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James Bond vs. Jason Bourne

Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass, actor and director of the Jason Bourne movie, have criticized James Bond as an imperialist, who likes violence and has no guilt. Scottish journalist Alex Massie cannot leave such serious insults of Britain's super agent unanswered. Interesting transatlantic pop culture "fight" in The Debatable Land.

Personal question: Why are the initials J.B. so popular for (former) special agents who are loners? Jack Bauer, James Bond, Jason Bourne...

French Pro-Americanism

"Whenever a French person does something anti-American, we hear about it. But when 2500 French do something pro-American..." writes someone on Digg and links to a project on Omaha Beach on July 4, 2007:
The crowd formed on the sand the letters of the phrase: “FRANCE WILL NEVER FORGET”, aimed at honoring the fallen American heroes who scarified their lives to liberate France at the end of WW II.
RELATED: David Frum of the National Review noticed that tobacconists in France sell firecrackers. That's why he does not take European "complains" about the American gun lobby seriously.
Debatable Land asks whether Frum is joking. I can't answer that question. I am German and don't have a sense of humor.

Afghanistan: Germany's Role in Operation Enduring Freedom

61% of Germans believe it is time to pull out of Afghanistan. This sentiment is not limited to the political left, but shared across the political spectrum: Even 55% of Christian Democrat voters want the Bundeswehr to pull out.
The German government is not (yet) contemplating a full withdrawal from Afghanistan, but is committed to stay the course with ISAF. Though, some Social Democrats do not want to renew the Afghanistan mandate for Operation Enduring Freedom in September.

At Atlantic Community, a German parliamentarian and a blogger from Texas express two different opinions on the German debate on Afghanistan. 
Niels Annen, a young member of the Bundestag and a rising star in the SPD, questions Germany's continued involvement in Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF):
Though the necessity of a military component in Afghanistan remains undisputed, both operations [ISAF and OEF] now seem increasingly incompatible. The [OEF] mandate’s legitimacy is in question: how long does the right of self-defense remain legitimate? The affiliation of ISAF and OEF-troops is becoming increasingly ambiguous, and not only for the Afghan population. Reports of uncoordinated military action among troops in Afghanistan are on the rise, and the coordination of command between the two operations is growing more difficult.
George Roper from Texas argues that
If Germany expects US help in the future, it must stay the course in Afghanistan now. The Bundeswehr should carry its share of the coalition burden without complaint as part of OEF. (...)
Americans are just becoming aware of the growing movement in Germany to pull away from Afghanistan, and they are just beginning to be angered by it. With time it will anger the United States Government as well.

Considering the Consequences of Withdrawal from Iraq

Peter W Rodman and William Shawcross argue in a NYT op-ed that the consequences of defeat in Iraq would be as disastrous for the region and for the United States as the 1975 Communist victory in Vietnam was for Cambodia and Vietnam.
Defeat would embolden extremists and destabilize moderate governments in the Arab world. "Millions of Iraqis see the United States as their only hope." Besides, "US conduct in Iraq is crucial test of American credibility."
Marc Schulman reviews this op-ed in his blog AMERICAN FUTURE
and adds:
Our defeat in Vietnam and the subsequent isolationist sentiment made it easier for the Soviets to decide to take the risk [to invade Afghanistan]. Without engaging in historical determinism, it’s fair to say that the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan set in motion a chain of events that culminated in 9/11. In the minds of bin Laden and his compatriots, the jihadists had defeated one of the world’s two superpowers and were responsible for its collapse. (...)
Bush has been roundly and soundly criticized for ignoring and misjudging the consequences of invading Iraq. That being the case, isn’t it equally important to assess — not sweep under the rug — the consequences of defeat in Iraq?
PERSONAL COMMENT: The real question is: Can the US still win in Iraq? In other words: Can the US avoid all the above mentioned negative consequences, if the US stays in Iraq with current number of US troops for three or five more years?

Those in favor of immediate withdrawal do not like a defeat either, but they think that the US cannot win in Iraq, i.e. the US can only decide between a defeat/withdrawal now or defeat/withdrawal in two, three, or five years. So do you want the above mentioned negative consequences now or in two, three, or five years?
Perhaps those in favor of staying in Iraq could explain how many more years they want to give this Iraq project and what number of coalition forces casualties is acceptable to them.

