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Polish-American Relations Regarding Iraq, Iran, Russia and NATO

At my day job at Atlantic Community, we have published quite a few interesting articles on US-Polish issues. Polish perspectives are under-reported in the German and American mass media, but they are important because Poland is one of Europe's bigger countries, is considered very Pro-American and was seen as the primary "New Europe" country, a term that is less frequently used these days, but is still controversial.

Marek Swierczynski, a journalist at the Polish TV channel TVP, reflects on the fifth anniversary of the Iraq war:

Poland's decision to join the "coalition of the willing" has left the military stretched beyond capacity, the society in serious mistrust of their leaders and perception of a joint effort for a good cause seriously damaged. It took 25 lives 5 years and 3 governments to rethink and withdraw.

Ryan R. Miller of the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA) in Washington, DC. writes about Poland's Iran Option:

Possible Polish-Iranian energy cooperation puts U.S. policy makers between a rock and a hard place, as America finds itself committed both to isolating the Islamic Republic and supporting Polish efforts to outflank Russia's Gazprom.

Wess Mitchell, who is the Director of Research at CEPA, outlines recent developments between the United States and Poland regarding the US missile defense program. He concludes that relations between Poland and Russia are likely to deteriorate and Tusk may have compromised himself by acting so decisively this early in his term: Missile Defense: Poland Has Less Room to Maneuver.

Anna Nadgrodkiewicz sums up contentious issues in Polish-American relations: Polish troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, the necessity of easing visa requirements, and the proposed missile defense shield. See her article Managing Image and Expectations.

Marek Swierczynski  sees NATO at a Crossroad in a second article:

Just before the NATO summit in Bucharest, the differences on what and how the Alliance should do in the future seem all but rising on both sides of the Atlantic. The Warsaw conference on NATO's Transformation made fundamental divides clearly visible. (...) The new NATO members seem to live in a Neverland. Professor Kuzniar assessed that the Alliance is the only force of global reach and capabilities. Wrong. There is no such thing as NATO global capability. There is the US global capability and to be more precise it is one of the US Navy.

100 Million US-Americans Don't Vote

While the American primaries make the headlines on a daily basis even in our Swiss newspapers, more than a hundred million Americans usually don't vote, which means about 40% of eligible voters forego their right to elect who's to become (arguably) the most powerful political leader in the world. Find an interesting "mini-movie" about these missing voters here.

This is what the filmmakers write about themselves:

A year before the presidential elections of 2008 a crew of young European filmmakers goes on a journey all across the country in a little old motorhome to search for America’s missing voters. Who are they? Why don’t they vote? Can a young and fresh presidential candidate as Barack Obama make them vote? How would American politics change if more young people, single women, poor white people, African-Americans and Latino’s would start voting?

"You usually end up with [a] disproportionate number of minorities not voting and more young voters not voting," according to Project Vote, a  not-for profit organization that tries to get more people to vote. Also featured in the movie: Thomas E. Patterson, Harvard professor and author of the book The Vanishing Voter (Amazon.com; Amazon.de). His conclusion is very clear:

If you enlarge[d] the electorate in the US, you'd be pushing it to the left.

Historically, only 10-20 % of all eligible voters take part in the primaries that are occupying so much of our attention at the moment. Oh, and by the way, guess which country besides the US has a very low turn-out on election day? Correct: it's  Switzerland.

France is Best in Counterterrorism

French counterterrorism efforts have been praised by several analysts, but I am surprised to see that two scholars of the American Enterprise Institute argue that "France is the world's most sophisticated practitioner of counterterrorism. The U.S. can learn from her experience."

Reuel Marc Gerecht and Gary J. Schmitt write in The American:

Whereas September 11, 2001, was a shock to the American counterterrorist establishment, it wasn't a révolution des mentalités in Paris. Two waves of terrorist attacks, the first in the mid-1980s and the second in the mid-1990s, have made France acutely aware of both state-supported Middle Eastern terrorism and freelancing but organized Islamic extremists. In comparison, the security services in Great Britain and Germany were slow to awaken to the threat from homegrown radical Muslims. Britain's gamble was that its multicultural approach to immigrants was superior to France's forced-assimilation model. But with the discovery of one terrorist plot after another being planned by British Muslims, as well as the deadly transportation bombings that took place in London on July 7, 2005, the British have begun to question the wisdom of their "Londonistan" approach to Muslim immigration.
And France does not even have a Guantanamo type prison. Or does it? In 2005, the European Council's commissioner for human rights has described the Paris prison "Palais de Justice" as a "dungeon" with "inhumane" conditions. See the Telegraph report cited in Davids Medienkritik. While there is criticism of US counterterrorism practices, US prisons in Guanatanamo and those for ordinary criminals on US soil, France does not get much media scrutiny.
UPDATE: The Palais de Justice was closed in June 2006. See comment by Axel.

