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Europe-bashing has Diminishing Returns

In reporting on the U.S. presidential campaign, it is taken for granted that showing excessive friendliness towards Europe would be damaging for the candidates. They would seem too concerned with the opinion of the world, and not enough with America's security. That downside to touring Europe has also been highlighted by David Francis in his Atlantic Review post 'By Giving a Speech in Berlin, Obama is playing with Fire'.

A spokesman for McCain has tried to capitalise on an expected anti-European sentiment by alleging that Obama was more interested in meeting 'throngs of fawning Germans' than in visiting American troops. If this is a broader campaign strategy, it may well backfire.

On the left-leaning democracyarsenal blog, Michael Cohen ties together the data we have on America's perceptions of European countries, and their perception on the perception of America abroad. This leads him to conclude:
The notion that Americans want their presidents to maintain an arm's distance relationship with our Allies is a canard. There simply is no evidence to support this notion. But due to constant repetition by neo-conservative politicians and various enablers of this Administration it has become conventional wisdom. It's about time we put this silly idea to rest.
Don't let the colour on that distract you from the data. The polling shows that since recently, a majority of Americans perceive the image of America abroad as a major problem, and, a fortiori, the vast majority now have a favourable view of Germany, the UK, and France.

Here is Your Article on McCain: There are no Articles on McCain!

We your Editors have received some reader emails this week that express concern we are writing about Obama too much, McCain too little.

I tend to agree Obama is covered disproportionately on AR, but I think it is important for people to realize that our main objective with AR is to identify key articles in the media, and respond to them -- the source of our problem is the fact that the media as a whole is biased toward talking about Wonder Boy Obama, and so our pool of content is limited as it is. 

We are not a news organization, but a blog that responds to news.  Subsequently, our disproportionate coverage of Obama reflects the media's disproportionate coverage of him.  The scant coverage of McCain is not limited to our website.  In fact, it seems the biggest news on McCain this week is that he is complaining about nobody wanting to write news about him.  And he is correct. 

In comparing Obama and McCain’s media entourages during Obama’s trip abroad last week, the
Globe and Mail found that:
Trailing in [Obama’s] charismatic wake was a whole legion of the top stars of the U.S. press corps. All three news anchors of the big networks were with him...  And back at home, during what was undeniably Obama Week in American journalism, when Mr. McCain touched down on a campaign stop in Manchester, N.H., there was... but one lonely local newsperson to witness the arrival of the other nominee.
However, McCain has not always been on the losing side of media bias.  Steven Chapman from Real Clear Politics makes the simple observation that the media is fickle; one day’s rock star can be old news--or no news--the next:
Continue reading "Here is Your Article on McCain: There are no Articles on McCain!"

Is the Doha Round No Longer Relevant?

A short commentary on the Doha Round of WTO negotiations:

The talks being held at this time in Geneva are not making enough progress. The latest compromise text that had been drawn up by Pascal Lamy is opposed by India, and the U.S. is also blaming China for going back on earlier promises, as the Associated Press reports.

[Tuesday Update: The talks have now collapsed in what the Telegraph calls a 'blow to globalisation']

One fascinating element of the talks is the emergence of a core group of 7 WTO members who consulted closely on the new deal. Here's an excerpt from the Bridges daily updates:
Seven of the world's largest trading powers emerged front and centre in the struggling talks at the WTO on Wednesday, meeting all afternoon and late into the night in an attempt to find a way out of the impasse in governments' push for breakthrough deals on agricultural and industrial goods trade. [...]

Australia, Brazil, China, the EU, India, Japan, and the US were discussing non-agricultural market access (NAMA), agricultural market access, and trade-distorting farm subsidies, a source said.
This provides a useful mirror for the current balance of power in the world in the trade arena. The absence of Canada is notable. Keep in mind that Russia is not (yet) a WTO member.
Continue reading "Is the Doha Round No Longer Relevant?"

What Germans Think of Barack Obama: Continuity We Can Believe In

The majority of Germans support Barack Obama for the US presidency, not because they believe he will radically change US policy, but because he is expected to return it to the familiar pre-Bush trajectory. This is the conclusion from my colleague Ben Heine over at

Ben and I have interviewed German, American and other attendees of the Obama rally in Berlin yesterday. We have asked some of the questions that you suggested on Atlantic Review. Here's our video with their responses:


What do you think of the opinions expressed by the interviewees?

By Giving a Speech in Berlin, Obama is Playing with Fire

This is a guest post by the US journalist David Francis:

As a journalist who covers U.S-European relations and as a U.S. citizen who hopes for better relations with Europe in the next administration, it was quite gratifying to see so many Berliners waving American flags to greet U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama in Tiergarten yesterday.

Too often in the last eight years, Germany has greeted American politicians with disinterest, disdain or worse. The images of Obama standing in front of hundreds of thousands of cheering Germans are spectacular and a reminder that an American politician is still welcome on foreign shores. Many believe Obama's German reception is a harbinger of things to come.

Continue reading "By Giving a Speech in Berlin, Obama is Playing with Fire"

Obama Keeps it Global

One of the first things I picked up in the audience after Obama's speech was 'fast genau eine halbe Stunde' (almost exactly half an hour). The audience was keeping time. After many had waited for two hours or longer, they were perhaps expecting more? Certainly, it took some time to get the people around me to warm up beyond 'polite applause'. About halfway in some big applause lines came on seeking a nuclear free world, taking responsibility to fight climate change and ending the war in Iraq. Of those, only putting the idea of a nuclear free world in the spotlight might be unexpected.

Newsworthy on the side of the audience would be that there was quite some applause for Obama's lines about fighting together in Afghanistan, and even roaring applause for his line 'Will we stand for the human rights of the dissident in Burma, the blogger in Iran, or the voter in Zimbabwe? Will we give meaning to the words "never again" in Darfur?'. The liberal internationalist sentiment championed by Joshka Fischer has clearly not yet perished in Germany.
Continue reading "Obama Keeps it Global"

Understanding Berlin, a pre- Obama speech guide

Obama's high-profile speech tomorrow in Berlin is fostering all kinds of tragic misunderstandings.

On the size of the crowd, the Deutsche Welle reports that Berlin authorities are expecting up to a million people tomorrow, at the Siegessäule. This is probably the most absurd overestimation since Hillary Clinton's campaign played up expectations of turnout in the Puerto Rico primary. The most plausible explanation for the figure would be that Berlin's authorities hope to turn away people.

Over 100,000 people at the speech will make good pictures for Obama, as long as the networks don't spend all day speculating about the size of the crowd.
Continue reading "Understanding Berlin, a pre- Obama speech guide"

Karadzic's Arrest: Triumph of European Soft Power?

Finally, Serbia is back in Europe. Stephen Castle and Steven Erlanger write in the NY Times:

Europe on Tuesday welcomed the arrest of Radovan Karadzic not just as a victory for international justice, but as a vindication of the Continent's favored political doctrine: soft power. (...)
In the last few months the European Union has helped bring a pro-Western political party to victory in Serbia's elections while ensuring that it has powerful incentives to hand over war crimes suspects. The arrest of Mr. Karadzic demonstrates how effective the union's leverage can be, particularly with neighboring countries that have ambitions to join it.

Yeah, it only took a bit more than a decade...

But then again, how successful (and how costly) is hard power? Milosevic and Karadzic were not arrested during the many Balkan wars... (Well, obviously, without the wars, they might still be in power.) And capturing Saddam was much more expensive and demands from the US to a strong commitment to Iraq of at least a decade...