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Obama Uses anti-Americanism in Election Campaign?

First Gerhard Schroeder was accused of using anti-Americanism to win an election. Now the British Telegraph's Toby Harnden claims that Obama echoes Europe's anti-Americanism to win the midterm elections: 

Bill Clinton spoke like a Good Ol' Boy from the Deep South, ate junk food and enjoyed trashy women. He was clever, but he did not look down on people. Obama, by contrast, has become a parody of the Ivy League liberal smugly content with his own intellectual superiority and pitying the poor idiots who disagree with him. It is an approach that shares much with the default anti-Americanism of British and European elites, who love to mock the United States as a country full of gun-toting, bible-clutching morons. (.)

Joining the Europeans in mocking ordinary Americans for their supposed idiocy may play well at big-dollar fund-raisers. In adopting this as a political strategy, however, the Democrats could be the ones who end up looking stupid.

WTF? No wonder the article received more than 400 comments since Saturday.

Poor Taste

Chile's president is on a world tour to bask in on the glory of the miners' rescue and benefit from the huge media interest. That might be poor taste. (I think it is, but still alright in terms of pursuing national interests.)

What is definitely poor taste is the phrase the president wrote in a government guest book in Berlin. Sebastian Pinera wrote "Deutschland ueber alles," or "Germany above all." He has now apologized, reports Yahoo! News.

The European and North American media also demonstrates poor taste considering its obsession with the 33 Chilean miners while at the same time ignoring the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Pakistan caused by the floods. See the article by Sidra Tariq, cross-culture intern at atlantic-community.org.

Endnote: A few Latin American friends of mine told me in the past that we should include their countries when discussing transatlantic relations because the continent has an Atlantic coast and European heritage/history. Well, here you go ;-(

Today Europe Has More Troops in Afghanistan than Last Year

Philip H. Gordon, Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, gave a speech on The United States and Europe: An Agenda for Engagement at SAIS in Washington DC, where I studied in 1999/2000. It was an okay round-up of the transatlantic relationship. Dr. Gordon, formerly of the Brookings Institution, praised the cooperation with Europe: "There could be no better partner than Europe, where we work with democratic, prosperous, militarily-capable allies who share our values and share our interests."

I missed some enthusiasm in his voice to match his words. He does, however, seem to genuinely appreciate Europe's contributions. He did not only delivering the following part of his manuscript:

In Afghanistan, in the wake of the President's speech in November 2009, Europe contributed about 7000 additional troops, over 100 training teams for the Afghan army and police, and nearly $300 million for the Afghan National Army trust fund. European nations now have almost 40,000 troops in Afghanistan and the total European contribution to Afghanistan since 2001 comes to $14 billion.

But he also looked into the audience and added to the prepared text (see video at 7:53 minutes, since it is not in the transcript): "Today as we speak European countries have more troops in Afghanistan than they ever had before despite notions out of there of withdrawal and waning interest." That's good point.

"The Silent Partner" Who Does not Care

"An American drone killed eight German citizens in Pakistan [last] week. Germany's non-reaction says volumes about its role in the war on terror," writes Cameron Abadi in Foreign Policy and concludes "Judging from their eerie silence this week, Germans generally seem willing to let America handle the world's dirty work abroad." It's a great article and I recommend fully reading it and some of his links.

I tend to agree with him, but I also have the impression that the German public does not worry about terrorist attacks in general. They do not consider the US as acting on Germany's behalf and doing "the world's dirty work abroad."

Even the NATO mission in Afghanistan is not given credit for uncovering and disrupting the plot to attack European targets. I have not heard or read a statement in Germany along the lines of Con Coughlin's op-ed in the Wall Street Journal: The Afghanistan War's Dividends in Europe (Free access, if you use Google search): 

"The main reason we can identify these plots and implement measures against them is because of the extensive military and intelligence-gathering infrastructure we have invested in the region," a senior NATO officer in Kabul told me following reports of the latest al Qaeda scheme. "But it is doubtful we would have the same ability to track the plots and respond to them if we suddenly reduced our presence in Afghanistan."

German parliamentarians find it increasingly difficult to tell their voters why they always vote for extensions of the Bundeswehr mandate for Afghanistan, but they don't use the disrupted terror plot aimed at European cities (Paris, Berlin) as a chance to convince voters that our participation in the Afghanistan mission has made us safer. Or what am I missing here?

ENDNOTES: Reuters: "Italy could begin pulling out troops from Afghanistan next summer, the foreign minister said on Tuesday, as the nation mourned four soldiers killed in an insurgent ambush at the weekend.

Germany was elected to the UN Security Council for the next two years. (Canada, I am so sorry!) So, Germany might be less quiet in the years to come. Remember the "fun" we had in the run up to the Iraq war? Any chance for a deja-vu regarding Iran in 2011 or 2012?

"Hamburg cell at heart of terrorist plot against Europe"

The US, the UK, France and now Japan issued warnings of a Mumbai-styled terrorist plot against European cities. Every government warns its citizens of an increased chance of attacks. Everybody? No, a small country at the Baltic Sea appears immune to fear mongering and minds its own business. (Hm, I tried to paraphrase the introduction of the Asterix comics, but probably failed.)

