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About Terrorism and Security Policy Debates in Germany and the United States

•  In the Weekly Standard article "Germany wakes up, sort of", Jeffrey Gedmin, director of the Aspen Institute Berlin, describes the debates about terrorism before and after the failed train bombing plot in Germany:
The Schröder era was not a complete wasteland. Otto Schily, the dour interior minister--a Green turned Social Democrat--was tough as nails and proved a serious ally for the United States and others. But the debate about Islamic terrorism during those years was mostly silly and irresponsible. Mathias Döpfner, the chairman and CEO of the Springer publishing company, wrote a searing column a couple years ago in which he argued that the German debate had been reduced to the goofy and lazy formula "Bush is dumb and bad." The events of the summer have at least gotten Germans' attention.
•  Fareed Zakaria opines in Newsweek that "Washington has a long habit of painting its enemies 10 feet tall—and crazy:"
It's 1938, says the liberal columnist Richard Cohen, evoking images of Hitler's armies massing in the face of an appeasing West. No, no, says Newt Gingrich, the Third World War has already begun. Neoconservatives, who can be counted on to escalate, argue that we're actually in the thick of the Fourth World War. The historian Bernard Lewis warned a few weeks ago that Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, could be planning to annihilate Israel (and perhaps even the United States) on Aug. 22 because it was a significant day for Muslims. Can everyone please take a deep breath?
•  Jan Ross writes in the German weekly Die Zeit about the increasing importance of foreign policy in Germany, the decreasing public support for Bundeswehr missions and the need to better explain international politics: "Welterklärer, verzweifelt gesucht." He also compares German think tanks with their US counterparts:
Germany has fewer and consensus oriented think tanks, while the US has many private, opinionated and ideological think tanks. Jan Ross sees the pros and cons of both systems, but he might have a slight preference for the more diverse and bigger marketplace of ideas in the US. He also makes funny comments on Peter Scholl-Latour (who is 82 years old, has a lot of experience, but whose expertise is much overrated in Germany) and on Washington think tanks "being full of 30 year olds, who explain the world and know exactly what to do."

•  Writing for the United Press International wire service, Stefan Nicola describes the unease many Germans feel about increasing foreign policy committments:
Given the multitude of international missions German soldiers are part of, observers say Berlin lacks an overlaying strategy that would determine which missions are and which aren't in the interests of the country. Since 1992, more than 150,000 soldiers of the Bundeswehr (Germany's armed forces) have taken part in foreign missions, some humanitarian, some with a permission to kill. At the moment, roughly 7,600 Bundeswehr soldiers are stationed in Europe, Africa and Asia. The German contribution to the international peace keeping force in Lebanon would be Germany's tenth mission, and it would mean that the country for the first time in its post-World War II history has a military presence in the Middle East. What are Germany's interests in the Congo, where 765 Bundeswehr soldiers aid a European Union mission to safeguard elections there? What are they in Afghanistan, where some 2,700 German soldiers are stationed with the United Nations-mandated International Security Assistance Force? What are they in the Middle East? (...)
Critics nevertheless say Germany lacks a coherent strategy that would combine foreign policy, security policy and defense policy interests. 'Such a strategy would enable a discussion how the German contribution in Lebanon is in line with German weapons exports to Israel and its potential enemies,' a columnist wrote in the Berliner Zeitung newspaper. It could also discuss 'how the sale to Israel of German submarines, which could be used to carry atomic weapons, interferes with the German role when it comes to negotiating Iran's nuclear program.'
There look to be some overriding criteria: A key one seems to be to try to keep German soldiers out of harm's way. Berlin offered to help UNIFIL by sending navy units that would patrol the Lebanese coast to prevent weapons smuggling from the sea. Schreer said the German contribution was characterized by an attempt 'to minimize' the risks involved. 'The German contribution is only a symbolic one,' Berthold Meyer, of the Peace Research Institute Frankfurt, or HSFK, told UPI recently.
Regarding Afghanistan:
In Afghanistan, the situation has been heating up for a while, and Berlin has quickly denied reports that ISAF would like to see Bundeswehr soldiers in the more dangerous southern areas of the country, where violence is escalating. 'Germany will keep concentrating on the North for its activities to help stabilize the situation,' a government spokesman said earlier this week.
But when the international community is calling for help, it's hard to say no.
'It's going to be more and more difficult for Germany to argue that its soldiers operate exclusively in the North, while the other countries have to take heavy heat in the more dangerous South,' Schreer told UPI.
It should not be forgotten that a German general and a German diplomat are in charge of the international missions in Kosovo since September 1, 2006.

