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Don't Take the 'North Atlantic' out of NATO

In an apparent attempt to prove that the worst foreign policy ideas are bipartisan, Will Marshall, president of the Progressive Policy Institute, has renewed the call for a 'global NATO'. The idea bascially comes down to having all the liberal democracies in the world join NATO, and the purpose is to enable NATO to engage in more wars of intervention. This is written in a 'memo to the next president':
You should seize the opportunity to lead NATO's transformation from a North American-European pact into a global alliance of free nations. By opening its doors to Japan, Australia, India, Chile, and a handful of other stable democracies, NATO would augment both its human and financial resources. What is more, NATO would enhance its political legitimacy to operate on a global stage.
There isn't much difference between this and Bob Kagan's 'League of Democracies' except that Will Marshall still pays lip service to working with the UN. The objective, however, is clearly to be able to bypass the Security Council. The 'global NATO' idea has been around for longer. It was proposed by Ivo Daalder and James Goldgeier in a 2006 Foreign Affairs article. It has also been discussed at a NATO forum, where current SecGen Jaap de Hoop Scheffer quickly dismissed it and offered some lucid thinking on the current development of the alliance.

Aside of the concern that expanding the alliance will trigger a reaction and the reality that neither Europe nor most of the designated candidates have any kind of appetite for the idea, the rationale of increasing foreign interventions shows that a lot of liberal hawks have really learned nothing at all. But it is not clear what kind of influence they have.

The PPI is the think tank of the Democratic Leadership Council, which also has Hillary Clinton, the next US Secretary of State, as a prominent member. This is mere association, but it will be worthwhile to keep a tab on whether the ideas (and careers) of liberal hawks at the DLC and the Brookings Institution gain traction in the State Department.

(via Yglesias)

Britain to leave Iraq (in shame?), increase troops to Afghanistan

In an anticipated move, Gordon Brown announced that the remaining 4,100 UK troops will leave Iraq by the end of July.  Mr. Brown is quoted by the BBC:
I feel that the task that we set out to do is being done and that's why we can take a decision to bring most of our forces home.
The Times Online is less cheery, characterizing Britain’s withdrawal as “a humiliating proposal that lumps the once-valued deployment with five smaller contingents, including those of Romania, El Salvador and Estonia.”

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Strobe Talbott: Obama 'Gets' it 'Big Time'

SPIEGEL Online has a long, somewhat scrappy interview with Strobe Talbott, the former US deputy Secretary of State under the Clinton administration. Talbott isn't straightforward in answering all of the questions, but it's still a worthwhile read for the glimpses into what a foreign policy under Obama and Secretary of State Clinton would look like. Here's a telling response:
I think Obama gets this big time. There are strong indications that he has an acute understanding of these problems. Just think of his remarkable election night speech at Grant Park in Chicago. He basically said, "We have some tough problems, do not expect them to be handled quickly, not in a year and maybe not in four years." He summed it up in three phrases: two wars, a planet in peril and an international financial crisis. I checked with people familiar with the way his mind works, and the order in which he put those was no accident.
On a question how the Obama administration would approach Europe for support in Afghanistan, Talbott said that Obama would 'practice politics as the art of the possible'. Which seems more conducive to getting greater participation than making unrealistic demands and hammering on the table. But unfortunately we have to try to read between the lines what Talbott thinks is possible. It appears that he thinks a fundamental change in the rules of engagement for German troops is not in the cards.

On Russia policy, Talbott thinks that a thaw in relations is likely, and excludes the possibility of Georgian entry into NATO on the short term. The reason he gives is that Georgia would not further the security of the alliance as it is 'divided against itself'. This rationale would also hold for the Ukraine. On the missile shield in Poland and the Czech Republic, Talbott equivocates, so on that topic there is no enlightenment of Obama's possible policies.