CNN:

A group of jihadists from the German city of Hamburg are alleged to be at the heart of the recent al Qaeda plot to launch co-ordinated terrorist attacks against European cities, according to European intelligence officials. The plan prompted the U.S. State Department to issue a Europe-wide security advisory for Americans traveling in Europe. Japan issued a similar alert Monday, citing the warnings issued by the United States and by Britain, which raised the level highest for France and Germany.

German authorities seem to be much less concerned than Washington, London and Paris. I wonder why. Any theories? Are Germans ignorant ("nobody will attack our peaceloving country" because the Age of Aquarius has started) or are we the only non-fear mongers, who are skeptical of "the Al-Qaeda brew"? German analysts have not yet interrogated Sidiqi. Perhaps that explains the difference? Spiegel points out:

Still, it remains unclear whether the reports can be considered reliable or whether Sidiqi's claims are the typical al-Qaida brew, consisting of one-third truth, one-third lies and one-third omission. Although the CIA is taking Sidiqi seriously, German authorities are more reserved in their analysis.

Reunification: Germany Succeeds in Icy Negotiations

Germany has been criticized for a self-centered foreign and economic policy lately: Afghanistan, economic stimulus, Greece. Germany's commitment to the transatlantic alliance and European integration is called into question. I wonder how much of this is influenced by German reunification 20 years ago. We achieved our main goal (the jackpot) back then and need allies less since. Besides, our friends in the West were not very supportive of our main foreign policy goal, if the Spiegel's summary of the road to unification is to believed.

President Bush is described as "rather indifferent to the question of unification" and erecting "the highest hurdle when he stated that the United States would only agree to reunification if the new Germany were brought into the NATO fold."

British diplomats wondered whether this was a trick aimed at postponing German reunification for years to come. Nevertheless, Kohl agreed to Bush's proposal. He was concerned that if Germany became neutral, NATO would collapse. Without the North Atlantic pact, Kohl worried, the Americans would disappear from Europe, and nuclear powers France and Great Britain would then form a tighter alliance. It was an outcome no chancellor could possibly wish for. But if Kohl agreed to NATO membership, Bush would stand by his word -- and American influence in Europe would increase. The only problem was convincing Gorbachev to accept both reunification and NATO membership. His troops were still stationed in East Germany, which was still a member or the Warsaw Pact, and Gorbachev was still convinced that a leftist political party emerging from the SED could save the GDR.

Why did Gorbachev agree so quickly? According to Spiegel he was so busy with the Soviet Union's domestic troubles that he did not care that much about Germany. (Another reason was that he was a moralist and did not want to be seen as an extortionist by putting more demands on Germany.)  Though, opposition to reunification grew in the West in 1989 and 1990:

Continue reading "Reunification: Germany Succeeds in Icy Negotiations"

German-American Relations 20 Years after Unification

The election of President Obama has not improved transatlantic cooperation as many pundits claimed it would. Rather German-American relations could fall back into crisis, writes Prof Anderson of Georgetown for AICGS. "Drift and disappointment" rule the day. A return to the "old normal" is not possible, but we need to work towards a "new normal":

So although few on either side of the Atlantic would deny that German-American relations are in a better place today than they were six years ago, even fewer would describe the situation in glowing terms. Drift and disappointment are terms that come more readily to mind. Is this a relationship that is falling back into crisis, then? Many influential voices are signaling that it is, or easily could be. Hardly a week goes by in which a major op-ed or editorial is published that forecasts the end of the transatlantic partnership, or the end of the special relationship between the United States and one or more of its European allies. My sense is that the question itself is poorly framed, and as such the ensuing answers are not especially revealing or insightful. In fact, the terms of the postwar transatlantic relationship ended on the day the Soviet Union ceased to exist. What was considered "normal" for relations between the United States and its European allies up through 1991 no longer held.

His solution:

In short, the concern to resurrect some version of the "old normal," built around common security concerns, is impeding progress toward acknowledging and then fostering the "new normal," which almost certainly will not be built on a security-based foundation. (.) Along the way, we will need to interact with people outside the old and formalized transatlantic networks that exist in Washington, DC, and Berlin, and seek to bring them in. The new normal will follow, slowly but surely.

I wonder if what people he refers to. Does he include the blogosphere? Are we all part of rejuvenating the transatlantic partnership? (Anyhow. I will try to find the time to organize a another Carnival of German-American Relations. Anybody interested in writing an article?)

"I hear only praise"

Wall Street Journal interview with German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle:

Q: Some NATO Allies complain about the restrictions Germany has imposed on its troops in northern Afghanistan.

A: I hear only praise and recognition of the successful work of German women and men, meaning not only the soldiers, in Afghanistan. 

Is Germany's Foreign Minister deaf or is the Obama administration too polite for Germans too understand the criticism? Or has Obama's Afghanistan team (political and military) given up on Germany and thus only says nice things? (HT: ACUS)