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Climate Sanctions Proposed Against the United States and the European Car Industry

Germany's Social Democrats are calling for sanctions on energy-intensive US export products if the Bush administration continues to obstruct international agreements on climate protection, writes The Boston Globe (HT: David).

Meanwhile, German car manufactures and many politicians are angry at EU plans to impose hefty financial penalties against companies, whose fleet of cars does not reduce carbon emissions enough. The idea is to slash auto emissions by 25%. The EU proposal came the same day the U.S. passed tighter fuel-efficiency standards for new cars and light trucks, which could affect a brewing national debate about emissions. The Wall Street Journal writes that in the case of Volkswagen, the penalties could total as much as Euro 1.4 billion (US-$ 2.02 billion), roughly half the company's 2006 net income.

Related post in the Atlantic Review: Germany's Dirty Cars

Afghanistan: Fighting is Not Most Important

Last week Kyle wrote in War for Dummies: Step 1, Fighting Is Necessary about Secretary Gates' frustration with some European allies, who are not committing combat troops to southern Afghanistan.

I understand and respect the criticism, but fighting is really just step 1 in Afghanistan. Some US commanders in Afghanistan have moved on to step 2 in the handbook, which says that fighting is a distraction.

Economist describes how the "mistakes of the past six years of fighting in Afghanistan" have changed the "mindset of American military commanders:"

They now regard kinetic actions (ie, fighting) as a distraction, a preliminary shaping operation at best. The decisive operation is non-kinetic, says Colonel Martin Schweitzer, commander of Task Force Fury, responsible for six south-eastern provinces. His focus is training Afghan forces, building roads, schools and clinics and, above all, getting the government to start addressing the needs of the people.

He has schooled himself in the ways of Pushtunwali, the Pushtun tribal code of honour, and has its main tenets on his wall. Next door to his office, a group of anthropologists and sociologists known as the human-terrain team provides him with valuable intelligence, not on the enemy but on the society in which they mingle. Colonel Schweitzer says what he needs is not more troops but more non-uniformed instruments of power: diplomatic, information and economic, especially agronomists and water engineers.

The Economist article is pretty good and notes US successes in Afghanistan, incl. reconstruction and reconciliation. The Atlantic Review already wrote about Colonel Schweitzer's collaboration with anthropologists in The Pentagon's Embedded Scholars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Related posts: Germans to the Front! and A Shared Mission in Afghanistan?

Sarkozy Makes Premature, Unnecessary, Familiar Statement on Kosovo

Nicholas Sarkozy stated last weekend that the issue of Kosovo's independence, "is not an affair of Mr. Bush or Mr. Putin, but one of Europe." (Le Figaro, in French). Another article by John Ward Anderson in the Washington Post reports:

"Kosovo's independence is inevitable," French President Nicolas Sarkozy told reporters after the summit. "It's an issue for Europe to sort out."

Does Sarkozy mean to say that despite a recent history thick with US political and military engagement in the Balkans, Kosovo is now strictly a European issue? Has Sarkozy forgotten so quickly that the United States bailed out Europe in the Balkans even after the 1991 declaration by Luxembourg's foreign minister Jacques Poos that "This is the hour of Europe?"

Joerg recently cited the Jacques Poos quote in an Atlantic Review post he titled "Kosovo: Is the EU Home Alone in the Balkans?" Perhaps another question is, "Kosovo: Whose House is it?"

What is the benefit for Sarkozy or the EU of preemptively decrying American support, especially when the US and EU strategy for Kosovo seem to be in sync? Why not declare this the "hour of the allies" or the "the hour of cooperation", or perhaps be more candid: "this is the hour we will hopefully not f*** up again in the Balkans, but if we do we are glad to have our American friends to back us up?"

Sarkozy's statement is particularly frustrating to America's proponents of transatlantic cooperation, because it is exactly the type of churlish bombast that leads American Europhobes to argue that the pubescent EU Common Foreign and Security Policy aims to build the EU as a counterweight to the United States, rather than as a stronger ally.

