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"Curveball" Talks (or rather: Lies) Again

"Curveball" is the Iraqi exile whose lies were key to the Bush administrations case against Saddam on alleged WMDs, although US intelligence agents were not allowed to talk to him. He was an informant of the German Bundesnachrichtendienst. Thus many Americans criticized Germany later on, when they realized his stories about WMD were nonsense.

Michael Stickings writes that "Curveball" has now spoken publicly. Michael isn't impressed and concludes in The Moderate Voice:

The Bush Administration didn't get it so wrong because of Curveball, however much of a liar he may have been, but because it didn't seem to matter to the warmongers from Bush on down whether they got it right or wrong at all. There were ample warnings questioning Curveballs credibility, as well as the credibility of other such sources, but the warmongers believed what they wanted to believe, so rooted were they in their own fanaticism, and didn't let anything like the truth get in the way.

Still, I wish German and American intelligence agencies would cooperate more so that politicians cannot later blame the other country's agencies for misinformation, but that is probably too much to expect. Well, sometimes they work well together: German spy received US medal for support to combat operations in Iraq in 2003 and German Intelligence gave U.S. Iraqi defense plan.

Europeans Tend to See Germany as "Leader" of Europe

Harris Interactive:

Majorities of the public in France (68%), Spain (57%) and Germany (57%), as well as 39 percent of Italians and 35 percent of British adults consider Germany to be the "leader" of Europe. Of these European countries, Germany is considered the leader by all five. In the United States, almost two-thirds (63%) of Americans lean more towards the country they believe to be their closest partner, Great Britain, as the leader of Europe today.

I learned about this poll in the US Embassy's InfoAlert, which recommends many other interesting articles from the last two months as well, especially regarding the future of NATO.

Euroblog Coverage: The Irish 'No'

Atlantic Review editor Nanne Zwagerman has written a Euroblog roundup regarding the Irish 'no' to the Lisbon Treaty in his personal blog DJ Nozem, which covers European issues much more extensively than Atlantic Review.

The round-up includes J. Clive Matthews' call for looking more closely at the evolution of political integration in the United States, which did not happen merely by the stroke of a pen.

More Combat Deaths in Afghanistan Than in Iraq

The Associated Press:

American and allied combat deaths in Afghanistan in May passed the monthly toll in Iraq for the first time. Defense Secretary Robert Gates used the statistical comparison to dramatize his point to NATO defense ministers that they need to do more to get Afghanistan moving in a better direction. He wants more allied combat troops, more trainers and more public commitment.
More positively, the May death totals point to security improvements in Iraq that few thought likely a year ago. But the deterioration in Afghanistan suggests a troubling additional possibility: a widening of the war to Pakistan, where the Taliban and al-Qaida have found haven.
By the Pentagon's count, 15 U.S. and two allied troops were killed in action in Iraq last month, a total of 17. In Afghanistan it was 19, including 14 Americans and five coalition troops. One month does not make a trend, but in this case the statistics are so out of whack with perceptions of the two wars that Gates could use them to drive home his point about Afghanistan.

Bush's Farewell Tour: Looking Ahead and Missing the Favorite "Punching Bag"

President Bush's current trip to Europe has been described as a "farewell tour" in quite a few newspapers, which I find a bit surprising. I thought there would be plenty of reasons and opportunities for George W. Bush to visit Europe in the remaining seven months of his presidency. 

Does that sound as if I already miss President Bush? Charles Hawley writes in Spiegel International that the German media will miss the "climate killer":

Germany never much liked George W. Bush. But he was able to unite Germans. Hating the US president was about the only thing the country could agree on in recent years.

Related Atlantic Review post, which encouraged a debate with 53 comments: "Europeans Mourn End of Bush's Presidency"

William Drozdiak, president of the American Council on Germany, opines in the IHT that Europeans ignore Bush and are "anticipating a new age of enlightenment in trans-Atlantic relations":

As President George W. Bush embarks this week on a farewell tour of Europe, he should not be surprised by the lack of interest in his trip. Like most Americans, Europeans are looking past Bush.

Whether Barack Obama or John McCain moves into the Oval Office, Europe is anticipating a new age of enlightenment in trans-Atlantic relations as NATO nears its 60th birthday. While there are ample reasons not to let expectations get too high, both candidates espouse policies that could greatly enhance cooperation among leading Western democracies.

The phrase "a new age of enligthenment" is a bit too strong, but otherwise I agree with Drozdiak. Once Obama or McCain is inaugurated and asks for more troops for Afghanistan, we will start to miss George W Bush, who was the "perfect excuse" for the lack of burden sharing.

