Skip to content

CIA Recommendations for Sustaining West European Support for ISAF

WikiLeaks (HT: Marie-Claude) has published what it calls a Special Memorandum by the Central Intelligence Agency's Red Cell. The document argues that after the fall of the Dutch government "counting on apathy might not be enough," because "indifference might turn into active hostility if spring and summer fighting results in an upsurge in military or Afghan civilian casualties." Unfortunately, the recommendations for shoring up popular support are not as exciting as you would expect from a classified and leaked document. Some examples:

* Some German opposition to ISAF might be muted by proof of progress on the ground, warnings about the potential consequences for Germany of a defeat, and reassurances that Germany is a
valued partner in a necessary NATO-led mission.
* Emphasis on the mission's multilateral and humanitarian aspects could help ease Germans' concerns about waging any kind of war while appealing to their desire to support multilateral efforts.
* Appeals by President Obama and Afghan Women might gain traction.

The United States Has the Best Military Advertisements

Cohu (via German Joys) compares recruiting videos from the German, Austrian and Ukrainian military and also includes a beer company's video ad that is promoting the US military.

While the Ukrainian video is ridiculous, the Austrian copy-cat version is just stupid. The Bundeswehr clip is a typical commercial highlighting the fun aspects of serving in the military, while ignoring everything else.

The American clip is by far the most effective advertisement in my opinion (and cohu's) and did not cost the taxpayer anything. The video shows how Americans appreciate the service and sacrifices of their troops and shows how glad they are that the soldiers made it back home. No triumphant atmosphere. The clip is so low-key and appears authentic and honest. All the mess the soldiers had to live through is somehow included in the atmosphere. That makes it honest and patriotic and an effective promotion. Just my opinion, of course.

Does Germany need such videos showing appreciation? Would such messages work in Germany and increase support for the Bundeswehr's mission in Afghanistan?

Can you imagine a German beer company making such an advertisement with soldiers returning from Afghanistan? (BTW: The Bundeswehr consumed 990,000 liters of beer in Afghanistan in 2007.)

The NY Times's Nicholas Kulish writes that what is happening in Germany is the opposite of what the US commercial shows. There are "no parades for Hans":

Often, as I have passed through the main train station here in the German capital, I have seen the sad, lone figure of a soldier, heavy pack on his back, waiting for a train like the rest of us, but separated from the crowd by the uniform he wears. No one would stop to thank him for his service or to ask whether he had been deployed to Afghanistan. The loneliness was obvious, but at times I even sensed what I thought might have been fear, at the occasional hostile looks the soldier would receive alongside the impassiveness of the broader masses on the platform, who just tried to pretend he wasn't there. (.)

The German men and women in Afghanistan set off for war without the support of the populace, and they know that when they return there won't be crowds cheering in the streets, ready to make heroes of them. Germany has turned its back on hero worship. The soldiers fight alone.

What are the most and the least effective military advertisements you have seen? I am most interested in honest, authentic and or funny ones, like the Danish Norwegian KFOR Boys. Yes, sure, post anti-military advertisements as well, if you like, but no gory stuff, please.

Endnote: This is a great photo contest to increase public support: Why Afghanistan Matters

Germany is the New Bad Boy

I am quite excited that Germany participates in the Eurovision Song Contest with an original, charming and funny artist, who can actually sing and is a bit crazy and therefore represents the new Germany very well. Lena Meyer-Landrut will perform the song Satellite at the Eurovision Song Contest, which was written by an American-Danish duo.

Although for the first time in years, Germany deserves "douze points," I don't think Lena Meyer-Landrut will get them from the other European countries. Animosities against Germany are too strong. Most Europeans have stronger emotional ties to other countries.

And Germany's current economic and fiscal policies make us the new bad boy. The NY Times writes "Germany Begins to Shed Its Role as E.U. Integrator":

Resisting a bailout for Greece, digging in over economic policy and opposing parts of a strategy for Europe's growth, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany will arrive Thursday at a European Union summit meeting ready to play an unfamiliar role: the bloc's naysayer. Once the invisible glue that bound the Union, German policy is now being dictated by less idealistic priorities rooted firmly by national interests.

I guess, we act now like a "normal" country. Well, so be it!

Germany's previously strong monetary and political support for EU integration did not make us popular enough to win the Eurovision Song Contest either. It just paved the way for German unification, but we got that now and have to focus on bigger national interests, like the Eurovision Song Contest and the Soccer World Cup.

My statements to the Russian English language TV station Russia Today probably cost us a few votes from Greek's Eurovision Song Contest community as well. The 10 minutes live interview took place last Friday. The video clip is from a weekly round-up and mentions just a few short statements of mine:

Christian Science Monitor Interview on Greece

The Christian Science Monitor interviewed a German Member of the EU Parliament and myself on a bailout for Greece: As Athens protests, Germany scoffs over Greece debt bailout

My comment about Greece not making sufficient efforts was supposed to refer to the last ten years and not just to the present situation. Joining the Eurozone had huge benefits for Greece, but Athens failed to take this opportunity to reform the economy and get the government budget in order.

Now The Economist Respects Germany's Economic Model as well

As a follow-up to R.E.S.P.E.C.T. for Germany's Economic Model I would like to recommend The Economist's latest issue:
Europe is widely regarded as a place with a sclerotic economy burdened by high labour costs. But our special report on Germany this week suggests that, in the continent's biggest economy at least, that's not the case. Germany has succeeded in ruthlessly holding down labour costs over the past decade, which has helped it maintain its unparalleled success as an exporter. Germany is rightly proud of this; but for the neighbours, it is not necessarily good news.

Norway Wins the Olympics

With the Winter Olympics now behind us, countries are seeking to evaluate how they fared. In the US, there is plenty of self accolades for the record haul of 37 medals. In Russia, the poor performance of the Federation has led to the resignation of the head of the national team and remarkably brusque comments from Medvedev. And while Canada did not win the overall medal count, gold medals in hockey and curling leave our northern neighbors with plenty to be happy about.

But the real winner of the Olympics is Norway. On a per capita basis, no other country earned as many medals as this small Nordic country. And it is not just Norway. Nine of the top ten per capita medal winners are European countries with populations smaller than 10 million inhabitants. The following chart shows the top 26 medal winners ranked on a per capita basis. (HT: Mark Warren)



What explains the dominance of European countries in the Olympics? History, climate, and geography certainly play a role. David Brooks suggests it also has to do with social capital and natural toughness. I personally wonder if sports are an emphasized expression of national sovereignty in Europe because other forms of national identity, such as currency and foreign policy, are increasingly transnational in scope. Some dedicated federalists in the European Union are pushing for an EU Olympic team, at least according to this web page. But I suspect the likelihood of that ever happening is close to zero.