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Soccer is for Losers?

The mission of the American Enterprise Institute's blog is to provide "thoughtful and timely analysis on economic, foreign and social policy and politics." Today, Gary Schmitt wrote an extremely thoughtful analysis on the most important policy issue of the world, which is, of course, soccer, especially since Chancellor Merkel meets with President Obama today.

Not only is Mr. Schmitt bashing soccer, but he also trashes us Europeans by suggesting that we like soccer because the better teams tend to lose:

I can say unquestionably that it is the sport in which the team that dominates loses more often than any other major sport I know of. Or, to put it more bluntly, the team that deserves to win doesn’t. (...) And, in sports, that means excellence should prevail. Of course, the fact that is often not the case when it comes to soccer may be precisely the reason the sport is so popular in the countries of Latin America and Europe.

Michael J.W. Stickings takes issue with Gary Schmitt's analysis as well and describes it as "another example of the right's deluded view of American exceptionalism: Americans are different. They're winners." Indeed, he is not the first conservative who made condescending statements about Europeans for their love of soccer. But, as I pointed out in the post The Superiority of American Culture and Sports, the liberal Huffington Post has published offending rants as well during the last soccer world cup in Germany.

The Scottish journalist Alex Massie comments on Schmitt's article as well: "The Never-Ending Neoconservative War on Soccer". And Matthew Yglesias weighs in as well: Neocons Bemoan USA Soccer Victory

Related articles on Atlantic Review:

State Department Uses the World Cup to Improve U.S. Image
Soccer Diplomacy with Iran?
America is expected to win the Super Bowl

It's Business, Not Personal

Chancellor Merkel's first trip to Washington after President Obama's inauguration more than five months ago comes at a time of growing transatlantic tension.

Apparently, the tension is not just based on policy disagreements, like Washington complains about Germany's lack of support for the global stimulus, for the closing of Guantanamo and the for the war in Afghanistan. Rather both US and German journalists describe a strained personal relationship between the two leaders.

How severe is that lack of chemistry? Does it affect German-American cooperation or will the two leaders' pragmatic style of governance be more decisive and lead to improved collabortion? Join the debate on Atlantic Community.

Europe Does Not Care about Iraq

The Kansas City Star published the fascinating eight-part series A Good Exit: Leaving Iraq by Matt Schofield, who travelled to Baghdad, Berlin, Istanbul, Leavenworth and Washington. Matt was kind enough to seek my expertise as well. In fact, the article U.S. and Iraq need more help, less indifference from Europe starts with some quotes from yours truly:

The Germans don't care. The French don't care. The Dutch don't care. Even the British, who had been the staunchest ally of the United States inside Iraq, now seem to believe that what America broke, America bought.

"Iraq isn't on our priorities list," explained Joerg Wolf, editor-in-chief of the Berlin-based Atlantic Initiative, a trans-Atlantic think tank. He noted his opinion was based on a recent survey of 250 European policy experts. "The belief is that this is now a U.S. problem, and the U.S. has to fix it."

But Wolf and a growing number of European policy experts believe this is a huge mistake. "The fact is, if Iraq turns south, there are major consequences for Europe."

The above mentioned survey was actually conducted in September 2007 and included responses from 14 policy analysts from ten European countries, but interesting and still relevant nevertheless: Here are the links to the survey's three parts:

1. European Analysts Want America to Stay in Iraq

2. Europe Should Help, But Not Follow US Lead and

3. Premature US Withdrawal Would Threaten Europe.

Moaning German Soldiers an "Embarrassment"

From The Telegraph's (HT: Alex) most popular article today:

German soldiers are softies who lack discipline, hate responsibility and show an inadequate desire to serve their country, according to the army's chief inspector.

Related posts on Atlantic Review: German Soldiers in Afghanistan: Drinking Instead of Fighting and German Beer in Exchange for US Intelligence Information

German Heartland Critical of Obama

The Financial Times Deutschland presented an editorial round-up of 11 smaller, regional newspapers commentaries on Obama's short trip to Dresden and Buchenwald. Apparently these heartland newspapers were critical of the president and sense Germany's waning influence. The World Meets US has the English summaries.

