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"The Strongest Trans-Atlantic Relations..."

Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee accused the Bush administration of having an "arrogant bunker mentality" on foreign policy. Secretary Rice responded:

We have right now probably the strongest trans-Atlantic relations ... I would say in a very long time. (...) We're working with allies in Europe, Russia and China on Iran. The (NATO) alliance is mobilized together in Afghanistan.

Phillip Carter over at Intel Dump believes "Condi succumbs to the Kool-Aid:"

Strongest trans-Atlantic relations in a "very long time"? Are you serious? I mean, maybe I'm nostalgic for the good old days of the Marshall Plan and the Berlin Airlift, or even the good old days of the 1980s when NATO stood against the Soviet threat. I wouldn't say our relations with Europe and the world are all that stellar right now. But maybe I'm wrong. Maybe there's some super secret diplomacy going on, and the Germans and French are really our best friends right now. Maybe underneath all that anti-American sentiment and rhetoric on the streets of Europe, they still do think we're that bright shining city on a hill.

I basically agree, except for the last sentence, which is far too black and white, even for provocative closing words. It sounds too much like: You either love us or if you don't, you apparently must hate us. (Related post in the Atlantic Review: The Anti-Americans and the Manichaean Narcissists.)

IMHO Anti-American sentiment on the street should not be used as the main indicator of how good or bad transatlantic relations are. BBQs between our heads of government should not be used as the main indicator either. Instead, all that counts is how well we cooperate regarding Afghanistan, climate change, Middle East, trade, counter-terrorism, Kosovo etc. And here, I believe, cooperation is not as strong as it could and should be.

But, let's face it: Have Europe and the US ever cooperated that much on such a wide range of global issues? During the Cold War transatlantic cooperation was limited to a few policy areas. European and American leaders did not bother themselves with doing something about climate change. NATO did not send 20,000 troops to some far away country.

Today's transatlantic agenda is longer than it ever was before. Perhaps that is what Secretary Rice was referring to. Therefore it is okay, that we do not agree on everything.

G8 Finances 70 Projects to Improve Afghan-Pakistan Cooperation

Closer cooperation between Pakistan and Afghanistan is a key factor in enhancing stability in Afghanistan. Therefore the G8 are launching "a coordinated package of measures ranging from assistance for refugees and returnees to strengthening parliamentary contacts. Since a particular focus of the package is support for local security services and border protection, much of the funding is to be spent in the Afghan-Pakistan border area." The press release from Germany's Federal Foreign Office does not have much more information unfortunately.

The G8 plan is called "ambitious," but I wonder how serious the plan is since the press release states that Germany will only make 9 million euro available for 2008. Or perhaps it's more important how the money is spent rather than how much is spent; see Kyle's post about criticism from Congress regarding aid to Pakistan or the essay from spring 2007 "When $10 Billion Is Not Enough: Rethinking U.S. Strategy toward Pakistan" by Craig Cohen and Derek Chollet in The Washington Quarterly (pdf). Still, I believe 9 million euro does not go very far, even if the other G8 countries pitch in as well.

And with this, Germany's G8 Presidency ends. Japan will take over in 2008. Germany was not very successful, I believe. See the following Atlantic Review post: Who's Right on the G8-Summit: Bloggers or Academics and Politicians? 

Related post on Afghanistan: Fixing the Afghanistan mission: The U.S. wants to try, but what about Europe?

