Skip to content

Liberators

According to Think Progress, General Petraeus claimed in June 2007 that the U.S. is being perceived as "liberators" once again in Iraq, this time freeing Iraqis from the bloody civil war instigated as a result of the U.S. occupation.

Nuclear Proliferation

David Aaronovitch reviews in The Times (HT: Don) "The Atomic Bazaar: The Rise of the Nuclear Poor" by William Langewiesche:
In a time when we are used to blaming the Americans for everything, it is depressing to discover that it was primarily European (especially German) insouciance, greed and stupidity that helped to supply the nuclear weapons programmes of Pakistan, Iraq and other gate-crashers at the nuclear party.

Cost of Current US Wars: "$400 for Every Minute Since Jesus Christ was Born"

Radar Online features the "Jesus Christ's Superstars: America's holiest congressmen." Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV) made the top 3 [HT: Marian]:
C-Span junkies know that the longest-serving and oldest current senator has a habit of peppering his meandering speeches with biblical references, noting once that the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan amounted to "$400 for every minute since Jesus Christ was born."

Germans said to be more afraid to kill than to get killed

Max Boot, fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and a contributing editor to the Weekly Standard, visited the American Academy in Berlin and writes in Contentions that US and German "perceptions remain as far apart as ever on a variety of foreign-policy issues."
At the end of his op-ed, he lets an American observer explain why Germans are reluctant to send troops into combat operations:
It is not so much that the Germans are afraid of getting their own troops killed, he said; they are more afraid of what their troops might do. They realize that counterinsurgency is a nasty type of warfare and that troops of any nationality are liable to commit some excesses. Germans, this American suggested, are deathly afraid that combat atrocities might revive old stereotypes about German militarism. Thus the Germans will continue to stress “soft” power while we (and, to a lesser extent, the Brits) perform the “hard” tasks.
I think there is some truth to it. What do you think?
Another explanation is that most Germans tend to believe that aid and reconstruction can achieve more in Afghanistan than fighting an unwinnable war against a determined and experienced insurgency. Apparently many don't see the need to link both efforts. Besides, collateral damage (i.e. the accidental killing of civilians) strengthens the insurgents and makes winning hearts and minds of the local population much more difficult or even impossible. Moreover, Afghanistan is not seen as important to national security.

Related posts in the Atlantic Review:
Failing in Afghanistan and  "A Little Bit Pregnant": Germany About to Send Hi-Tech Jets to Afghanistan

Resolve, Doubt and Flip-Flopping

One of John F. Kerry's better one-liners during his presidential campaign in 2004 was: "It's one thing to be certain, but you can be certain and wrong." On December 24, 2006 he picked up on this issue in his Washington Post op-ed "When Resolve Turns Reckless":
There's something much worse than being accused of "flip-flopping": refusing to flip when it's obvious that your course of action is a flop. I say this to President Bush as someone who learned the hard way how embracing the world's complexity can be twisted into a crude political shorthand.
Fred Kagan of the American Enterprise Institute calls for flip-flopping as well ("dramatic change"), but his suggestions are very different from Kerry's: "Send more troops to Baghdad and we'll have a fighting chance" is the headline in his Sunday Times commentary.
Bertrand Russell's famous quote "The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt" seems to be appropriate for the discussions about what to do in Iraq and for both liberal and conservative politicians and journalists.

Historical Comparisons: Fritz Stern Publishes "Five Germanys I Have Known"