Kurt Kister wrote in the respected German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung that the presidential elections (esp. an Obama victory) would mark a new beginning for Americans, but that would not be the case in Europe and Asia: "The memory about Bush will overshadow the image of the US throughout many years in the future". In reference to the Sueddeutsche Zeitung's headline, the Atlantic Community asks: "How Long is Bush's Shadow?" Pretty long, I would say.

"Germany's Intolerant and Militaristic Culture"

"Support for the far-right National Democratic Party quadrupled in local elections in the eastern state of Saxony on Sunday. In the village of Reinhardtsdorf-Schöna, one in four voters chose the NPD," writes Spiegel International.

Michael van der Galien of the PoliGazette blames Germany's culture for these election results. He also claims that most of his Dutch compatriots "basically believe that what happened in World War II was not an 'accident,' but a logical result of Germany's intolerant and militaristic culture."

Such accusations will not lead to more German troops for Afghanistan, more burden sharing within NATO or a higher defense spending, which have been long-standing demands by the United States and other NATO allies. Instead these accusations contribute to the dominant feeling among the majority of Germans that we should not participate in any wars on foreign soil anymore.

Well, the Dutch press -- in contrast to their US or Canadian counterparts -- has not called for more German troops for Afghanistan. I thought the reason was that they understand that there just is not enough support among the rather pacifist (a better term might be: "war-weary") German public. Though, perhaps van der Galien is right and "the Dutch" are really concerned about the next invasion by their xenophobic and militaristic neighbors and therefore they don't want the Germans to play a stronger military role in Afghanistan, but I doubt it. I think he exaggerates Dutch concerns regarding Germany.

What can be expected of Europe in Iraq?

Editor's note by Nanne: The following entry was written by Migeru, an editor of the progressive community blog 'The European Tribune'. It is a scenario on the chances for European action on Iraq, based upon the principles of 'human rights' and 'riding the wave'.

As a recent post by Jörg revealed, there may be renewed interest in a European policy on Iraq. Beyond the current lack of any coordinated policy and the expectation that a European policy should consist of helping out America, a broad range of options exists.

This shortened version of Migeru's European Tribune diary is a first step in exploring some of those options.

It seems that European (Union) involvement in sorting out Bush's Iraqi misadventure has become a hot topic again [as shown by diaries of Magnifico and Joerg in Berlin - Nanne]. Jörg's diary especially got me thinking about what could be expected of European Union involvement in Iraq, and what a European strategy should be. My tentative answer is based on two principles: human rights and riding the wave.

Human Rights

It may be unrealistic to think of the EU as postcolonialist, but in any case I personally would like to see European Union foreign policy built around a true concern for Human Rights (counterexample). It is true that Iraq is everyone's problem even if the blame for the current mess can be pinned almost exclusively on the US. A spillover of violence from Iraq would be of concern to Europe, the Middle East is relatively close and accessible, and we need the oil, too. But instead of traditional geopolitical power-plays and grand-chessboard strategy, assume that the EU's concern would simply be to help Iraq contain the bleeding, restore a semblance of dignity and respect for human rights, and allow a civil society to emerge from the ashes. What would be the strategy, and what would be the roadblocks along the way?

Continue reading "What can be expected of Europe in Iraq?"

Transatlantic Economic Cooperation - Dull but Important

Interest in transatlantic economic cooperation is hard to sell to the public. That is the conclusion of Philip Whyte at the Centre for European Reform:
If the potential economic gains from deepening the transatlantic economy are marked, why is the TEC’s [Transatlantic Economic Council - Nanne] agenda not better known? The (largely justified) perception that it is dull does not help. Let’s face it: the mutual recognition of GAAP and IFRS accountancy standards, or, for that matter, the transatlantic dimension of the EU’s chemicals directive, are not the sorts of subject that most normal people are inclined to discuss when they kick back and relax after work.
A lot of transatlantic economic cooperation is very detailed work that is hard to render in political terms. The overall direction towards greater liberalisation of trade might be worth talking about. But that political aspect has become murky, hidden behind the details, implicit. That is partially because it has become presumed to be only responsible position by much of the media.

Non-tariff barriers as dealt with by the TEC are a catch-all phrase for regulation that sometimes largely serves to harass imports, sometimes just hasn't been coordinated, but in other cases serves political goals other than rank protectionism. It has become hard to have a sensible debate on the balance of this as well as other trade topics because the only positions that are argued are either an implicit bias in favour of all forms of liberalisation, or the diametrical opposite, which is in favour of protectionism as a goal in itself -- the thereby 'unserious' left.