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NATO: Georgia Referendum and Giuliani Seeks Expansion

DefenseNews reports that a scheduled January 5 referendum in Georgia on the issue of snap parliamentary elections will also include the question, "Do you support Georgia's entry into NATO?"  Georgia is currently working to fulfill an Individual Partnership Action Plan under NATO tutelage.

If Georgia chooses to continue the slog toward full NATO membership, success will require convincing the current NATO clique that Georgia can be, on net, a security contributor rather than a security consumer (see NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer's speech on Georgian membership). 

This referendum brings to mind two important questions: should NATO expand, and if so, which countries should it invite? 

US Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani believes "NATO should be open to expanding its membership" to include Australia, South Korea, Israel, India, Japan and Singapore.  Mr. Giuliani argues that NATO should be more than a military alliance, but a "global security alliance."

"Al Qaeda is better at communicating its message on the Internet than America"

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates calls for the US government to commit more money and effort to "soft power" tools, including communications, because the military alone cannot defend America's interests around the world. The NY Times quotes Gates as saying:

"We are miserable at communicating to the rest of the world what we are about as a society and a culture, about freedom and democracy, about our policies and our goals," he said. "It is just plain embarrassing that Al Qaeda is better at communicating its message on the Internet than America."

Fred Kaplan asked his readers for ideas on how to improve America's image in the world. He received 120 responses, "nearly all of them from foreigners or from Americans living abroad." Kaplan summarizes them in an interesting article in Slate Magazine:

A few common themes emerge from these suggestions: Government-sponsored PR has its limits, mainly because people see it for what it is; the important thing is to change policy, and part of that involves aligning America's approach to the world with the most attractive aspects of our culture (in the broadest sense of that word). One of those aspects is what the Bush administration constantly boasts about -- our openness and our freedom. But those boasts ring hollow when the rest of the world sees us as closed down and locked shut. The first step, then, is to reopen the doors to the world.

Kaplan describes several suggestions from readers. Very popular are calls for expansion in the Peace Corps, in Fulbright fellowships, and, in student-exchange programs.

One readers also pointed out that "globalization has stripped pop culture of nationality." Beyoncé, for instance, is very popular among young people, but they don't associate her with America." I found that interesting.

I wonder how much of the US image problem is bad policy and cannot be fixed with better public diplomacy. And how much could be fixed with better communication?

As a Fulbrighter, I instantly agree with Kaplan's readers about the importance of personal exchanges. This is not controversial. Let's focus on the internet instead. Secretary Gates said that Al Qaeda is more successful on the internet than the United States. Does that mean beheading videos are more popular with the target audience than Chocolate Rain and Evolution of Dance?  Or are the West's internet videos the problem? Perhaps it's all Germany's fault: Do Heidi Klum videos cause terrorism?

I wish the hugely popular Where the Hell is Matt? video would improve the image of the American tourist.

US bloggers are more authentic than PR firms. They could counter Al Qaeada's internet propaganda. Why have blogs so far failed to change the minds of Al Qaeda sympathizers? What could bloggers do better? In addition to writing in Arabic. And what could the Atlantic Review do? Any ideas on how to reach out and win hearts and minds?

Decline of the Dollar: Europeans Go Shopping, and Americans Should not Worry

The Boston Globe writes about an Irish woman travelling to the US for "an extended weekend of binge shopping" and claims: "With dollar low, US is one big outlet: Europeans arriving in droves for bargains"

Meanwhile, Bloomberg's John M. Berry tries reassue his readers in the Seattle Times article "Dollar down, euro up, so what?" He argues that the "U.S. dollar is still at the center of the world's financial system, and its importance isn't fading in the face of exaggerated claims to the contrary." (Via EU Digest)

Lawrence Summers, however, says "Wake up to the dangers of a deepening crisis." Bill Clinton's last secretary of the treasury writes in The Financial Times.

Morever, The Telegraph reports: "China has surged ahead of Germany for the first time to become the world's top exporter, prompting ever louder demands from the United States and Europe to revalue the yuan."