It is very much in Europe's interest that the US succeeds in Iraq, because Europe would suffer from a further destabilization of the region. Thus, it is in my interest to call upon the United States to stay at least ten more years in Iraq. If the US succeeds, that is great for Europe. If the US fails and all hell breaks lose after the US withdrawal in ten years, then we Europeans at least got ten more years. Thus I should be against a US withdrawal.
I am, however, not very optimistic that the US will succeed within ten years. I tend to believe that the US cannot fix Iraq. Thus, I am wondering if it can still be justified to send young American and British men and women into this war, if I tend to think that the US will lose. As a German, who benefited so much from the US military, I do not have the right to call upon the Americans to risk their lives in an unwinnable war.
This line of thought might also be one of the reasons, why German politicans do not say whether the US should stay or withdraw from Iraq.
What do you think?


According to Think Progress, General Petraeus claimed in June 2007 that the U.S. is being perceived as "liberators" once again in Iraq, this time freeing Iraqis from the bloody civil war instigated as a result of the U.S. occupation.

Talking to Iran about Iraq

James Dobbins, the Bush administration's first envoy for Afghanistan after Sept. 11., reflects on his experiences with Iranian officlas and gives advice on how to talk to Iran about Iraq. He argues in The Washington Post :
Yet Washington and Tehran still have largely coincident objectives in Iraq, as they did in Afghanistan almost six years ago. Neither wants Iraq to disintegrate. Both want the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to succeed. Indeed, Iran may be the only one of Iraq's neighbors to share that interest with the United States.
Related posts in the Atlantic Review:
Afghan Defense Minister Disputes Evidence That Iran Is Arming The Taliban
Bombing Iran or Ignoring Ahmadinejad? (Long discussion with 40+ comments)
Political Science Theories on the Likelihood of War between the US and Iran

Those Lazy Europeans

Comparing vacation days in the US and Europe, Reuters writes "Europe heads to beach, Americans head to work:"
Finland, followed by France, offers working people the most statutory vacation, at more than six weeks per year, the report, an international snapshot of how much paid leave people get by law and in practice in 21 countries, says. The United States is the only country where employees have no statutory leave, and they get about half as much time off in reality as Europeans get, according to the report, compiled by the Washington-based Centre for Economic Policy Research. 'The United States is in a class of its own,' the report says. 'It is the no-vacation nation.'
Liz Ryan writes in Business Week about the vacation customs in France and wrongly assumes that all of Europe is like France:
The Europeans Do It Right: I applaud a whole continent shutting down for a month. The only way we can really shut down and enjoy time off is with our colleagues' help.
All of Europe shutting down for a month? How silly is that? Why do quite a few Americans consider "Europe" synonymous with "France"?
Related: Longer vacations => more happiness?

Transatlantic Ranking: Happiness

Americans are much happier than Germans and French, but less happy than Danes and Swedes, writes Robert J. Samuelson in the Washington Post:
The America of 2007 is far richer than the America of 1977. Life expectancy is 78 years, up from 74 years. Our homes are bigger and crammed with more paraphernalia (microwave ovens, personal computers, flat-panel TVs). But happiness is stuck.
In 1977, 35.7 percent of Americans rated themselves "very happy," 53.2 percent "pretty happy" and 11 percent "not too happy," reports the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago. In 2006, the figures are similar: 32.4 percent "very happy," 55.9 percent "pretty happy" and 11.7 percent "not too happy." Likewise, in most advanced countries, self-reported happiness has been flat for decades.
In international comparisons, the United States ranks lower in happiness than some smaller nations (Denmark, Ireland, Sweden) but much higher than many large countries with paternalistic welfare states (France, Germany, Italy). Governments can provide health care. But they cannot outlaw despair or mandate euphoria.
The Guardian:
Iceland is the leader in a league table judging the European country best able to give citizens a long and happy life. Estonia comes bottom of the 30-nation survey while the UK lurks below Romania, at number 21 in the chart.
The European Happy Planet Index used carbon efficiency, life satisfaction and life expectancy to rate the countries. The survey, published by the New Economics Foundation and Friends of the Earth, reveals that Europe is now worse at creating well-being than it was 40 years ago.

A recent survey showed that vacation is a major factor for happiness in Germany, but apparently that does not make Germans happier than Americans. Or: Germans just don't want to admit how happy they are. Displaying happiness seems to be not all that popular in this country (Germany), while it is sort of mandatory to pursue happiness in the US. And you are a loser, if you are not happy...? That's probably an unfair, stereotypical assessment. What do you think, dear readers?