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Conscience Rather Than Profits

Dialog International presents an example of civil courage "that we can all applaud. Johannes Lohmeyer, manager of the Holiday Inn in Dresden (Germany) wrote a letter to the leaders of the neo-Nazi NPD."

The manager conveys his astonishment that the NPD politicians would choose to book rooms at an American hotel. Then he tells them that they are not welcome on his premises. Hat tip to Bernd for pointing it out and to David for the translation on Dialog International.

Speaking of profits: You can support the Atlantic Review by starting your Amazon shopping with click on the link on our website. See black button in the column on the right.

UPDATE: The banner in the top right corner on this website is not a paid advertisement, but a link to an interesting transatlantic project. Check it out.

"The Fantasy of a Pro-America Europe"

"Rumors of a return to trans-Atlantic harmony are premature for the moment," writes Niall Stanage in The New York Observer. He criticizes the wishful thinking by some arrogant US commentators. Instead of the term "arrogance," Stanage uses the euphemism "a robust sense of self-importance," which instantly became one of my favorite phrases:

The ascensions of Ms. Merkel and, particularly, Mr. Sarkozy have been heralded by American conservatives, who see their victories as evidence that anti-Americanism is neither as widespread nor as trenchant among Europeans as some have suggested. After all, they argue, didn't Mr. Sarkozy's detractors label him 'Sarko the American', and did he not win over French voters regardless?

Mr. Sarkozy's victory, Fred Thompson said in an ABC radio commentary, "has been a serious blow to those who claim that America has earned the undying hatred of Europeans. A French president who openly admires America is an embarrassment to those who view us as the country bumpkin cousins of the sophisticated Europeans." The New York Sun put things even more colorfully in an editorial: "How are all those Democratic Party, pinky-in-the-air U.N. admirers who wailed about Mr. Bush's alienating of Europe going to explain this turn of events?" it gloated.

It is not quite as simple as that. For a start, it takes a robust sense of self-importance to assume that national elections on the other side of the Atlantic are nothing more than referenda on relations with America. In fact, the French and German elections were largely decided by domestic issues. In both cases, a moribund economy and a general sense of dissatisfaction with the status quo fuelled the victories of candidates whose pro-free market reform credentials were more important than their pro-Americanism.
Stanage ends with quoting a poll: "Seventy-seven per cent of EU officials and 74 per cent of Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) answered 'yes' when asked whether it was desirable that the U.S. exert strong leadership in world affairs. But the survey indicated that only 36 per cent of the EU public agreed."

Top Democrat on Auschwitz, Guantanamo and Europe

Dutch lawmakers claim that Rep. Tom Lantos, D-Calif., chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told them that "Europe was not as outraged by Auschwitz as by Guantanamo Bay."

Michael van der Galiën from the Netherlands takes issue with that comparison as well as with Lantos' demand: "You have to help us, because if it was not for us you would now be a province of Nazi Germany." Michael writes in his Van Der Galiën Gazette:

This is a great example of just why America is so unpopular in European countries right now. Granted, there's a lot of irrational anti-Americanism as well, but these are the kind of comments by which American politicians anger just about every single Europe; whether they're pro- or anti-America. (...) As I wrote recently, the Democrats dont seem to be any better at diplomacy than the Republicans are. If this is the Democratic way of reaching out, well, Im afraid that the hand thats reaching out will be politely ignored by the world.

Personal comments: I am surprised that the Democrats have not chosen someone else as chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Tom Lantos is 79 years old. He has earned and deserves his retirement. (As usual, emphasis in bold added by me.)

I did agree with Lantos here: Rep Lantos Calls Ex-Chancellor Schroeder a Political Prostitute

"Sarkozy the American"

An increasing number of US journalists is getting more critical of Chancellor Merkel after nearly two years of love and admiration. Their favorite European statesman is now President Sarkozy of France. I wonder how long this honeymoon will last. How long it will take them to realize that they have put too much hope and expectation into him (as they did with Merkel)?

SuperFrenchie presents a 60 minutes interview with Sarkozy: "Sarko l'Américain" ('Sarko the American'). SuperFrenchie describes the US media as "clueless," but also points out that many CBS viewers did not like the interview either. Interesting to see Sarko's hot temper in the video. Mbast made an interesting comment.

"German Foreign Policy Needs to Grow Up"

Last weekend's post on Chancellor Merkel's Lack of Leadership on Afghanistan mentioned an op-ed by Jan Techau (German Council on Foreign Affairs) about Germany's domestic foreign policy discourse. The op-ed is now translated into English at Atlantic Community and concludes with a call for a change of mentality:

The small group of politicians, journalists and academics who deal objectively with questions of international relations have no illusions about the drastically changing world we live in. But a large proportion of the public debate, which includes most journalistic, political, and intellectual circles, willfully denies the rapidly increasing price we pay for our freedom, security and prosperity. They cannot or do not want to know about the degree of unrest, the level of threat, or the extent of insecurity that we face today. This ignorance could itself become dangerous -- in the long run, no democratic government can govern against strong public opinion.