Europe has no Pakistan Policy, US has a Bad One

Former German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer writes in the Turkish paper Today’s Zaman:
“US policy toward Pakistan is also dangerously shortsighted and reminiscent of the mistakes the US made in Iran prior to the 1979 Islamic revolution. Nevertheless, the US at least has a Pakistan policy -- which is more than can be said about NATO and Europe. In fact, it is all but incomprehensible that while the future of NATO is being decided in the Hindu Kush Mountains, and while thousands of European soldiers stationed there are risking their lives, Pakistan is not given any role in NATO’s plans and calculations.”
How successful has US policy been?  President Musharraf’s decision to implement martial law--despite US pleas for him not to--has deeply frustrated US policymakers, and set the impetus for the US to modify its Pakistan policy.  Part of this modification is to create a $750 million five-year civilian aid package, to be added to the more than $1 billion in military aid already given to Pakistan annually.  However, the New York Times reports concern in the US Congress about how effective the aid will be:
Weeks before it is to begin, an ambitious American aid plan to counter militancy in Pakistan’s tribal areas is threatened by important unresolved questions about who will monitor the money and whether it could fall into the wrong hands.”
I am not sure which is worse: having no Pakistan policy as Fischer contends is the case for Europe, or having a bad one?  I also wonder whether the new US aid package offers a real change in Pakistan policy at all: is adding more aid to an already bounteous supply going to increase US influence in Pakistan? 

I suppose the argument is that civilian aid will be different from military aid, because it will “win hearts and minds.”

This was exactly the case made by
US presidential candidate Senator Joe Biden (D-DE) in an article he wrote for The Huffington Post back in November.  He argued that military aid to Pakistan should be contingent on sound policy choices from Pakistan’s leadership, while civilian aid should be separate and unconditional so as to demonstrate to the people of Pakistan that the US supports them regardless of how reckless the leadership is. 

The Video and Food Round Up

GM's Corner presents Georg Friedrich Haendel's "Messiah - For unto Us a Child is born" composed in 1741 and performed by inmates of the Sugarland Prison in Texas today. Apparently it is also good work-out music ;-)

GM's Corner also promotes the Gratitude Campaign to thank US soldiers for their service. I noticed that the hand gesture to express gratitude is the same gesture that is common in the Middle East and Central Asia to express respect. Interesting how universal these signs are.

Jeff Weintraub recommends a hilarious video about American Jews celebrating Christmas with a meal composed of the North American Ashkenazi Diaspora's traditional cuisine, Chinese-American food:
Ever since Eastern European Jewish immigrants began arriving in large numbers about a century ago, they showed a special inclination to go to Chinese restaurants whenever they went out to eat non-Jewish food.

USA Erklaert, a German language blog explaining the USA to German readers, translated the perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies recipe into measurements used in Germany. And Unfrisiertes got the video and song for the recipe. Hm, yummy. The blog also explains that Americans don't wish each other "Good appetite" before starting a meal, while Germans can't do without these Tischmanieren. Well, I often heard the phrase "Dig in" in the US. And I loved it.

Observing Herman is the best headline writer in the universe: "American hassled and attacked at German McDonald's, US troops to now stay longer."

Contemplating Germany with Nukes

One of the questions Zenpundit Mark Safranski and his readers are thinking about in this holiday season is:

If the EU has genuinely changed the twenty century-long warlike character of Europeans to apathetic, bureaucratic, declinists why does the idea of Germany with nuclear weapons still give everyone pause ?

Is that really the case? How many folks are contemplating these days whether Germany would violate the non-proliferation treaty and waste billions of Euros to get nukes?

John Jay responds to the Zenpundit in the group blog Chicago Boyz. He says that he does not worry about Germany or Japan if they obtain nukes in the near term, but also states:

Certain cultures tend to fall prey to militaristic regimes. Germany, Russia and Japan are all such cultures - conformist, hierarchical, and clannish.

Sorry, I can't respond right now. Naughty Hitler [NSFW] just ordered me to get back to my clan to celebrate Christmas and plan the next world war.

Happy Holidays everyone!  Enjoy your Zen meditation about the future of the free world.  Get inspired by the Queen's Christmas Broadcast from 1957. (German politicians' Christmas messages do not change that much over the decades either.)  And if you want to get sentimental about war in "the good old days," then read about the 1914 and 1915 Christmas Truce.

