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Terrorism: Should Europe and the US Go to Red Alert?

Counterterrorism officials in France, Germany, Britain, and the United States have given warnings this week about the rising threat of attacks by Al Qaeda and its affiliates, especially in Europe. Are our politicians listening? Are you concerned?

"Al Qaeda and its allies are taking aim at Europe, according to US and Western intelligence officials, who say there are indications a terrorist plot is in the offing" writes the Washington Times. (HT: ACUS)

While FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III told a Senate hearing on Wednesday that Al Qaeda continues to be "committed to high-profile attacks directed at the West," Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano stressed the increasing threat of smaller-scale attacks, which require less planning and fewer pre-operational steps and therefore are more difficult to detect before they occur.

Continue reading "Terrorism: Should Europe and the US Go to Red Alert?"

Survey Finds NATO Remains Popular in the US

Given waning support for the Afghanistan mission, a sentiment among many Americans that the US is putting far more relatively into both Iraq and Afghanistan than it's partners, and regular arguments from media pundits that NATO no longer has relevance in a post-Cold War world -- I was surprised to read this in The Chicago Council on Global Affairs' 2010 national survey of public opinion on foreign policy:
Americans... continue to show support for involvement in NATO, one of America’s most enduring military alliances. Only 13 percent favor decreasing the U.S. commitment—essentially unchanged from 2004. Sixty-six percent (66%) favor keeping the current U.S. commitment to NATO “what it is now,” while 10 percent would like to increase it (down 4 points from 2004). (p.15)
The report is titled Constrained Internationalism: Adapting to New Realities.  Overall, the 83-page survey finds that American's still support a strong international role for US foreign policy, including militarily.  The following excerpt comes from the introduction to chapter one, titled "Reevaluating Priorities across a Changing Global Landscape":
With a painfully slow recovery, persistently high unemployment, and diminished tax revenues, the United States has fewer resources to direct toward international efforts.

Abroad, Americans see a shifting international environment in which the United States is less dominant, China’s power is growing, and the world is gradually moving toward a more multipolar order. Yet while such a change does engender some anxiety, this international realignment is not something that Americans are inclined to resist. In fact, they have favored the United States playing a less hegemonic role in the world for some time now, and thus they appear ready to adapt to it.

Overall, Americans are standing by their internationalist views and major commitments, even as they scale back their ambitions and become more selective in what they will support in terms of blood and treasure. (p.11)

2010 is Deadliest Year for Coalition Forces in Afghanistan

2010 is the deadliest year for NATO forces in Afghanistan, reports the NYT.
Violence is 69 percent higher for the three months ending Sept. 14 than it was for the same period last year, according to the United Nations special representative’s quarterly report to the Security Council, which was released Tuesday.

The deterioration of security was most evident in the increase in roadside bomb explosions, which rose 82 percent over the same period in 2009.
A graph documenting the steady annual rise of coalition deaths from 2001 to today can be found at iCasualties.org. US forces have suffered 1301 deaths out of the total 2098 among coalition forces since the war began in 2001.

This record in casualties follows another landmark event in Afghanistan last week, nation-wide provincial elections.  Here are some (grim) stats on the election outcome provided by AFP:

* more than 2,500 candidates stood for 249 seats
* over 3,000 official complaints about voting irregularities
* more than 1,000 polling centers were unable to open because security could not be guaranteed
* 22 people were killed by polling day violence, and 294 insurgent attacks occurred
* final results are due October 31st, though may be delayed for months

While these numbers may be discouraging, Tony Karon writes in Time that the elections actually have only a marginal impact on Afghanistan's future:
Most of the region's main players, including President Karzai himself, are operating on the assumption that the only plausible endgame for the war in Afghanistan is some form of political settlement with the Taliban — and reports from the region suggest that the pursuit of such a settlement, with Pakistan acting as broker, has already begun via discreet talks. The bottom line in such a settlement would be for the Taliban to agree to prevent territory under its control from being used to export terrorism, and to accept that it will not be able to restore its theocratic rule over the whole country — some form of power sharing would be inevitable, with the Taliban likely to end up as the dominant political authority in the Pashtun south and east. But despite reports that Taliban leaders are open to a different approach to wielding power and hosting al-Qaeda, achieving a deal would be far from easy. The Taliban's military momentum diminishes its incentive to compromise, and the leaders of the Northern Alliance that fought the Taliban for years and brought President Karzai to power are fiercely opposed to the restoration of the movement to any position of power. Still, the distribution of power in Afghanistan is clearly going to be determined by the outcome of efforts to broker a political solution among those who wield military force on the ground. And in that respect, Saturday's vote was, unfortunately, a sideshow.