"Merkel for the Fed"

The Wall Street Journal used to be very critical of Germany's economic and fiscal policies and big government, but now the paper is a big fan of the Merkel government. In March the conservative paper declared that Old Europe was right in rejecting Obama's calls for a huge global stimulus. And currently The Wall Street Journal (HT: John) is so thrilled by Chancellor Merkel ("Hallelujah, sister") that it wants to nominate her for chairperson of the Federal Reserve.

What happened? Chancellor Merkel rebuked the world's central bankers for being too politically accommodating:

"The independence of the European Central Bank must be preserved and the things that other central banks are now doing must be retracted," Mrs. Merkel told a meeting sponsored by Germany's association of metal- and electrical-industry employers. "We must return together to an independent central-bank policy and to a policy of reason, otherwise we will be in exactly the same situation in 10 years' time." Referring to the U.S. central bank specifically, she said "I view with a great deal of skepticism the extent of the Fed's powers." Usually when a politician lobbies a central bank, it's to demand easier money. We can't recall a similar tight-money intervention from a national leader, save perhaps Ronald Reagan's quiet support for Paul Volcker in the 1980s.

Conservative bloggers used to complain that Germany is so biased towards the Democrats. They said even a center-right party like Merkel's CDU would have more in common with the Democrats than with the Republicans. That still may be the case, but it seems that Germany's fiscal policy is now more in line with those from conservative Americans. And on a personal level, Merkel might got along better with Bush than with Obama.

Related posts:

Big Spending: What America Can Learn from Germany

National Temperaments Explain Reactions to Economic Crisis

Obama and Merkel are "Trans-Atlantic Frenemies"

"The White House views the chancellor as difficult and Germany is increasingly being left out of the loop," is the conclusion of a good Spiegel International article by Gregor Peter Schmitz and Gabor Steingart. According to them, the "Washington of Barack Obama" considers Merkel's policies "as hesitant. And when it comes to economic matters -- particularly after the experience in battling the financial crisis -- they don't feel she has much expertise."

The label "difficult" is attributable to Merkel's refusal to allow then-presidential candidate Obama to hold a speech at the Brandenburg Gate last summer. They also found it rude and impolitic when she didn't accept an invitation to meet with the newly elected president at the White House in April, despite that fact that both sides had been able to find time in their schedules for a meeting.

Reuters' chief correspondent Noah Barkin, however, puts the blame for the non-meeting on Obama.

The Spiegel article continues to quote two experts on Merkel: According to Dan Hamilton, director of the Trans-Atlantic Center at Johns Hopkins University, German "checkbook diplomacy" is currently experiencing a renaissance. And Stephen Szabo, head of the Transatlantic Academy in Washington, is cited: "France is in right now. The impression is that Germany isn't really of much use at the moment. (...) Paris is no replacement for Berlin in the long-term. (...) The Americans will need the Germans again in their dealings with Russia. After the German elections a new era will begin."

Merkel got back-rubs from Bush, but she gets only a cold shoulder from Obama

Chancellor Merkel is "agonising over a series of slights (perceived or real) from Obama," opines Reuters' chief correspondent Noah Barkin (HT: David)

First came the message from Washington that Obama might not continue the regular video conferences Merkel held with Bush. In the end the White House came around, but it took two months to set one up.

Berlin also got the cold shoulder when Merkel tried to arrange a trip to Washington ahead of a G20 meeting in London at the start of April. Messages from Berlin with proposed dates went unanswered for days until Merkel’s team abandoned the idea completely, an official close to her told me.

This week came the latest signal, at least from Berlin’s perspective, that the Obama team is not taking German concerns seriously. The rescue of Opel, the German unit of U.S. car maker General Motors, has become the central theme of a slow-to-get-started German election campaign that pits Merkel against her Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier. A misstep on Opel and Merkel’s bid for a second term could be doomed. But when she called an “Opel summit” for Wednesday to try to save the car maker, her ministers were shocked to see only low-level representation from the U.S. Treasury — a crucial player in the discussions.