Germany’s transformation from Europe’s sick man to its most stalwart performer is by now well entrenched. So sanguine are German executives about their future that many brush aside fears that a slowdown in the United States could knock their export-led recovery off track. The American consumer may still be the main engine that drives the global economy, but Germany’s advance — it has been the world’s largest exporter of goods for the last four years — is propelled by other sources. It is one more sign that the rest of the world does not depend as much on the American economy as it once did.
Our sidebar contains a list of the latest links to articles on transatlantic issues recommended by our readers. If you are interested in contributing to our little web 2.0 project, please read more information here.
An Ohio man is being held without bond on charges that he provided explosives training to al-Qaeda operatives in Germany and once plotted to bomb European resorts and U.S. government offices overseas. Federal grand jurors in Columbus, Ohio, contend Christopher Paul studied terrorist tactics in Afghanistan in the early 1990s as al-Qaeda was getting its start. He allegedly recruited others in Germany and trained U.S. colleagues to "fight violent jihad outside the United States."
Full text of indictment is at FindLaw, but Ben Perry is skeptical. Law professor Glenn Reynolds comments in Instapundit on the tools and gadgets found in Mr. Paul's appartment: "What red-blooded American doesn't have at least most of this stuff?"
Ryanair’s Michael O’Leary promised £7 tickets to the US and Southwest Airlines, the American pioneer of no-frills travel, signalled its intention to start flying to the UK. The prospect of cheap flights from London to New York will revive memories of Freddie Laker’s ultimately doomed challenge to the flag carriers 30 years ago. However, liberalisation of air travel through last month’s “open skies” agreement promises to revolutionise transatlantic travel. Ryanair, Europe’s biggest low-cost carrier, yesterday unveiled plans to offer flights to Baltimore, Rhode Island and New York for as little as 10-12 euros each way, but the service is likely to face stiff competition.
Personal comment: If ticket prices indeed drop a lot, that would promote more transatlantic travels, personal exchanges and mutual understanding and might decrease Anti-Americanism and Euro-Bashing. More flights, however, would also be bad news for climate protection efforts.
"Monday marked the fourth anniversary of the fall of Saddam Hussein. But instead of celebrations, the tone in Iraq was set by angry anti-American protests," writes Spiegel International and then translates several German editorials on this subject. None of the editorials has any Schadenfreude. Die Welt for instance points out that "the dissolution of the Iraqi army and of the structures of the ruling Baath party was too hurried and in retrospect counter-productive," but also stresses "all of this is easily said four years later. At the same time, nobody has a blueprint for the new Iraq, which consists ethnically and religiously of three parts and which only achieved a forced unity under Saddam's iron rule. ..."
Still, some supporters of the Iraq war perceive a lot of Schadenfreude in the media. Why? Shaun Carney, associate editor of the Australian paper The Age, describes in his opinion piece Who'd gloat about it? how critics of the Iraq war have been given different labels by the war advocates in recent years. Before the Iraq war started, skeptics were compared with "appeasers of Hitler in the '30s" (or labeled as weasels, cowards, surrender monkeys, one might add). According to Carney, this phase was followed by
the immediate post-invasion demands for all sceptics to apologise because the defeat of Saddam had taken only a few weeks and the 2004-05 insistence that occupied Iraq was really a good news story that a twisted media refused to report. The latest mantra, now that it's clear the whole enterprise is a frightening mess, is: stop gloating.
Pretty popular in US blogs and newspapers is also to use the German word "Schadenfreude" to describe this alleged gloating:
• James Taranto writes in the Wall Street Journal blog about the "Iraqschadenfreudegruppe," but his only "evidence" is a quote from Karsten Voigt, the German government's coordinator on relations with the U.S. in response to the Iraq Study Group report: "We should be happy that there is a course correction in the United States." as well from Andreas Schockenhoff, a deputy leader of Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives in parliament, who "warned" the U.S. against thinking there are "obligations for other NATO partners" from a withdrawal. Mr. Taranto does not explain why he considers this to be Schadenfreude. Instead he complains about Germany's alleged "freeloading off American strength" and wonders "why in the world would they be pleased at the prospect of American retreat from Iraq?" Well, I wonder, why in the world would someone from the respected Wall Street Journal misinterprets the above politicians in such a way... Schadenfreude is a German word, but it does not mean we are full of it. Predictably, Davids Medienkritik, has approvingly linked to the Wall Street Journal. Fortunately, they did not delete a comment by Amelie de Saintronges, which the James Taranto should read:
Schadenfreude is something you feel when you are happy about the misfortune of somebody else. It is not Schadenfreude when you are happy that somebody finally tries to correct a (perceived) error you told him about time ago. There maybe a certain "toldya so" factor to it but it's not Schadenfreude. Schadenfreude would be stupid since U.S. failure in Iraq would not be to the advantage of Germany, quite the contrary. A "failed state" of Iraq does not help anybody, not even trade. A Middle East in chaos does not inspire Schadenfreude to anyone.