Related posts in the Atlantic Review: WSJ: Russia and Jihadists Target America's "Giant Aircraft Carrier with Sausages", United States Apparently Removes Nuclear Weapons from German Base Ramstein, and A World Free of Nuclear Weapons?.

Tom Cruise Receives "Courage" Award in Germany

The Moderate Voice:

Does Tom Cruise deserve to be referred to as courageous for portraying Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg - a high-ranking Nazi who tried to assassinate Adolph Hitler? According to this tribute by the publisher of one of Germanys leading newspapers, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, With his decision to lend Graf von Stauffenberg a face, Tom Cruise will change the image that the world has of us Germans.

Full translation at World Meets Us. German original at FAZ. Related Atlantic Review post: Germany Loves Tom Cruise.

European Press Articles on the US and Transatlantic Relations

World Meets US translated the following French and German articles:

• Le Figaro: American NIE on Iran Nukes 'a Fake' Designed to 'Save Face: "This [NIE] is deliberate American disinformation. ... the publication of this NIE is a further example of the politicization and manipulation of American intelligence."

• Nederlands Dagblad: America Unfairly Blamed for Climate Obstructionism: "The proceedings at Bali were taken hostage by Europe's antagonism toward the U.S., enabling Al Gore to score in an open goal."

• Financial Times Deutschland: 2008 a High-Stakes U.S. Election Year for Europe: "A Democratic President or a woman President would be seen as a symbol of change. But if a Republican wins the U.S. election of 2008, the long-term Atlantic rift will be insurmountable... One must assume that when in doubt, Republicans will try anything to awaken resentment in the white men of the American republic - against the reign of a woman or the son of an African."

• The Times: 'Poodle' Blair takes role in White House video: "For a man derided by his critics as "Bush's poodle", it is perhaps brave of Tony Blair to appear in a White House video featuring the US President's pet dogs."

The Future of Transatlantic Relations

The election of new "pro-American" leaders in Europe will not lead to closer and better transatlantic cooperation. Shared values are not enough. Different interests (often based on geographic location) limit the future strength of transatlantic relations.

Nikolas K. Gvosdev, Editor of The National Interest, in an interview with the Atlantic Community (full disclosure: my day job):

Shared values are an insufficient basis for partnership without compelling shared interests. European states do not have a strong and enduring relationship with like-minded democracies in the Asia-Pacific region, such as Japan or Australia, in the same way that they do with the United States, because Australia and Germany do not have overriding common economic or security interests. Moreover, even when Americans and Europeans agree on the issues, it does not mean that everyone reaches the same conclusions as to what policy is most effective. Other factors beyond shared values, including geographic proximity, can change a country's assessment. Germanys decision to continue to engage Russia and deepen economic ties, or Frances outreach to Libya including new weapons sales fly in the face of American preferences for using isolation and pressure as the main tools to try and effect change. But then again, the United States does not share a neighborhood with these states.

Richard Haass, President of the Council on Foreign Relations, argues in the Financial Times (subscribers only) that "transatlantic cooperation will be less predictable and more selective:"

Alliances require predictability: of threat, outlook and obligations. But it is precisely this characteristic that is likely to be in short supply in a world defined by shifting threats, differing perceptions and societies with widely divergent readiness to maintain and use military force. The 21st-century world is far more dynamic and fluid than the relatively stable and predictable period of the cold war.
This is in no way meant to defend or advocate unilateralism. But it is a recognition that many in Europe disagree with some US objectives, with how the US goes about realising them, or both. As a result, the US often will be unable to count on the support of its traditional allies.
Also weakening Europe's centrality to US foreign policy is that its capacity for global intervention is diminishing, especially in the military field.

Robert Kagan, however, is more optimistic about transatlantic cooperation, or more specifically: cooperation between democracies. He sees a tendency towards solidarity among the world's autocracies as well as among the world's democracies. Summary of his arguments is available at "The World Divided Between Autocracy and Democracy" on Atlantic Community.