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Thousands of Classified Reports on the Afghanistan War Leaked

An extensive series of previously classified reports on the Afghanistan war effort titled the Afghan War Diary (AWD) has been made public by the website WikiLeaks. 

The NYT, Guardian and Der Spiegel were leaked the reports several weeks ago.  Each has spent the past month analyzing the reports and writing articles with their key deductions.  According to the New York Times editors' note:
The articles published today are based on thousands of United States military incident and intelligence reports — records of engagements, mishaps, intelligence on enemy activity and other events from the war in Afghanistan — that were made public on Sunday on the Internet. The New York Times, The Guardian newspaper in London, and the German magazine Der Spiegel were given access to the material several weeks ago. These reports are used by desk officers in the Pentagon and troops in the field when they make operational plans and prepare briefings on the situation in the war zone. Most of the reports are routine, even mundane, but many add insights, texture and context to a war that has been waged for nearly nine years.
The NYT, Guardian and Der Spiegel have all vetted the reports and come to the conclusion that the material is authentic. 

You can download the full set of reports from the WikiLeaks website, here.

New York Times coverage is found here.
Guardian coverage here.
Der Spiegel coverage here.

"Support Our Troops" - The German Edition

What is common in the United States, is rather rare in Germany: Expressing support of our soldiers in Afghanistan.

While most US critics of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan make extra efforts to distinguish between criticism of the strategy/purpose of the wars and the service of the troops, such differentiation usually is not made in Germany. I have never seen a car with the bumper sticker "Support our Troops."

The Bundeswehr troops do not get much support from citizens, media, celebrities or politicians. Instead many soldiers are concerned about the opinion polls that indicate popular disapproval of the Afghanistan war.

Therefore the Atlantische Initiative (my day job) has teamed up with Germany's biggest daily newspaper and started the campaign "Feldpost für unsere Soldaten!"
 
We encourage our readers and members to write short personal messages of support for the Bundeswehr troops. We will then forward the best ones to the various bases in Afghanistan. Several hundred messages have already been published by our partners at the tabloid Bild.

Anti-European Schadenfreude Rising?

When Foreign Policy featured an article on Anti-Europeanism in the United States as "Today's FP" cover, I got intrigued, but I was disappointed when I read this article Guardian columnist Simon Tisdall, which currently is FP's most read piece of the week. Old arguments about the Iraq war debate and last year's Obama trips to Europe.

Here are the more interesting paragraphs regarding the reason for Anti-European attitudes:

Fear, envy, anti-colonialism, anti-imperialism, cultural inferiority-superiority complexes, trade, political and military rivalries, and America's quest for identity all fed anti-European feeling as the new country sought to differentiate itself from the old countries whence most of its people came. Many of these phenomena remain relevant today.

"Expressing one's anti-European sentiment can be a way of building up and displaying one's American identity and patriotism," said Patrick Chamorel in a European University Institute study published in Italy in 2004. "Anti-Europeanism has always been part of American exceptionalism, which defined itself in contrast to European history, politics, and society."

It would be easy for Europeans to shrug off America's Europhobic generalizations and mischaracterizations if they were exclusive to would-be-intellectual neoconservatives, Bible Belt evangelists, and provincial Midwest xenophobes. But ever since the European Union dropped the ball in the Balkans in the mid-1990s, a potent mix of influential American thinkers, policymakers, and commentators have given anti-Europeanism a new respectability that cannot be dismissed out of hand. On the major issues that preoccupy Americans -- defense, security, terrorism, intervention, free trade, sovereignty, and nationalism -- the argument that Europe has lost its way has gained in influence. And as a debt-laden European Union stares at the fiscal abyss, one can almost feel the schadenfreude emanating from across the pond.

"Almost feel the schadenfreude emanating"? Does it get any more vague than that? Read the FP article Venus Envy and come back here to comment, if you like.

Taliban Recruit Monkey Terrorists

Oh, no. "Taliban trains 'monkey terrorists' to attack U.S. troops," writes the People's Daily from China (via FP):

Taliban forces have taught monkeys how to use the Kalashnikov, Bren light machine gun and trench mortars. They also teach them how to identify and attack soldiers wearing U.S. military uniforms. Ironically, the idea of training monkeys to fight was first invented by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.