The Return of Fear

This is a guest blog post by Don, who lives and works in England:

I am an expat American who has been a staunch advocate of free-market capitalism for many years, and still mostly believe that. In recent years I have come to believe that the pressures of globalisation have opened certain fissures in the free-market model and have come to better appreciate certain aspects of the welfare state.

I have come to see definate advantages to certain aspects of the welfare state over the past few years as I've come to know the National Health Service (NHS) better and have observed the problems that Americans have with the health care insurance system in the US while being thankful that I don't have to deal with it personally. British historian Tony Judt wrote an essay masquerading as a book review in the New York Review of Books which contains some interesting analysis. It is a review of Robert Reich's recent book: "Supercapitalism: The Transformation of Business, Democracy, and Everyday Life" (Amazon.com, Amazon.de).

Judt first takes Reich to task for penning a trenchant critique of the current state of the world but wimping out in the end by refusing to identify the villains of the story, but his most interesting point comes late in the book review when Judt writes about the return of fear to the citizenry of Western countries:

Thanks in large measure to the state-provided public services and safety nets incorporated into their postwar systems of governance, the citizens of the advanced countries lost the gnawing sense of insecurity and fear that had dominated and polarized political life from 1914 through the early Fifties and which was largely responsible for the appeal of both fascism and communism in those years.

But we have good reason to believe that this may be about to change. Fear is reemerging as an active ingredient of political life in Western democracies. Fear of terrorism, of course; but also, and perhaps more insidiously, fear of the uncontrollable speed of change, fear of the loss of employment, fear of losing ground to others in an increasingly unequal distribution of resources, fear of losing control of the circumstances and routines of one's daily life. And, perhaps above all, fear that it is not just we who can no longer shape our lives but that those in authority have lost control as well, to forces beyond their reach.

I agree. In the case of the US I might add the fear of being overwhelmed by illegal immigrants and the fear of losing one's property due to catastrophic health problems. I think this deserves some discussion.

Related post in the Atlantic Review: Using the United States to Scare Germans

Inconsistent Statements on the Primary Aim of European Missile Defense

Defense News quotes Rich Lehner, a spokesman for the US Missile Defense Agency: "deployment of interceptor missiles in Poland and a radar in the Czech Republic is designed specifically to defend most of Europe."

According to Defense News, Lehner's statements appear to contradict the understanding of US policymakers, including Representative Ellen Tauscher (D-CA), chairman of the House Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee:

Tauscher... told a gathering of defense reporters on Nov. 8 that 10 missile interceptors planned for Poland and a radar unit for the Czech Republic are "to protect the United States against a long-range system that will emerge from Iran sometime between 2012 and 2015." When asked by a reporter, "So it's not really to protect Europe?" Tauscher replied, "No, and they now know that."

In response to another question, Tauscher said the European missile defense site "is meant to protect the United States. Now, can it protect Europe? Yes, but not southern Europe and only against long-range systems."

CQ Today reports: as was widely expected, the 2008 defense authorization bill (HR 1585) will block funding for construction of missile defense sites in Europe until agreements are signed with host-nations Poland and the Czech Republic.

"What I've insisted on is that we NATO-ize the system," Tauscher said, adding that the conference report contains a "trap door" that would allow the administration to come back to Congress for the money if and when host nation agreements are signed. "But I don't expect that to happen."

Ex-Chancellor Schmidt: Russia Is Less Dangerous Than United States

Helmut Schmidt Checkpoint Charly

"Helmut Schmidt, the former German chancellor who initiated the US arms buildup against the Soviet Union during his term in office, considers today's Russia to be less dangerous than the United States. This is as surprising as it is provocative," writes Gabor Steingart in Spiegel International and criticizes this analysis. Here is the quote from Schmidt:

Russia poses far less of a threat to world peace today than, for example, the United States. You can go ahead and print that.