Endnote: Al Qaeda expert Peter Bergen wrote a good summary of the various theories of the causes of 9/11 in Prospect Magazine. (HT: Kosmoblog, which recommends many more interesting articles.)


Atlantic Review on : Transatlantic Approaches, Quagmires, and Iran

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"Having recently returned home after nearly four years as a New York Times correspondent in Europe, I am struck by how deeply divided the United States is on almost every other issue," writes Richard Bernstein in the International Herald Tribune


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Anonymous on :

"Fear, Fear, Fear" [url][/url]

Anonymous on :

Doom and gloom. We are all going to die: Newsweek about "Europe's Civilization Clash" "This is the real clash of civilizations—a brutal war for the bottom rung of Europe's ladder." "a brutal, increasingly internecine brand of ethnic warfare. It pits group against group, race against race, in a competition for economic survival featuring Chinese against North Africans, South Asian Muslims against white or fair-skinned Christians from Eastern Europe and Latin America." [url][/url] Arrrgggh, I need Prozac... I am going into my fetal position and will vote for real tough politicians... The more tough talking the better...

David on :

I always find Gedmin incredibly condescending - and wrong! It doesn't surprise me that he admires Otto Schily. This is the neocon fascination with the authoritarian personality. In my opinion, Schily damaged civil liberties in Germany. His role in the illegal "rendition" of al-Masri by the CIA still needs to be clarified, as well as his activity around the 4 1/2 year detention of Murat Kurnaz - did Schily prevent his release back to Germany already in 2002? Also, Schily was behind the illegal wiretapping of the journalist at Cicero. No wonder Gedmin sees him as a hero.

JW-Atlantic Review on :

Striking a balance between civil liberties and security is very difficult. We need to have proper debates how to deal with the threats posed by various groups and individuals, who use terrorism. What are the best policies? More surveillance and data mining can't be the only solution. The debate should [i]not[/i] be limited to criticizing the erosion of civil liberties, but many progressives on both sides of the Atlantic don't do much else. Well, there are exceptions, of course. Alternatives should be suggested. As Interior Minister Otto Schily perhaps had the most difficult cabinet position and (apart from Finance Minister) the most unpopular one. (The job of the Interior Minister isn't identical with, but is closest to Secretary of Homeland Security.) I really don't want to defend Schily. (In fact, I am curious what the parliamentary inquiry will reveal about his role in the Kurnaz and el-Masri case.) Rather I just want to make a general statement about what I consider an interesting phenomenon, but others might find trivial: I think everybody's views change a lot (esp. on civil liberties), when they gain immense responsibility. What decisions would you make, if you were Interior Minister/Secretary of Homeland Security? Again: I am not saying this to defend Schily, but just as a general statement and [b][url=]considering Schily's bio[/url][/b]: He was criticized for pushing through tough German anti-terrorist legislation after the September 11 terrorist attacks, which many saw as contradictory to his earlier beliefs. Schily, however, said he did not change his views so much. He explained his polices by saying that in the 70s the danger to civil liberties came from the government and now the danger comes from terrorists.

David on :

If we don't preserve our democratic institutions - in the case of the US, the Bill of Rights - then the terrorists have won. I lived in Germany during the period when Die Rote Armee was active - it was not a pleasant experience. There was a climate of fear and intimidation. Anyone who wants to know about that period should read Heinrich Boell's novel "Die verlorene Ehre der Katarina Blum" (The Lost Honor of Katarina Blum). Boell captures perfectly what happens to democracy when we let fear take over. That is the danger for both the US and Germany.

Don on :

"If we don't preserve our democratic institutions - in the case of the US, the Bill of Rights - then the terrorists have won." Hokum. Bunkum. Bollocks. Tosh. During WWII we threw out the Bill of Rights lock stock and barrel. Remember the concentratioon camps in California? Abraham Lincoln completely ignored Chief Justice Roger Taney (author of the Dred Scott Decision) writs of habeas corpus after clapping a bunch of Maryland seccescionists into jail. The Empire of Jan did not win WWII, no more than the Confederate States of America win the Civil War. And the US healed just fine from both those actions - far more extreme than anything Bush has done.

Don on :

Sorry. I meant to write 'The Empire of Japan did not win WWII' in the above post.

Anonymous on :

The difference between a Moderate (or a real Liberal) and a Leftist is that Moderates are concerned with threats from all sides, while Liberals only care about threats from the government and ignore more serious threats.

David on :

Don, The incarceration of Japanese-Americans during WWII was a grave injustice that contributed nothing to the war effort. It was a shameful chapter in American history, for which every US president since has apologized. We also didn't "heal just fine". I recommend David Niewart's book "Strawberry Days: How Internment Destroyed a Japanese American Community".

