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New Year's Eve: Silly or Serious?

Reposted from December 31, 2007:

It's the same procedure as every year: Millions of Germans watch "Dinner for One" every New Year's Eve since 1972. It is "as big a tradition in Germany as the crystal ball drop is in New York's Times Square," writes Patrick Donahue for Bloomberg. You can watch the 10 minutes British comedy on Youtube. It is so funny, it never got dubbed into German. As Observing Hermann points out: "A bit strange maybe, but aren't most traditions - when they're not yours, I mean?"

Many in the media write every year that this New Year's Eve tradition is strange and that this silly slapstick never got popular in the UK or the US. Of course, I could point out that US upholders of moral standards probably do not like to broadcast all that drinking and the sexual reference in the end. But that is all silly and not important.

The end of a year should be a time for reflection, I believe. It's worthwhile to remember all the unknown people who have done good in the real Marla Ruzickaworld. I try to ignore the many "year in review"-articles that feature silly people that made the headlines.  The media does not write much about the many relief workers in war and natural disaster zones around the world. At least not while they are alive. Marla Ruzicka from California got big press coverage after she was killed in a car bomb explosion in Bagdad in April 2005.

December 31 was her birthday. Read last year's Tribute to Marla Ruzicka and other Idealists Risking their Lives out there. 

Actually, seriousness and silliness serve both their distinct purposes. It's all about finding the right balance in life between work and entertainment. Marla would definitely agree. And with these superficial words of wisdom 2007 comes to an end. Thank you for reading Atlantic Review. Stay tuned in 2008. All the best for the new year.

"The U.S. is increasingly looking to new partners"

In her first major report on foreign policy, the European Union's foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, argues according to the New York Times:

"Europe is no longer the main strategic preoccupation of U.S. foreign policy," the document says. "The U.S. is increasingly looking to new partners to address old and new problems." (.) "When we are an efficient and reliable partner, the U.S. takes us seriously," it argues. "Conversely, if we overpromise and underdeliver; if we prioritize process over substance or if we don't know what we want, the U.S. will turn its attention elsewhere."

For the European Union stating the obvious is already progress. Let's hope they will implement the recommendations in the next 10 years.

"The Temptation to Save the EU from Itself"

What? John Bolton, a former US ambassador to the UN, says that Europeans have to save the Euro crisis? No way! Uncle Sam has to solve all our problems. We Euro weenies are just kids.

Okay, I get it. It's just a New York Post headline. But still. The premise behind the headline is.puzzling.

So what is John Bolton saying exactly:

As the euro encounters even graver difficulties, America should resist the temptation to save the EU from itself. We must avoid propping it up directly through loans or financial assistance or indirectly through the International Monetary Fund.

"Temptation"? Seriously? Given all the short- and long-term US financial problems, are Americans really tempted to "save the EU from itself"? 

I am not an IMF expert, but is not the fund's purpose to help member states, who are in trouble, but have a plan to bring their finances in order? The EU is not a member, but Greece, Ireland, Spain are members. As sovereign countries they can ask for support. The IMF should grant the support, especially if it is in the interest of the world economy. The IMF's purpose is neither to promote the Euro nor to defend the US-dollar as the world's leading reserve currency. A few years ago, pundits debated whether the IMF is obsolete.

Since the US is the biggest contributor to the IMF, it also gets to influence a country's recovery policies, which is one of the reasons, why some Europeans (France?) used to be against IMF involvement in the Euro crisis.

I agree with Bolton's conclusion, which is just common sense and therefore boring and waste of ink: "We should worry about President Obama's staggering deficit spending and let Europe worry about its own."

Remembering Holbrooke and Bosnia

Richard Holbrooke, described by President Obama as a "true giant of American foreign policy," has died following heart surgery. He was only 69, but his career covered nearly fifty years. From 1993-1994, he was the US Ambassador to Germany and founded the American Academy in Berlin.

Ambassador Holbrooke died on the eve of the 15th anniversary of the Dayton Peace Accords, which was the biggest of his many accomplishments and ended more than three years of bloody war in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

NATO published a three-part mini video documentary "From Peacekeeping To Partnership":

Part I: Building Peace tells of NATO's gradual engagement in support of United Nations' efforts to end the Bosnian War (1992-1995) and the deployment of its first peacekeeping force in December 1995. NATO's mission continued for nine years until responsibility for security was handed over to the European Union in December 2004. 

Part II: Reforming the Military shows how NATO's support for essential defence reforms in Bosnia and Herzegovina has helped downsize the armed forces and turn them into a single military force under state-level control. Progress made allowed the country to join NATO's Partnership for Peace in 2006.

Part III: The Road to Integration highlights the country's deepening partnership with NATO and provides an insight into the challenges ahead on the road to the country's possible membership of the Alliance.

Richard Holbrooke's book about Bosnia "To End a War" (Amazon.com, Amazon.de) is my favorite foreign policy memoir. It is so well written that it reads like a good thriller. I was very inspired when I read his book during my Political Science studies in the late 90s. Richard Holbrooke was an inspiration to many other German students as well.

Germany Honors and Thanks US Soldiers

From the German Embassy in Washington DC:

German-US military history was made earlier this year when the German Armed Forces awarded 14 American soldiers one of the German military's highest honors for valor, the Gold Cross of Honor of the German Armed Forces, for risking their lives in the rescue of wounded German soldiers in northern Afghanistan. It was the first time non-Germans had ever received the award. Some of the US soldiers will now be honored by the US Army in a ceremony on December 13 in Katterbach, Germany.

The crew members of  a helicopter MedEvac unit came to the aid of Bundeswehr soldiers who had been ambushed by more than 200 Taliban fighters while on patrol north of Kunduz on April 2. With US Apache helicopters providing defense, US Black Hawk helicopters made multiple trips to evacuate 11 critically wounded German soldiers from the battle zone. Three of the German soldiers later died of their injuries.