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Europeans Are Not Pacifists

Michael Lind of the New America Foundation debunks "the 9 most annoying sky-is-falling clichés in American foreign policy."

First I thought the one about the "pacifist Europeans" is the most boring and stupid of the nine clichés, but then I paused, when I read Lind's reference to Secretary Gates statement on "the demilitarization of Europe." Lind debunks:

The defense spending of major European powers hardly proves them to be doves. As a share of GDP, European military budgets have been roughly even with those of the BRIC countries that are supposed to be the great powers of the future. What really irks Americans who criticize Europe's alleged pacifism has been opposition to the Iraq war or refusal to make greater commitments for the war in Afghanistan. In reality, Europeans are no pacifists; they've simply declined the invitation to play Robin to America's global Batman. European countries spend quite enough to defend themselves -- against real threats.

While we are not pacifists, warmongering is a crime in Germany: The Guardian (HT: Bruce) writes that "a German politician has warned that the CIA informant Curveball could go to jail after telling the Guardian that he lied about Saddam Hussein's bioweapons capability in order to 'liberate' Iraq." And why did the German secret service pay "Curveball £2,500 a month for at least five years after they knew he had lied"?

ENDNOTE: Germany's former foreign minister Joschka Fischer just published his Iraq war memoir "I Am Not Convinced." Just a few weeks after Donald Rumsfeld's memoir. According to another Guardian article, "Fischer accused the former head of the CIA George Tenet of making implausible claims about the handling of the Curveball case by the US."

The Forces Behind the Revolution in Egypt

Who gets the most credit for toppling Mubarak? And who will be blamed if the revolution turns nasty in the next 12 months? Who inspired the events that could change history like the Fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 or the Islamic Revolution in 1979?

Facebook? Twitter? Rising food prices? The "liberation" of Iraq? George W. Bush? David Hasselhoff? The Egyptian Army? The youth groups of the opposition parties? The Tahrir square campers? Or the tragic narratives of the two individuals Khaled Said from Alexandria or Mohammed Bouazizi from Ben Arous?

1. The BBC has a great image of "the camp that toppled a president."

2. Interestingly, the Boston Globe, often described as very liberal, gives George W. Bush some credit. A program to fund and train election monitors in Egypt "played a key role in the movement to topple President Hosni Mubarak's regime":

The program, which provided millions in direct funding to prodemocracy groups, helped dispatch 13,000 volunteers to observe Egypt's parliamentary elections in December. Thousands of those monitors, angered by what they said was blatant election rigging, joined the protests. Some became outspoken leaders; others used the networking and communication skills they learned to help coordinate 18 days of rallies. (...)

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NYT Criticizes German Leadership

The New York Times (via ACUS) describes a joint proposal from German Chancellor Merkel and French President Sarkozy to the EU leaders as a "German diktat." That's the first weird assessment in this Germany bashing editorial. Here are three more:

Mrs. Merkel wants all 17 countries that use the euro to fall in line with German ideas of fiscal austerity in return for limited additional financial support for countries in trouble. She expects them to run deficits no higher than Germany's (3.5 percent of G.D.P.), allow retirement no earlier than Germany (age 67), and raise or lower their tax rates as required to match Germany's.

a) Has the NYT forgotten what the EU agreed on two decades ago? According to the Maastricht Treaty of 1992 deficits should be below 3 percent and debt below 60 percent of GDP. Most countries broke the rules. For some this caused more serious economic problems than for others. Now Germany is asked to help them.

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France and US: Bad Judgment on North Africa

French Foreign Minister Alliot-Marie, who has served under several prime ministers and has held almost all of the big ministries, should resign immediately!

Moreover, I wish that the entire French government is so ashamed of itself that they cease to give grand speeches about human rights, democracy and values for the rest of the year.

Los Angeles Times

France trained Egyptian police officers in crowd control and sent tear gas to Tunis. And its foreign minister vacationed in Tunisia after the uprising, using the jet of a man linked to the ousted president. (...) French Prime Minister Francois Fillon confirmed this week that the government had authorized a shipment of tear gas grenades to Tunis on Jan. 12, two days before Tunisian President Zine el Abidine ben Ali was toppled from power. (...) Weeks ago, Alliot-Marie was criticized for offering to prop up Ben Ali's unpopular administration just days before he fled the country. She suggested sending France's "world renowned" security forces to help quell the uprising.

Compared to what France has done, the Obama administration's lapse of moral judgment is peanuts. Telegraph Independent:

Frank Wisner, President Barack Obama's envoy to Cairo who infuriated the White House this weekend by urging Hosni Mubarak to remain President of Egypt, works for a New York and Washington law firm which works for the dictator's own Egyptian government.

Meanwhile, Germany might facilitate a quick de facto resignation of Mubarak. Jerusalem Post:

The United States government's plan to end to the political chaos in Egypt appeared to be a scenario wherein Mubarak travels to Germany for a "prolonged health check," the report suggested.

Photo: © Rémi Jouan, CC-BY-SA, GNU Free Documentation License, Wikimedia Commons

America's Political Hypochondriacs and Nazi Party People

Although FOX News often describes the United States the greatest, freest, bestest, and wonderfullest country in the world, some crazy FOX News moderator declares "What happens in Egypt could happen in America." This lets Jon Stewart's Daily Show to rant "Conservatives have turned into political hypochondriacs, and no one is more neurotic than the Woody Allen of Fox News." See video after 40 seconds:

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Does Europe Have Something to Say on Egypt?

Prime Minister David Cameron, President Nicolas Sarkozy and Chancellor Angela Merkel issued a joint UK-France-Germany statement on the situation in Egypt:

We urge President Mubarak to embark on a process of transformation which should be reflected in a broad-based government and in free and fair elections."

Of course, the NYT finds a negative angle to report on this: "The statement by Mrs. Merkel, Mr. Sarkozy and Mr. Cameron exposes the lack of any coherent and united response by the European Union as a whole, even though under the Lisbon Treaty of 2009, its reaction to major events was intended to be swifter and united."

Well, the EU foreign minister did produce a united response yesterday calling for a peaceful, orderly and democratic transition. The problem is not the lack of unity, but the fact that we don't have something meaningful to say.

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Social Mobility

Social Mobility is an issue that comes up time and again in the comments section of Atlantic Review and other blogs. Why? Because fairness and equal opportunities are so important to the US and European self-image. Or in the words of the researcher of the London School of Economics: "The level of intergenerational mobility in society is seen by many as a measure of the extent of equality of economic and social opportunity."

In 2005 they published these "disturbing findings" (HT: Influx):

A careful comparison reveals that the USA and Britain are at the bottom with the lowest social mobility. Norway has the greatest social mobility, followed by Denmark, Sweden and Finland. Germany is around the middle of the two extremes, and Canada was found to be much more mobile than the UK. Comparing surveys of children born in the 1950s and the 1970s, the researchers went on to examine the reason for Britain's low, and declining, mobility. They found that it is in part due to the strong and increasing relationship between family income and educational attainment.

My guess is social mobility declined in many countries in the five years since the publication of the survey. Fortunately, the situation is still better than in North Africa. The lack of social mobility was the key factor in the protests/revolution.