Arrogant Germans See Their Country as a World Power

When Bavarian born Cardinal Ratzinger was elected as Pope, a major German tabloid declared: "We are Pope." Germany is also "Export World Champion" and damn proud of that title as long as we have it; China is likely to defeat Germany in 2008. And we are also Soccer World Champion of the Hearts, just like Lady Di was Queen of the Hearts.

Against this backdrop it might not be so surprising that nearly half of Germans see their country as a world power. The just released international Bertelsmann survey (PDF, in German, HT: Jan) indicates that Germans' views of themselves as a world power increased from the 2005 study by 8 percent to 49 percent in 2007.

Personal comment: Megalomania seems to be on the rise. After all, Germany's foreign policy commitments have not increased in the last two years to justify this change of perception. I am not very appreciative of Germany's participation in the Lebanon and Congo mission.

The survey indicates that Germans, more than other nations, do not see military strength as an important quality of a world power, but rather "political stability and economic strength." Surprisingly many respondents from other countries (30%) believe that Germany plays a leading role on the world stage. Thus, it is not just Germans, who overestimate the federal republic's foreign policy influence.

Besides, the United States' role as a global power is diminishing according to respondents from around the world. Spiegel International reports:

To complete the study, released on Wednesday and entitled "Who Rules the World?", Bertelsmann commissioned pollsters Gallup International and TNS-EMNID to survey 9,000 respondents in the United States, Russia, Brazil, China, India, Japan, Germany, France and Britain. According to the survey, Germans believe there will be a shift in the global constellation of power that will be to the advantage of China, India and Brazil and to the disadvantage of the US. It's an assessment that, the survey showed, is shared around the world.

In the view of respondents, the US will be the future's major "loser," according to the study. Today, the US, with an 81 percent ranking, still stands far ahead of China with its 50 percent ranking in the list of global powers. But respondents said America's standing as a world power would fall to 61 percent by 2020. During that time, China is expected to rise to 57 percent, just a few points below the US's ranking. (...)

Forty-six percent of Germans responded that their country would play a leading role in the world. Apparently the only other country that takes Germany as seriously as it takes itself in its global role is Britain -- a position that owes itself to history and Chancellor Angela Merkel's recent performance as the European Union's rotating president and chair of the G8. Worldwide, though, only 30 percent of respondents considered Germany to play a leading role in international politics. When asked if they think Germany will play a leading role in 2020, that figure dropped to 25 percent.

Commentary at Observing Hermann.

The Euro-American Religious Divide

Many Americans have criticized German politicians for using Anti-Americanism in their election campaigns. Now it seems that at least one US presidential candidate wants to try out Euro-Bashing. Roger Cohen writes in the International Herald Tribune:

Romney, a Republican candidate for the presidency and former Massachusetts governor, was dismissive of European societies "too busy or too 'enlightened' to venture inside and kneel in prayer." In so doing, he pointed to what has become the principal trans-Atlantic cultural divide. Europeans still take their Enlightenment seriously enough not to put it in quote marks. They have long found one of its most inspiring reflections in the first 16 words of the American Bill of Rights of 1791: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.

War for Dummies: Step 1, Fighting Is Necessary

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates expressed frustration with America's European allies, as reported in the Washington Post article, "Pentagon Critical of NATO Allies":

"I am not ready to let NATO off the hook in Afghanistan at this point," Gates told the House Armed Services Committee. Ticking off a list of vital requirements -- about 3,500 more military trainers, 20 helicopters and three infantry battalions -- Gates voiced "frustration" at "our allies not being able to step up to the plate."

In the speech, Gates commends those allies who have largely fulfilled their commitments in the war, specifically Australia, Britain, and Canada. The new Defense Minister of Australia, which is not a NATO member-state but nonetheless a significant contributor to the ISAF mission, echoes Gates' frustration about the Europeans (ABC News):

Australia's new Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon will deliver a blunt message to NATO countries meeting in Scotland on Friday, telling them that there will be no more Australian troops sent to Afghanistan until European countries increase their commitment.