Urban Democracy: How the City of Seattle Empowers Its Neighborhoods

Most people try to avoid bureaucracy as best as possible. Others fight the government wherever they can. Too bad, if you ask Jim Diers, a former community organizer who initiated Seattle’s Department of Neighborhoods in 1988 and served as its first director until 2002. “Cities work best when local government and the community are working as partners”, and there are lots of things that communities can do better than government can, he concludes in his book: Neighbor Power. Building Community the Seattle Way.

According to Diers’ approach, governments shouldn’t consider themselves as service-providers for their (passive) customers. Quite to the contrary: Dependency on government money and government planning ruins people’s sense of responsibility for their own neighborhoods. At the same time, an incredible wealth of “social capital” goes unused. In order to build ongoing community engagement, you have to allow citizens to choose what they want to change and then accomplish this change in a collaborative effort.

Continue reading "Urban Democracy: How the City of Seattle Empowers Its Neighborhoods"

Optimistic Dailykos Readers

I have cross-posted No Transatlantic Strategy but "Multilateralism a la carte" on the liberal US group blog Dailykos and asked its readers, whether they expect more transatlantic cooperation once the Democrats are back in the White House. 37 readers voted "Yes" and only three readers voted "No." I guess, I should not be surprised by this huge optimism. Apparently most of those Americans and European who dislike President Bush believe that everything will be better when he is gone.

There a few interesting comments at Dailykos, including one Euro-critical comment by Grannus, which indicates that not only conservatives are fed up with Europe:

Then when you have a Balkans erupting and threatening to spill into your little comfy world, don't call us. When an aggressive neighbor starts to push you around, don't call us. When your economy starts to collapse because your free ride in our markets ends, don't call us. Some of us are past giving a shit about you. And yes, I've lived in Europe and know the mindset.

No Transatlantic Strategy but "Multilateralism a la carte"

Helga Haftendorn, professor emeritus at the Free University of Berlin and one of the leading experts on transatlantic relations, argues that "a common transatlantic strategy for global challenges is nowhere in sight -- even in the event of a Democratic US administration come 2009."

Europe and America embrace different concepts of world order that are based on diverging values, belief systems, and experiences-and thus they employ different strategies and instruments to shape international affairs.

Yet, Haftendorn argues that "differences in the power relations between Europe and America are more relevant than diverging concepts of world order." This leads her to conclude: "Given the structural asymmetries between Europe and America, it is unlikely they will unite to cope together with new challenges." The flexible structures of a "multilateralism à la carte" are thus the future.

I agree with this analysis. Such a realistic assessment of the future of European-American cooperation is better for transatlantic relations than those typical essays and speeches full of wishful thinking.

The German Council on Foreign Relations presents her article in IP Global Edition. It is just five pages long, which is unfortunately a bit too short for her analysis of the five basic European-American interaction patterns. A longer version "How well can Europe and the United States Cooperate on Non-European Issues?" is to be published later this year by Geir Lundestad and the Norwegian Nobel Institute.

The First Big Book On The Credit Crunch

According to the Economist, Charles Morris is the first to really assess the current crisis of the financial market in his book The Trillion Dollar Meltdown:

He describes three trends converging to create the bubble: By 2006 the growing trend towards deregulation had pushed three-quarters of all lending outside the purview of regulators. Securitisation created a serious agency problem, leaving loan originators, who were paid up-front, with no incentive to avoid bad credits and every reason to piggyback inappropriate products onto good ones [...]  Banks and rating agencies were gripped by the pretence that all finance can be calculated by risk-modelling eggheads. It did not help that many investors blindly accepted the rating agencies as a kind of “financial Supreme Court”.

In addition, the "Federal Reserve fuelled the housing boom by sharply cutting the cost of short-term money. Mr Greenspan ignored warnings about subprime excess, while eagerly championing 'new paradigms', from hybrid mortgages to credit derivatives." As for the solution:

He offers a raft of suggestions: originators should retain the riskiest portion of securitised loans; prime brokers should stop lending to hedge funds that fail to disclose their balance sheets; trading of credit derivatives should be brought onto exchanges for the sake of safety, even if this raises costs; and some version of the old Glass-Steagall act, which separated commercial banking and capital-markets activities, should be re-introduced. Ultimately, he argues, after a quarter-century of “market dogmatism” it is time for the regulatory pendulum to swing the other way.