Don on :

Dave, the internment was shameful. But it was not the end of american democracy - or even of american rights. You asserted that the enemy wins if abuses happen. But the enemy did not win either WWII or the Civil War. Your statement implies that abuses mean that we become the same or worse than the adversary, which is simply over the top hyperbole. The reality is harsh enough to stand by itself without indulging in grief porn...

G on :

I believe what they are saying is it violated the central tenant of the republic as envision by a bunch of rebels over two hundred years when they founded the United States. Benjamin Franklin was particularly vocal on the topic of ensuring that the government restrained itself from interfering with the lives of the citizens. It is enshrined within the constitution. The right to bear arms is there to allow the people to rise up against their government should it become corrupt -- don't see that happening anytime soon. Habeas Corpus is another. It is the one thing that all democracy/republic have had since the 13th Century. Bush has eliminated it. You may say that far worse abuses have occurred in the past, but that is a lie. President Bush ended Habeas Corpus not for a select group of people, he ended if for everyone in the United States. Yes, this has happened in times of war in the past (the world wars for example), but it was limited to the war itself. They only lasted six years at most. Now we are fighting terrorists and like the "war on drugs," it will never end. We may never get those freedoms back. That's use an example. Let's say a law enforcement agency decides you may possibly be a threat to the United States, regardless if there is any proof that you are, they can declare you terrorist and incarcerate you without trial indefinitely. Habeas Corpus is the central tenant to a free society simply because of the freedoms it grants. If you are arrested, you need to be informed of the charges. If you are arrested, you are entitled to a trial by a jury of your peers. If you are arrested, you are allowed to retrain legal council to defend you. To some, that may sound like a minor thing to give away for safety from terrorist, but is the only thing that makes a society free. "I believe President Bush is a danger to my country and I would like to see him out of office." Freedom of speech or a threat against the United States? If someone decides the later, congratulations. You're a domestic terrorist. Welcome to Gitmo. The single thing that makes the United States great is it's constitution. Everything else is dependent upon it. If you start picking and choosing which parts of it are relevant, the entire thing collapses. So anything is justifiable if it keeps you safe? So how about we surrender all our freedoms. Place security cameras everywhere, bug everyone's phone calls and internet, end gatherings of more than six people. Remove the right to bears arms. Censor what we read/see/hear. Impose curfews and arrest anyone caught violating it. While we're at it, how about we inprision anyone who doesn't share the same beliefs as the majority or, hell, is of a different skin colour. Why not, I mean we all know we have to fear middle easterners. Let's throw them all in jail to keep ourselves safe. But we don't have enough jail space so how about we put them in huge camps instead. But it's pretty expensive to feed all these people so let's gas them all to save money. I mean, they are out to hurt America anyway so it's justifiable, right? Congratulations. You're safe, at least from everyone but your own government. "People who are willing to give up freedom for the sake of short-term security deserve neither freedom nor security." - Benjamin Franklin

Joe Noory on :

That's pure speculation that you had suggested to you form who-knows-where about what a repressive state COULD do. Perhaps you got this notion from the entirely fabricated story from the movide "Rendition" that featured a US citizen and resident brutally picked up off the street and shipped off to be tortured for no reason. It was fiction, and worse still it was fiction with the intent of implanting a non-fact and inversion of policy as a home truth. That is called seditious propaganda typical of the cultural left, not the US government. These people should go back to obsessing over "the Government's evil Bermuda triangle coverup!!!!" or some other self-selected corny sideshow that makes them think themselves smart and informed.

Pat Patterson on :

A little ignorance goes along way. The writ of habeas corpus in the US Constitution is not a right but in Article 1 Section 9 it is described as a privilege. "The privilege of habeas corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in cases of rebellion or invasion, the public safety may require it." Habeas corpus has been suspended at least seven times in the history of the US and has always passed court scrutiny. In fact the latest limitation of habeas corpus suspension for non-citizens was in 2006 when Congress essentially agreed with the President and confirmed the suspension of habeas corpus for aliens and a few special classes of American citizens which, except for Jose Padilla, no current citizen is being held. I would like to see an example of anyone being held as a terrorist or unlawful combatant now that has either been denied a writ or has not appeared in court to determine his status. The claim that any law enforcement organization can hold someone indefinitely considering they have to get a warrant from a court to arrest the suspect first. The rest is a garbled mishmash of the Miranada warnings, descriptions of huge camps, containing 400 or less terrorists and the claim that we are all affected by some imagined suspension of habeas corpus simply doesn't even stand up to the laugh test. Else David would have been carted away months ago and yet he is safe in his property and rights.

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