In the debate in his comments section, SuperFrenchie discusses the difference between gloating and "I told you so" and makes this statement:
My feeling is that there isn't much gloating because the European media is simply not used to gloat about much. They are used to criticize heavily, whether it's American policies or European policies or French policies. Cheerleading media, as exists here (Fox, NY Post, etc…), doesn't really exist in Europe. They have their opinions, but they don't cheerlead.
Bogdan Kipling's article in the Canadian Chronicle Herald (published March 27, 2007) has a creative headline: "Prescription for political success: take 2 Antiams, call me in morning."
IN COUNTRY after country, anti-Americanism is the magic potion for political weakness. If you’re the president of Upper Slovobia and your popularity is sinking, take a swig from this bottle. You’d be surprised how effective the concoction is. Countless polls, elaborate or basic, confirm that Yankee-bashing works. To name the most obvious example: Five years ago, Gerhard Schroeder, Germany’s chancellor then and Vladimir Putin’s hired hand now, refloated his political wreck of an election pumping this noxious liquefied stench.
If Anti-Americanism works like magic "in country after country" why does Mr. Kipling need a five years old example?
"When you've got absolutely nothing, reach for Munich" said blogger Robert Farley, speaking about the propensity of American right-wing ideologues to use the historical analogy of Munich 1938 to punish their adversaries on the left and promote perpetual war as the only solution to geopolitical conflicts. It's always Munich 1938 in the bizarro-world of right-wing America; every perceived enemy is Hitler and every individual who advocates diplomacy over war is a Chamberlain.
Europe has eclipsed the US in stock market value for the first time since the first world war in another sign of the slipping of the global dominance of American capital markets. Europe's 24 stockmarkets, including Russia and emerging Europe, saw their capitalisation rise to $15,720bn (€11,819bn) at the end of last week, according to Thomson Financial data. That exceeded the $15,640bn market value of the US. (...) The shift mirrors a trend in the debt world, where European activity has caught up, and in some cases overtaken the US.European shares have outperformed the US, with their market capitalisation rising 160 per cent since the start of 2003 in dollar terms, said Thomson Financial. That compared with a 70.5 per cent rise for the US stock market. Over that time the euro has risen 26 per cent against the dollar.
The Independent calls the shift "a historic occasion," but also describes the criticism of the comparison between the European continent and the United States:
For the record, the figures come from Thomson Datastream, not the traditional calculators of indices, such as FTSE or MSCI. These others strip out government holdings and other shares that are not generally available to investors, which lowers the value of European markets, which include many partly privatised companies and the like. The first reaction of many on Wall Street yesterday was to dismiss the figures as a distortion or an irrelevance. Russia shouldn't be included as part of Europe, some said. Others asked, what is the point of a comparison with a geographical area that covers two and a half times as many people as the US? And still more said that FTSE and MSCI figures better reflected the size of the equity market available to investors, where the US still wins by anything from 15 per cent to a third. Fair points all, but none diminish the significance of the underlying trend identified in the Thomson figures.
The Independent also points out:
Now that the news is out there, it has immediately been pitched into the argument over whether New York is in danger of losing its position as the financial capital of the world. For London, it is another piece of evidence to back the Stock Exchange's boasts that it is attracting foreign companies that would previously have looked to list in the US. And for some Wall Streeters, it adds new urgency to their calls for looser regulation and other measures to win back lost business.
Usually there are calls for looser regulation in Europe rather than in Wall Street... (Thanks to Zyme for pointing out this story.)
