ready to settle for a less idealistic goal: protecting the United States and its vital interests. (...) Large majorities -- including most Republicans -- reject Vice President Cheney's contention that the absence of a second attack means we are safer. Instead, they say that the threat of terrorism has increased since 2001, and they believe that the war in Iraq has made us less safe, not more. One victim of that psychology is Americans' belief in the worldwide democratic mission that Bush invoked so powerfully on Jan. 20, 2005. Now, by 58 percent to 36 percent, the voters say that "it is a dangerous illusion to believe America is superior to other nations; we should not be attempting to reshape other nations in light of our values." By an even greater proportion -- almost 3 to 1 -- they say the main goal of American foreign policy should be to protect the security of the United States and its allies, rather than the promotion of freedom and democracy.
Overall, independents have moved closer to Democratic positions on foreign policy, meaning that the Republicans' almost-automatic advantage on national security issues may be a thing of the past.
Personal comment: I doubt whether President Bush was indeed "speaking for the whole country" when he talked about ending tyranny in our world, as Broder claims. I doubt whether democracy promotion is on top of the agenda of the average American or European. It seems to me that many pundits and politicians exaggerate the general public's appetite and support for democracy promotion. Two examples in related posts in the Atlantic Review: • The Need for a New Transatlantic Ostpolitik quotes Ronald D. Asmus (GMF) as saying: "Americans have traditionally been more committed to democratic transformation -- in part because we are more powerful, more distant and have a different foreign policy ethos." • American Moral Principles and European Giggles quotes Secretary Rice as saying: "There cannot be an absence of moral content in American foreign policy. Europeans giggle at this, but we are not European, we are American, and we have different principles."
Considering the usual political leanings of The Washington Times, the op-ed "We are Americans" (March 19, 2007) by Nat Hentoff is a bit surprising: He writes about CIA renditions and points out:
A 1998 U.S. statute, part of the Foreign Affairs Reform and Restructuring Act, states: "It shall be the policy of the United States not to expel, extradite or otherwise effect the involuntary removal of any person to a country in which there are substantial grounds for believing the person would be in danger of being subjected to torture." I have heard administration semanticists maintain that this law applies only to prisoners we hold in our own jurisdiction, not to suspects kidnapped off the streets of another country. I sometimes think there may be courses for officials of this administration in how to conjugate what George Orwell called "newspeak" words and meanings turned inside out. Consider what our Secretary of State said in the Feb. 5, 2005, London Daily Telegraph: "There cannot be an absence of moral content in American foreign policy. Europeans giggle at this, but we are not European, we are American, and we have different principles." Not only Europeans have ceased extolling at our claiming moral and legal principles despite the CIA's "extraordinary renditions," our treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo and the CIA's own "black sites." So it was that when, on Feb. 6, nations signed an international treaty protecting terrorism suspects from being forced to disappear from any country's streets and kept in secret detention, the United States was not among the signers. There were no giggles at that evasion of our past pledges to the world.
Is Secretary Rice's comment condescending? Is it arrogant? She assumes an air of superiority, does not she? Or is European cynicism the problem? I think, some relaxed giggling at moralistic rhetoric is more appropriate than accusing the US government of hypocrisy because several European governments supported the CIA renditions in one way or another. Many European politicians make moralistic policy statements, although the policy results look different.
Rosemary Righter writes in The Timesabout the EU's 50th birthday: "Now you're grown up, make friends with America." (HT: Don)
Radio Free Mike took a picture at the EU Council and comments that he "can’t think of a better parody of the EU."
IHT: "Merkel wins praise from EU partners." And Frederick Kempe, president of the Atlantic Council, adds some more admiration in his Bloomberg column:
Don't miss the most significant story in the noise around this weekend's 50th birthday bash for the European Union in Berlin. Party hostess German Chancellor Angela Merkel has emerged as the West's most influential and promising leader in her second year in office, due to deeply held principles, good timing and no competition.
The Economist got it right: "Germany's chancellor shines more brightly abroad than at home."
A poll commissioned by the Der Spiegel found that 57 percent of surveyed Germans wanted a complete withdrawal from Afghanistan, while 36 percent were in favor of continued engagement, writes DW World. Only four percent backed increasing the German military presence in Afghanistan.
Number of daily bombing missions, June-Nov 2006: 18. Ratio of bombs dropped in 2006 to 2005: 10 to 1. Number of counternarcotics police in all of Helmand province: 38. Number of vehicles they have: 3. Percent of Americans who believe the war in Afghanistan “was worth fighting”: 56; Percent who do not: 41. Percent who think the U.S. is “doing enough” to rebuild Afghanistan: 63.
Kabul is home to 3.4 million people but has no public sewage system, writes the Christian Science Monitor:
Larger than the next 10 largest Afghan cities combined, Kabul estimates its most basic needs require $55 million this year; its budget is $4.5 million. Residents complain, but they cope. Despite the smell of sewage and mile-long walks to get drinking water, Kabul finds ways to function.
Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, trying to counter the increasingly anti-American attitude of her coalition partners, the Social Democrats, has called on the European Union to find a common position over American plans to deploy part of an anti-missile defense shield in Eastern Europe. (...) In fact, the two parties in Merkel's coalition appear more divided over the missile shield than other EU member states, which have been far less vocal or critical of the U.S. missile shield. Kurt Beck, leader of the Social Democrats, said this week that the missile defense shield would lead to a new arms race and that it should be discussed within NATO, or even abandoned. (...) So far, in public at least, U.S. officials have not questioned the tone of any of the criticism from the German left, as was the case after Gerhard Schröder, the former Social Democratic chancellor, narrowly won re-election in 2002 after criticizing the Bush administration's actions toward Iraq.
Prof. Drezner recommends Dempsey's article and draws a sharper conclusion: "The German Social Democrats party like it's 2002"
One of the key points I was trying to make in my Foreign Affairs article was that the Bush foreign policy of 2007 looks somewhat different from the Bush foreign policy of 2002 -- it's more multilateral in both form and substance. This has been a common theme among foreign policy wonks across the ideological divide. However, the word has yet to reach the German Social Democrats. (...) One gets the sense that domestic political calculations are behind the SPD's thinking... much as it was back in 2002.
Personal comments: Not every Social Democrat is against the Missile Defense project. Ulrich Klose, deputy chairman of the Bundestag's committee on foreign relations, told Die Welt (in German, via Kosmoblog) that Europe would be without protection, if Iran develops nukes and there are not any missile defense bases in Poland and the Czech Republic.
No religious folks in the former GDR? Think again! "A school in the eastern German city of Chemnitz has taken the Harry Potter books off its syllabus, after Christian parents objected on religious grounds," writes DW World. The Atlantic Review has written about similar cases in the US: Challenged Books and the "Banned Books Week".
Another uproar: "Politicians, lawyers and migrants' groups in Germany were incensed over a German judge's decision to reject a divorce case, saying the Koran permits husbands to beat their wives," reports DW World.
Writing for German Joys, Ed Philp looks at initiatives against "small freedoms" in Germany, i.e. against the relatively liberal attitudes towards smoking, maximum speed limits on the autobahn, the age of legal beer and wine consumption, and the sale of violent video games. Ed wonders "how is Germany ever going to convince North American exchange students to spend a year over here without dangling the lure of legal access to liquor in front of them?" Ed appreciates that he can still drink a beer in public and that he could watch some second-rate prime-time nudity on TV, if he wanted to: "Even if these particular aspects don’t interest me, that level of liberalism toward social freedoms does." According to Ed, "Germany’s small freedoms seem to counterbalance limitations to ‘big’ freedoms, in contrast to the United States, which takes the opposite approach." Unfortunately, he does not elaborate, but in the comments section of German Joys he mentions home schooling as an example of "big freedom." Dialog International writes that "US Evangelicals Demand German Home Schooling." And even the State Department's report on "Human Rights Practices in Germany" points out:
The legal obligation that children attend a school, confirmed by the Constitutional Court in May and the European Court of Justice in October, and the related bar on home schooling, was a problem for some groups. Generally, state authorities have permitted such groups to establish charter‑type schools.
Two interesting comments at Dialog International: Potsdam Amerikanerin links to a study in International Review of Education, which points out that "Home education is permitted in some form or other in all the European countries studied except Germany." And Little Andy (blog) wonders if the home schooling supporters would continue to criticize Germany, if Muslim fundamentalist parents would make use of a legalization of home schooling.
Max Boot, fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and a contributing editor to the Weekly Standard, visited the American Academy in Berlin and writes in Contentions that US and German "perceptions remain as far apart as ever on a variety of foreign-policy issues." At the end of his op-ed, he lets an American observer explain why Germans are reluctant to send troops into combat operations:
It is not so much that the Germans are afraid of getting their own troops killed, he said; they are more afraid of what their troops might do. They realize that counterinsurgency is a nasty type of warfare and that troops of any nationality are liable to commit some excesses. Germans, this American suggested, are deathly afraid that combat atrocities might revive old stereotypes about German militarism. Thus the Germans will continue to stress “soft” power while we (and, to a lesser extent, the Brits) perform the “hard” tasks.
I think there is some truth to it. What do you think? Another explanation is that most Germans tend to believe that aid and reconstruction can achieve more in Afghanistan than fighting an unwinnable war against a determined and experienced insurgency. Apparently many don't see the need to link both efforts. Besides, collateral damage (i.e. the accidental killing of civilians) strengthens the insurgents and makes winning hearts and minds of the local population much more difficult or even impossible. Moreover, Afghanistan is not seen as important to national security.