Also, Spiegel Online published a great interview with German Major General Bruno Kasdorf, the highest-ranking German officer at ISAF headquarters in Kabul. This passage caught my eye:

Spiegel Online: From the outside, it often looks as if the aggressive waging of this war is further enflaming the insurgency.
Kasdorf: I repeat: Pulling out of OEF [Operation Enduring Freedom, the US-led military operation in Afghanistan] would not be helpful. It bothers the Americans when Europeans accuse them of waging the war in a brutal fashion. If there were no OEF, the insurgency would gain strength in the country and they would consider themselves unopposed here, which could also threaten ISAF's success. Here at ISAF we don't have the forces to go after the extremists alone.

German anathema of the use of force to deal with the Taliban and al Qaeda reminds me of a guest lecturer I had back in college. He was a pacifist professor who said that if he met bin Ladin, he would give him a hug. The entire class laughed when he said this, because the professor just did not seem to understand: there are some problems you cannot solve with hugs alone.

The best strategy to bring stability to Afghanistan is not black or white; it is not a choice between American bullets or German hugs. The two go hand-in-hand, and trying to frame one as necessary while the other as not is no less naïve than defining countries as "with us or against us". The world is more complex than these basic dichotomies allow.

What frustrates Americans is not only that Germany (and other Europeans) want to cherry-pick the popular and less-dangerous reconstruction projects (though that plays a major role in American and Australian frustration) - but also that these same allies give the impression they are on a higher moral ground than those who are taking on the most dangerous, and equally necessary, combat missions.

Kids Dig DAF

Check out Ben Perry's video of two twins dancing to the sound of D.A.F., an influential German electropunk band formed in 1978. The name stands for "Deutsch-Amerikanische Freundschaft" or "German-American Friendship."

Which of the two small children is supposed to represent America? And which one is dancing like a German? The twins are are tied up and tied together to symbolize transatlantic interdependence, I guess.The video appears to be some highly sophisticated metaphor or a very post-postmodern take on transatlantic relations. I am not sure, what the message is exactly, but I will ask Ben, who I will meet tomorrow.

US Foreign Policy: "It's All Power, No Influence"

While many Americans criticize Germany and other European countries for not spending enough on defense, there seem to be more and more Americans, who criticize the huge US defense budget, which is not only much much bigger than the combined budgets of half a dozen US enemies and allies, but also huge compared to other foreign policy instruments.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates for instance calls for more money and effort to "soft power" tools, including communications, because the military alone cannot defend America's interests around the world. (See Atlantic Review post "Al Qaeda is better at communicating its message on the Internet than America").

Today, James Carroll refers to Gates speech and writes in The Boston Globe (HT: David): "For US foreign policy, it's all power, no influence":

A MAN bit a dog last week. Not just any man, and not just any dog. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates decried the vast disproportion between America's annual investment in the Pentagon - something like $700 billion - and what is spent on the State Department - about $35 billion. That's less, Gates said in a speech in Kansas, than the Defense Department spends on healthcare. The total number of foreign service officers is about 6,600 - which is less, Gates said, than the number of military personnel serving on one aircraft carrier strike group.

And a for me even more shocking comparison was quoted in FP Passport: "There are substantially more people employed as musicians in Defense bands than in the entire foreign service," says David J. Kilcullen, a senior advisor to Gen. David Petraeus in Iraq.

I know, why Germany spends comparatively little on defense: a) A long history of starting the wrong wars, b) domestic priorities (unemployment, ageing society etc), c) less fear of terrorism than in the US, and d) belief in soft power, especially in the stabilization effects of an ever expanding EU.

But why is the US spending comparatively little on regular foreign policy, including public diplomacy? Why is the Pentagon budget and staff sooo much bigger than the State Department budget and staff? Why is hard power considered soo important?

Which country's policy is more short-sighted and could prove to be more of a problem in the coming years? Germany's or America's?