"Rally to Restore Sanity" and the "March to Keep Fear Alive"

Jon Stewart is getting better and better. He is going to stage a rally in Washington DC against extremists on both sides of the political spectrum. And Stephen Colbert wants to keep fear alive. Very funny video below, after about the first minute of blabla. 

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Rally to Restore Sanity
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor Tea Party

Bullshit on Europe?

Dan Drezner divides Secretary Clinton's major foreign policy speech into "the good, the bad, and the BS portions." (I am wondering if he follows Harry Frankfurt's definition of bullshit) And Clinton's statements on Europe fall into the BS portion:

The whole section on strengthening bilateral and multilateral ties to Europe almost caused me to lose my cornflakes.  I mean, c'mon.  Is forcing the Europeans to cut down their number of seats in the IMF an example of strengthening alliances?  I see the intrinsic merit in occasionally dissing the Europeans, but don't tell me that anything transatlantic has been "strengthened" over the past 18 months.

Good question! What has been strengthened in transatlantic affairs over the last 18 months?

The German Marshall Fund's Transatlantic Trends 2010 survey just made the - cough -- totally surprising - cough -- discovery that Obama's popularity has not lead to converging opinions about how to address several global challenges. Apparently, it takes more than presidential popularity to make the European kids follow the lead of the US godfather? Wow, so perhaps George W. Bush's personality was not the main reason why Europeans opposed the Iraq war. Do you think that maybe - just maybe - Europeans have different national interests and preferences. And the world affairs is not a popularity contest? Oh, I am going on a limp here.

Europeans are full of bullshit as well: According to the same survey 62% of EU respondents ("large majorities") said that "NATO should be prepared to act outside of Europe to defend members from threats to their security," while at the same time 64% of those respondents "thought that their country should either reduce or withdraw troops" from Afghanistan.

I think Europeans (everyone?) expresses more support if a request or question is phrased in broad and very abstract terms and concerns the future (NATO out of area), but when you get more specific and concrete and refer to the presence (Afghanistan), then people withdraw their support. I guess, this holds true to both big politics and personal relations...

Are We Missing the Big Stories?

James Joyner asks on the Atlantic Council's website: "NATO: A Fat, Bloated, Job Creation Project?"

So, the senior defense policymakers of the two most significant military players in Europe think that the tiny portions of their tiny defense budgets going to NATO is mostly wasted?  Now, perhaps having spent the last three years ensconced at a pro-NATO think tank has clouded my judgment but this strikes me as A1, above-the-fold, banner headline news.   At very least, it deserves a sidebar or off-lede treatment of its own.   But the average news consumer would surely have stopped well short of that point in the stories, once the writers started delving into the arcana of budgeting history.

What do you think? Should this be front page news?

Moreover, should this be big news at this time of the year? "Terror Alert: Hamburg Islamist Speaks of Threat of Attacks in Germany"

German officials are investigating apparent statements by a Hamburg Islamist recently arrested by US forces in Afghanistan about attack scenarios for terror strikes in Germany and neighboring countries. Ahmad S. is one of a number of Germany-based Islamists thought to have traveled to Pakistan and Afghanistan in 2009.

The biggest Germany related story in the Huffington Post is our new and young First Lady. Seven photo stories of Bettina Wulff within three weeks. OMG. I am disappointed by the Huffington Post, but I should have known better. Oh, and don't get me started on the media brouhaha for all these professional provocateurs like Thilo Sarazzin, Geert Wilders, and Terry Jones, who are selling stuff.

ENDNOTE: I am sorry for the light blogging these days. Atlantic Review misses big transatlantic stories. You can change that. Write a guest post. Send your submission to "ar-team AT atlanticreview.org" Thanks!