German Soldiers in Afghanistan: Drinking Instead of Fighting

Transatlantic Media Network:

According to a German parliamentary report, the country's soldiers in Afghanistan downed about 1.7 million pints of beer and 90,000 bottles of wine in 2007. During the first six months of 2008, a further 896,000 pints of beer were shipped to the troops.

The report was particularly galling to other NATO forces, such as those of the United States and Britain, whose bases are dry. U.S. and British troops are engaged in heavy fighting in other parts of Afghanistan, whereas the Germans are kept away from the frontline and their combat role is tightly restricted by government-imposed limits.

The news was a gift, however, to the U.S. and British media, who combined the latest story with an earlier German armed forces study released in March, which found that more than 40 percent of German soldiers aged 18 to 29 were overweight - compared with 35 percent of German civilians of the same age.

Lessons for Europe's Social Democrats from the Obama Campaign

David Vickrey, editor of Dialog International, wrote this guest blog post:

In the final days of the 2008 US presidential campaign, John McCain, the Republican candidate for president, accused his Democratic rival Barack Obama of being a "European socialist". McCain based this characterization on Obama's taxation reform program, a plan to "spread the wealth around", which, in fact, is nothing more than a reaffirmation of the tradition of progressive taxation in America.

The charge that Obama was a covert "European socialist" was especially curious since it was made during the weeks in September and October when the Republican Bush administration was nationalizing the American banking system. Certainly European social democrats found McCain's characterization laughable: there was nothing "socialistic" about the Obama campaign's stated policies. What did the candidacy of Barack Obama have to do with European social democracy? And what could social democrats possibly learn from a political campaign in the United States - the bedrock of unfettered capitalism and the epicenter of the global financial crisis? Plenty, according to the German journalist Werner A. Perger. Perger spent time in late summer 2008 in the US speaking with labor union leaders, political activists, and progressive thought leaders.

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Three Roles for German Foreign Policy Towards Russia

Our regular commenter Zyme from Bavaria has written the following guest post:

Three traits of modern German foreign policy have manifested themselves in recent events:

1. Germany as the Representative of Russia's interests in the West

The New York Times describes Germany as aiming to guide the West's Ties to Russia. A part of this is attributed to the strong economical ties between Germany and Russia, making Germany Russia's most important trading partner and the relationship thus more enduring even in times of an international crisis like in Georgia. Berlin is seen as seeking to keep its "pivotal" role in Russian affairs and thus not interested in redefining its relationship towards Moscow like the Americans do.

Because of the intense economical interdependence between Berlin and Moscow, Germany is described to be the primary address for Western countries when dealing with Russia. Without consent of Berlin, every ambitious policy towards Moscow is doomed.

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NATO foreign ministers meeting press round-up

NATO foreign ministers gathered in Brussels on December 2 for a two-day meeting.  The full final communiqué released by NATO can be found here

The ministerial focused primarily on the future of NATO enlargement (particularly Ukraine and Georgia), US plans for missile defense in Europe, relations with Russia (strongly related to the previous two issues), and ongoing operations (mostly on Afghanistan and to a lesser degree Kosovo). Here is a roundup of articles that address the key outcomes of the ministerial:

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"Unilateral Germany Threatens to Weaken Europe"

Charles Grant, Director of Centre for European Reform, argues that Germany acts unilaterally in five key policy areas and "leaves the EU – and perhaps the Atlantic alliance – weaker."

His Financial Times op-ed is one of today's top press commentaries summarized by Atlantic-community.org:
Germany’s increasingly unilateral foreign policies are causing unrest within the EU and Atlantic alliance. ++ The US, UK and France are frustrated by Berlin’s reluctance to impose sanctions on Iran as well as its limited efforts in Afghanistan. ++ The impending election is a partial explanation for this refusal to engage in bold policies. ++ The generational shift means that today’s politicians see the EU as a tool rather than a principle. ++ This attitude is not threatening; it simply mirrors the French and British brands of nationalism.