Robert I. Rotberg with Harvard's Kennedy School of Government writes in The Boston Globe about "Losing the war in Afghanistan:"
THE UNITED States and NATO are about to lose the war in Afghanistan to an insurgent, revived Taliban. Deprived of sufficient firepower and soldiers, Allied forces are failing to hunt down and contain the Taliban, especially in the southern part of the country. Moreover, the crucial battle for Pashtun hearts and minds is also about to be lost. Only the rapid provision of security, roads, electricity, and educational and health services can counter the appeal of the renewed and reinvigorated Taliban. Urgently required are more troops for security and more funds for rebuilding essential services.
The op-ed focuses on the drug problem:
Narco-trafficking is fueling the Taliban, and fat profits from poppies and opium are partially responsible for the militants' resurgence. Indeed, Afghanistan is supplying about 90 percent of the world's opium and nearly all of the heroin that ends up in Europe. A recent study by the UN Office for Drugs and Crime forecasts a record crop of poppies this year, on top of last year's bumper harvest. To undercut the ability of the Taliban to purchase arms, pay soldiers, and buy the support of villagers, the United States and NATO need to break the back of the drug trade in and out of Afghanistan. However, reliance on eradication -- the current weapon of choice -- is foolish and wasteful. Uprooting crops and spraying have both had limited local effect. What is needed is a radically new, incentive-based method to provide better incomes to farmers from substitute crops.
Personal comment: So, basically, Europe is financing the Taliban, if the above mentioned numbers are correct. A few months ago, I read some criticism about these statistics, but I don't think it matters much if 90% or "just" 60% of Afghanistan's opium end up in Europe. It is a disgrace that our drug addicts finance criminals, insurgents, terrorists etc. The "war on drugs" is not very effective, but is doing a lot of harm. A recent example: "Austrian sniper rifles that were exported to Iran have been discovered in the hands of Iraqi terrorists, The Daily Telegraph has learned. More than 100 of the.50 calibre weapons, capable of penetrating body armour, have been discovered by American troops during raids. The guns were part of a shipment of 800 rifles that the Austrian company, Steyr-Mannlicher, exported legally to Iran last year." Iran has a big drug problem as well. Iranian drug addicts finance the Taliban and others involved in narco-trafficking as well. Legalizing drugs in Europe would cut the huge profits the Taliban and other middle men make. Adult drug consumers could take their drugs under supervision in European hospitals, who would buy opium and heroin from some small Afghan coops, i.e. providing an income for them. All the money wasted in the "war on drugs" could be used to tell every European once a week that drugs are bad. If they don't listen, it is their problem. I don't mind if people are stupid and ruin their health by taking drugs; that's freedom of choice. I just don't want Europeans to finance militants in Afghanistan and elsewhere, because that causes international problems and makes Europe less secure. Alcohol is causing big problems in European societies as well, but it is still legal. A few days ago, a sixteen years old Berliner died after drinking dozens of Tequilas in one of the popular "flatrate" parties. What do you think? Am I underestimating the risks and overestimating the benefits of the legalization of drugs?
Governments in Berlin, Paris and Rome, along with NATO leadership are discussing a potentially explosive new idea: the legalization of Afghanistan's opium production. The plan envisages farmers being able to sell their poppies to officially licensed buyers for the same price they currently get from the drug barons. The product could then be sold to the pharmaceutical industry for pain medication and other products.
• Opportunities forTrans-Atlantic Cooperation in the Caspian Region by Richard Morningstar, who is the former US Ambassador to the European Union and US Special Representative for the Caspian Region: Spiegel International
• "German Chancellor Favors Creation of European Army:" DW World
• EU appeals for international help to finance Darfur peacekeeping: "The EU has provided most of the financing for the African Union force of around 7,000 in Darfur — €400 million (US$523 million) since 2004, but the bloc's special peace support fund for Africa has run dry." International Herald Tribune
• "President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan has said he is open to holding talks with moderate Taliban in order to secure peace in his country." Spiegel International
• "Germany rethinks its Afghan presence: A spate of attacks against German citizens has made the public wary of supporting their longtime ally." Christian Science Monitor
• "Liberalism a luxury in this time of war: Civil libertarians aid terrorists when they cling to the good old days of peace without threat," writes Janet Albrechtsen in The Australian
• "Terrorized by 'War on Terror': How a Three-Word Mantra Has Undermined America " by Zbigniew Brzezinski in the Washington Post.
The latest news tips from our readers are always to be found in the sidebar on the right =>