Personal comments: I am surprised and disappointed that so many Social Democrats are not concerned about the developments in Russia. It's not just Schmidt, but also Germany's Foreign Minister Steinmeier. And ex-chancellor Schroeder, who is on Gazprom's payroll, criticized Merkel's Russia policy...

The picture shows from left to right Richard von Weizsäcker, Ronald Reagan and Helmut Schmidt on 11. June 1982 near Checkpoint Charlie.

Steyn: "World Should Give Thanks for America"

Hyperbole Alert! Mark Steyn writes in the OC Register:

On this Thanksgiving the rest of the world ought to give thanks to American national sovereignty, too. When something terrible and destructive happens a tsunami hits Indonesia, an earthquake devastates Pakistan the United States can project itself anywhere on the planet within hours and start saving lives, setting up hospitals and restoring the water supply.
Aside from Britain and France, the Europeans cannot project power in any meaningful way anywhere. When they sign on to an enterprise they claim to believe in shoring up Afghanistan's fledgling post-Taliban democracy most of them send token forces under constrained rules of engagement that prevent them doing anything more than manning the photocopier back at the base.
If America were to follow the Europeans and maintain only shriveled attenuated residual military capacity, the world would very quickly be nastier and bloodier, and far more unstable. It's not just Americans and Iraqis and Afghans who owe a debt of thanks to the U.S. soldier but all the Europeans grown plump and prosperous in a globalized economy guaranteed by the most benign hegemon in history.

Well, some European relief agencies are pretty fast as well: German relief experts at work in New Orleans. Still, I agree that the US military is the fastest and biggest provider of emergency help around the world. And Berliners continue to be grateful for the Airlift: During the 15 months long blockade of West Berlin in 1948-49, the US Air Force delivered everything the West-Berliners needed to survive (food, fuel, medicine, hope) in 190.000 flights.

I tend to agree with Steyn's comment on the European "token forces," but I doubt that "the world would very quickly be nastier and bloodier, and far more unstable," if the US reduced its defense spending. He is exaggerating the influence the United States currently has.

Anyway, Germans continue to have many reasons to be thankful for everything Americans have done for us. And I am thankful for many things, including the constantly growing number of Atlantic Review readers, commenters and guest bloggers. Thank you, ladies and gentlemen! I wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving!

Germans probably are not very thankful for Defense Secretary Gates' decision to freeze plans for further reducing Army forces in Europe. It is my impression that Germans don't consider US bases in Germany as a requirement for national security. (German readers, what do think?) The local communities surrounding the bases, however, will probably be thrilled to be able to continue business with the US forces.

The New York Times reports that the US "will maintain about 40,000 soldiers in Germany and Italy, nearly twice as many as had been envisioned under a drawdown that began two years ago, according to senior Pentagon and military officials." This issue was discussed on Atlantic Review last week, when Gates has not yet made the decision: US Forces May Stay Longer in Europe.

Are Americans More Willing to Make Sacrifices Than Europeans?

According to Henry Kissinger, the real transatlantic difference is that "European governments are not able any more to ask their people for great sacrifices." That's why Europe readily opts for a "soft power" approach to so many foreign policy issues. This will, of necessity, make it harder for Europe to reach a consensus with the U.S.

Asked whether "an all-out effort to restore the Cold War-era level of trans-Atlantic comity within NATO, would be a good investment for the U.S.", Mr. Kissinger expressed skepticism regarding the prospects for success. Kissinger's views on diplomacy in the post 9/11 era are described in a Wall Street Journal article (HT: Joe) by David Rivkin, a lawyer based in Washington, who served in the Justice Department under Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

Are the differences between Americans and Europeans regarding sacrifice really that big? Germany is certainly a post-heroic society. The Bundeswehr Institute of Social Sciences has even a research procejt on "Armed forces in a post-heroic society." Though, isn't America quickly moving towards a post-heroic society as well? Compared to WWII or Vietnam the casualties in Iraq are pretty small, but the calls for withdrawal are already very loud.

Continue reading "Are Americans More Willing to Make Sacrifices Than Europeans?"