Will NATO prevail against the monkeys? Is it April 1st in the Chinese calendar?

Will Soccer Bring an End to American Exceptionalism?

We discussed American exceptionalism during the 2006 world cup: Soccer in German-American Relations and Soccer is for Losers?

Soccer is getting increasingly popular in the US, which some conservative Americans don't like. Is America becoming less exceptional now?

Or is it the other way round: Americans need to feel less exceptional before soccer becomes more popular and they win the world cup? A Brazilian paper translated by Watching America concludes with such a pretty loaded question:

If Americans are able to abandon the idea of being chosen by God to save the world, if these citizens are open to the fact that they are identical to all other human beings and therefore do not have a clear target or are not necessarily superior or virtuous, then could it be possible for America to someday soon join the rest of the species and celebrate the most beautiful sport of our time with the rest of the world? Or is it inconceivable that within a few decades, this country could finally win the World Cup?

"Let's Cut Defense Spending"

Strange world: Atlantic Review is not just as a reference in an MA thesis, but is also referenced by E.D. Kain of the neoconservative (?) National Review Online to make the argument that the US should cut defense spending. He is linking to our blog in this paragraph:

Americans provide defense for Europe and much of Asia, allowing Europeans to spend almost nothing on defense while spending lavish amounts on generous entitlement programs. And it is not at all clear that these countries actually want our military bases anymore. Europe has largely put war behind it with the advent of the European Union, and save for the Korean peninsula, Asia is largely moving toward a peaceful, global economy as well. Refocusing our defense priorities into regions that have more direct implications for our own national security, such as Africa and the Middle East, would force Europe to take into account not only the defense of its own soil, but the vast expense associated with that defense. Governments already burdened with extraordinarily high rates of taxation will be forced to make cuts in their welfare programs in order to shore up their defense apparatus.

I disagree. I bet that Germany will not increase defense spending, if the US closes another military base. Previous closures did not lead to increase either. Many Americans like to think that US military bases abroad are protecting the host countries, while majorities (?) in the host countries see the bases as serving primarily US interests.

Whatever the US does, German defense spending declines for domestic reasons. Last week, the German legislative even voted to shorten military service down to six months for budgetary reasons. To me that sounds more like a military internship than part of national defense. Quite a few politicians want to maintain the military service since it supports recruitment for professional soldiers. In the 60s and early 70s the military service was three times as long as it is today.

An interesting statistic that the National Review Online author did not get from us: "Each troop we send to Afghanistan costs the public $1 million per year. That's $1 million siphoned out of the U.S. economy and shipped overseas to the mountains of Afghanistan and the Iraqi deserts." Aha! Since this is the National Review I am tempted to ask the author whether the economy is more important than security? They seem to be moving towards the European position on war versus economy. Is America becoming a post-heroic society just like Europe, this was actually the topic of the blogpost to be referenced in an MA thesis.

Atlantic Review Used for MA Thesis

An Irish student emailed me that he his going to reference an Atlantic Review blogpost in his MA thesis: Are Americans More Willing to Make Sacrifices Than Europeans?

It was one of my better blogposts, written in 2007, but still up-to-date. I was discussing transatlantic attitudes towards war and sacrifice and concluded that Americans are more optimistic than Europeans and that Americans are moving towards a post-heroic society, in which Europeans already live.

On the one hand, I am honored that this blog post will be referenced in an MA thesis, even though the reason might just be that I was discussing an issue with the prefix "post." Academia loves terms like post-constructivism, post-Cold War era, and now post-heroic. On the other hand, I am not sure, if it is a good sign for academia if blogposts are used as references. Next, someone will use a tweet to argue that the Pope is Catholic.

Two Gitmo Guys Go to Germany

The German government agreed to resettle a Syrian and a Palestinian Guantanamo detainee. AP quotes a State Department spokesman saying: "We greatly appreciate Germany's decision to resettle these two detainees." I think it is too little too late to really to impress Obama.

ENDNOTE: The German soccer team attacked the Spain too little too late as well in today's semi-final. That damn octopus Paul was right again in predicting the winner. Congrats to Nanne for the Dutch victory over Uruguay. I will certainly cheer the Dutch team in the upcoming final.