"Can It Happen Here?" is the headline of the NY Times review of the Fritz Stern's memoir:
In November 2005, Fritz Stern received an award for his life's work on Germans, Jews and the roots of National Socialism, presented to him by Joschka Fischer, then the German foreign minister. With a frankness that startled some in the audience, Stern, an emeritus professor of European history at Columbia University, peppered his acceptance speech with the similarities he saw between the path taken by Germany in the years leading up to Hitler and the path being taken by the United States today. He talked about a group of 1920's intellectuals known as the "conservative revolutionaries," who "denounced liberalism as the greatest, most invidious threat, and attacked it for its tolerance, rationality and cosmopolitan culture," and about how Hitler had used religion to appeal to the German public. In Hitler's first radio address after becoming chancellor, Stern noted, he declared that the Nazis regarded "Christianity as the foundation of our national morality and the family as the basis of national life."
Stern was of course not suggesting an equivalence between President Bush and Hitler but rather making a more subtle critique, extending his idea that contemporary American politics exhibited "something like the strident militancy and political ineptitude of the Kaiser's pre-1914 imperial Germany." At 80, Stern has just published a sprawling memoir, "Five Germanys I Have Known," (Amazon.com, Amazon.de) and as with that speech, he does not file away his experiences of Nazism in a geographical or temporal box.
About the frequent Nazi comparisons:
Outraged by the facile interpretations of Nazism floating around in the 1950's — "all the tomes and slogans about Germany’s inevitable path 'from Luther to Hitler'" — he charts his own, more subtle interpretation of what caused the Third Reich. Over the years Stern protests the ways radicals abuse the memory of Nazism to support their present-day political agendas, whether the 1960's students who called authority figures fascists and Nazis, or those today who compare foreign leaders they dislike to Hitler and cry "Munich" at every diplomatic gesture.
Yet the value of Stern's work is precisely that it has refused to keep Nazism safely on the other side of a historical and geographic chasm. His first book, "The Politics of Cultural Despair" (1961), is one of the durable masterpieces of 20th-century history because it seems to locate the roots of a peculiarly modern malaise. As he explained in a later edition of the work, "I attempted to show the importance of this new type of cultural malcontent, and to show how he facilitated the intrusion into politics of essentially unpolitical grievances."
Hitler comparisions are still very popular:
•  Secretary Rumsfeld has German roots, used to visit his relatives in Germany in the 80s, and should know German history.
Continue reading "Historical Comparisons: Fritz Stern Publishes "Five Germanys I Have Known""

40th Anniversary of Senator Fulbright's "Arrogance of Power" Speech

The liberal American Prospect wrote about an anniversary in April 2006, which the Atlantic Review missed:
Forty years ago this week, Senator J. William Fulbright delivered a speech at Johns Hopkins University on "the arrogance of power." Talk about a time bomb. "The question I find intriguing is whether a nation so extraordinarily endowed as the United States can overcome that arrogance of power which has afflicted, weakened, and, in some cases, destroyed great nations in the past," Fulbright said. "Power tends to confuse itself with virtue and a great nation is peculiarly susceptible to the idea that its power is a sign of God's favor, conferring upon it a special responsibility for other nations -- to make them richer and happier and wiser, to remake them, that is, in its own shining image."
Many people believe the Bush administration's foreign policy is misguided, arrogant, and headed for disaster. But few were making that argument back when George W. Bush was still in college. Of course, the context of Fulbright's speech was not Bush's virtuous unilateralism or the divine summons to Iraq; it was President Lyndon Johnson's deepening engagement in Vietnam. But it's doubtful anyone in Congress today has delivered a more thoughtful critique of Bush’s foreign policy. What's even more striking from this vantage point, however, is that Fulbright delivered his broadside against a sitting president of his own party. Johnson was still a commanding and fairly popular figure in 1966 -- the Vietnam War, remember, did not lose majority support until spring 1968 -- when Fulbright rose to fulfill what he called "the patriot’s duty of dissent." The White House, Senate, and House were all controlled by one party, as they are today.
In August 2005, the Atlantic Review recommeded an article about Senator Hagel walking in Senator Fulbright's footsteps. The American Prospect writer Francis Wilkinson would like Senators Hagel and McCain to take note: "Do today what William Fulbright did 40 years ago this week, and then we'll talk":
Senator John McCain used to be good for an honest slap at the White House every now and then. But ever since he made up his mind to do whatever is necessary to win the Republican nomination in 2008, he's been a pussycat. Republican Senator Richard Lugar has been known to raise a paternal eyebrow and murmur something -- darned if I can recall what -- on a Sunday morning talk show. Senator Chuck Hagel occasionally strays from party, which is to say, White House, talking points. Arlen Specter held hearings on the NSA spying scandal -- and then refused to swear in administration witnesses. But faced with a situation not unlike Fulbright's in 1966, very few on the Republican side have dared to offer a critical public analysis of White House policy.
Mr. Wilkinson, however, does not outline what criticism and what constructive proposals regarding Iraq he expects from those Republican Senators. There seems to be a shortage of suggestions to improve the Bush administration's Iraq policy, while there certainly isn't a shortage of criticism.

Michigan State University presents a copy of Senator Fulbright's 1966 speech (HT: Phronesisaical).
Amazon.com and Amazon.de sell Senator Fulbright's book The Arrogance of Power that followed after the speech.