What we need, therefore, is the hardest thing to achieve: a change of mentality. Germany must grow up -- it needs to show its face and perceive the world as it is, trust itself, and employ realism in its thoughts and optimism in its actions.

The U.S. Media's Admiration of Chancellor Merkel is Suddenly Over

merkel_newsweek.jpgAfter her election as chancellor of Germany in November 2005, Angela Merkel received a lot of positive press coverage in the US. Her predecessor Gerhard Schroeder was blamed for the bitter transatlantic disagreements over the Iraq war.

Merkel was supposed to be a pro-American and a strong reformer, who heals German-American relations and makes Germany more supportive of US policies around the world.

I expected some honeymoon for Chancellor Merkel, but was very surprised how long it lasted and how strong the admiration of Merkel was in the US mainstream media and on blogs. Three examples from December 2006/January 2007:

(1) David Rothkopf praised her in Foreign Policy Passport:

The most powerful female political figure in Europe since Queen Victoria has turned the methodical scientific training from her upbringing in Communist East Germany into a formula for gaining admirers worldwide.

I was pointing out back then on Atlantic Review that Foreign Policy Passport might have forgotten about Margaret Thatcher. I was wondering how long this admiration for Mrs. Merkel would last: "When will they realize that Chancellor Merkel is not all that powerful? Unlike Baroness Thatcher, Merkel is in a coalition government. Besides, power depends on having international partners, but Blair, Chirac, and even Bush look more and more like lame ducks."

(2) The New Republic Online for instance featured the article "Angela Merkel, Superstar" by Clay Risen. Continue reading "The U.S. Media's Admiration of Chancellor Merkel is Suddenly Over"

Germans to the Front!

WehrmachtWhile Germany is still pretty busy with Vergangenheitsbewältigung, Roger Cohen misses the Wehrmacht.

The NYT columnist, who was Berlin bureau chief from 1998 to 2001 and is currently in Afghanistan, thinks it is "Time for the Bundesmacht" (HT: David and Don):

Remember the Wehrmacht? It was a formidable fighting force. The modern German army, the Bundeswehr, is also very effective. Thing is, it is reluctant to fight or even place itself in danger.
Well, reluctance to fight is good. It prevents us from getting into quagmires and causing huge death tolls. Though, this German reluctance is causing a lack of solidarity with NATO allies.
NATO is at war here. That, however, is a fact Europeans are reluctant to accept, just as the link between slaughter in Madrid, London or Amsterdam and the Afghan-Pakistani terror nexus seems unconvincing to many Europeans floating on an Iraq-comforted wave of moral smugness.

Three points on the above quote:
(1) What terrorist attack took place in Amstersdam?
(2) Yes, I am skeptical about a link between Afghanistan and terrorism in Europe. A NATO success in Afghanistan will not reduce the terrorist threat in Europe significantly. Europeans worry about home-grown terrorism and about Pakistan, where Al Qaeda leaders have found a safe haven, which IMHO calls into question the Afghanistan mission. Sure, Cohen mentions Pakistan as well in the above quote, but he is calling for German troops to fight the Taliban in Afghanistan, not Al Qaeda in Pakistan. Now, that would be something! He could join Barack Obama in getting serious on Pakistan...
(3) "Iraq-comforted wave of moral smugness" is a cool phrase, but I think many Americans tend to exaggerate the spread of this sentiment, while I might underestimate the smugness of my fellow citizens. Everybody is biased...

Cohen's op-ed has another cool phrase, which is from Julian Lindley-French, a military expert at the Netherlands Defense Academy:

A lot of the German troops are little more than heavily armed traffic cops.

So the Bundeswehr is not as effective as Cohen claimed in the beginning of his op-ed? Hm...  Cohen received 114 comments and counting on his blog regarding this op-ed. Wow.

The Germans: Pacifists or Free-Riders? Or Both?

Have American denazification and reeducation efforts turned Germans into true pacifists? Or are Germans just using their past as an excuse for lack of burden sharing? John Vinocur seems to support the latter thesis. He had thought that Merkel has put an end to it:
A few people, me included, read into this step Merkel's desire to put an end to using Germany's awful World War II history as a false moral refuge from taking sides and putting troops and convictions on the line in the new century.
Vinocur is, however, somewhat disappointed by Merkel and calls her "Ms. Soft Power" in his International Herald Tribune article from September (HT: Don).