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German Military Returns to Traditional Standing in German Society

This is a guest post from our long-time reader and commenter zyme:

July 20th is no day like any other in the self-image of the Federal Republic of Germany. The day of the assassination attempt of Count von Stauffenberg and his supporters on Hitler in 1944 marks one of the most decisive dates for the Republic and for its military, the Bundeswehr. It is conducted in remembrance of the military resistance against Hitler during the war.
From Germany's rearmament in the 1950s till today this has not changed. The circumstances have though - in many ways. Apart from foreign deployments and new defense strategies, Sunday's ceremony provides a good example of taking a look at how much the perception of the Germany Army among the national public and politicians has changed:

Continue reading "German Military Returns to Traditional Standing in German Society"

Germany's Federal Minister of Economics Visited Baghdad

Do we have to apologize to The Wall Street Journal for not covering this?

The most remarkable aspect about the German economics minister's trip to Baghdad Saturday [July 13, 2008] was how unremarkable it was. The "surprise visit" by Michael Glos to Iraq, which only last year was deemed irrevocably lost, hardly made the front pages even in his own country. "The security situation has improved," Mr. Glos said, "and democracy is progressing." [...] "I have numerous companies with me," Mr. Glos told a German radio station from Baghdad. "They are practically the advance party for others who will hopefully soon come to Iraq to participate especially in the privatization."

What Do You Want to Know from Obama's German Fans?

Berlin is abuzz about Senator Obama's upcoming speech on Thursday 7:00 PM local time. How many folks will come to see the messiah? Many press outlets quoted a city government official's estimate of 10,000 to one million people. Wow, that is so precise! It seems that nobody else dares to publish an estimate. This will be an exciting event. It could be huge or quite small...

It is unprecedented. Anne Applebaum writes that Obama's world tour indicates a change in America's political culture: American voters are aware of the damage the current administration has done to the US image and are not indifferent to how their country is perceived abroad: "The Most Popular American in Europe Since Elvis"

I will attend his speech and try to capture the mood in the audience with my video camera. I will also conduct random interviews with ordinary folks in the audience.

What questions shall I ask? Is there anything you would like to know from German Obama fans and critics? (I will also ask American Berliners and others.) I guess, one of the obvious questions would be: Will you support sending German troops to southern Afghanistan, if President Obama asks for it? What else? I'd appreciate your input! Thanks.

How to Make the G8 More Effective?

The G8 used to be criticized as an evil capitalist group of powerful countries that determines world politics and economics without legitimacy like the UN. There has not been much of such criticism at this year's summit in Japan.

This time, lack of effectiveness was the most common criticism. The G8 is increasingly seen as a Western talking shop that is doing photo-ops with rock stars and third world leaders, but fails to act on its past promises on development aid and is increasingly incapable to shape international economic affairs.

Besides, Senators McCain and Obama recently had a dispute as to whether Russia should be excluded from the Group of Eight.

Consequently, there have been several reform proposals to make the G8 more effective:

L20: upgrade the existing G20
G13: G8 + the "outreach 5"
G9: leading market democracies
G3: US, EU & China
G3: US, EU & Japan

The Atlantic Community explains these proposals and asks: "Should the G8 be enlarged to include new major international players or contracted to ensure effectiveness?" If you register on Atlantic Community, then you can vote on the above options.

Top Obama Aide: No Free Ride for Europe

The Daily Telegraph interviewed Former Assistant Secretary of State Susan Rice ahead of Obama's world tour:

Europe will be challenged by a President Barack Obama to contribute more to global security and will no longer have the "easy out" of pandering to anti-Bush sentiment, according to a top adviser to the Democratic candidate.

Many German pundits have said the same many times before, but the wider public is still in love with Obama.

So many people over here are thrilled that Obama is coming to Berlin. Many of my friends tell me that they will try to attend his speech at the Siegessäule (Victory Column), where the Techno "Love Parade" used to culminate. It is quite close to the Brandenburg Gate.

I am pretty sure that Europe's current love for Obama will be over within half a year of his presidency, should he be elected. More realism will prevail. And that is okay.

NATO Hires Coca-Cola Executive Instead of Madonna

The Coca-Cola executive shall "retool NATO's brand," reports the NY Times (HT: Benjamin from Anglofritz):

Less than a year before its 60th anniversary, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization is determined to revamp its image, establishing a media operations center for Afghanistan and hiring an executive from Coca-Cola to manage the way the alliance is seen around the world. (...)
Michael Stopford, has spent two years guarding Coca-Cola's image and will join NATO as deputy assistant secretary general for strategic communication services in August. Mr. Stopford, a British-born American, is a specialist in managing reputations. Before working at Coca-Cola, he also held jobs at the United Nations and the British Foreign Office.

I doubt whether such a branding will be enough. NATO needs to reinvent itself. Has Coca-Cola done that recently? Nope, it still tastes the same.

Madonna, however, has reinvented herself extremely successfully several times. And Peter van Ham of the Clingendael Institute in The Hague has even published an article in the NATO Review on NATO and the Madonna Curve: "Businesses use Madonna as a role model of self-reinvention. Now it's NATO's turn." Okay, okay, NATO is trying to do both: retooling its brand and reinventing itself by working on a new strategic concept.

Related posts on Atlantic Review:

"Maybe It's Time for NATO to Die"

Bumper Stickers Slogans: What is the Purpose of NATO?

Trans-Atlantic Cooperation: Are Europeans Unwilling to Share the Burden?

Obama's Upcoming Speech in Berlin: I can Listen

David Vickrey, a volunteer for Senator Barack Obama's campaign and editor of the Dialog International, wrote this guest post:

On July 24 Barack Obama will deliver a major speech in Berlin. Over the past week there has been a great deal of controversy on whether or not he should make the speech at the Brandenburg Gate (it now appears he will find a different venue).  Nearly forgotten in all of the press coverage is the purpose of Senator Obama's speech: redefining transatlantic relations.  Obama has been criticized by many (including Joerg in this blog) for not saying enough about America's relations with the European Union and for ignoring his duties as chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on European Affairs.  So a speech in front of a large, cheering crowd in Berlin could burnish his foreign policy credentials.

Here is my take on what Senator Obama will say in his Berlin speech (note: although I am a volunteer foot soldier for the Obama Campaign, I have no advance knowledge of his speech other than what his aides have provided the media): 

Continue reading "Obama's Upcoming Speech in Berlin: I can Listen"

"Only the Chinese Embassy is Uglier"

Wow, the German press, incl. the pro-American Die Welt, is very critical of the US embassy, which was reopened on July 4th. Gregory Rodriguez writes in the Los Angeles Times:

The daily Süddeutsche Zeitung called it "Ft. Knox at the Brandenburg Gate." Der Tagesspiegel pronounced it a "triumph of banality." Particularly offended by the embassy's windows, the critic at the conservative Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung contended that they "look as if a bankrupt homeowner had bought them in a home-improvement store near Fargo in order to get his house ready for winter." Die Welt, meanwhile, stated simply that "only the Chinese Embassy is uglier."

While some Americans consider this criticism as part of the Anti-Americanism, I would like to point out that none of the German government buildings garned any approval from architectural critics, when they opened in Berlin. The chancellery is still called "the federal washing machine" by many Berliners. And the beautiful glass dome of the Reichstag was not appreciated in the beginning either.

More important than the architecture of the embassy is its outreach to the policy community, the media and the wider public. Many ambassadors are described as more active than the US ambassador.