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What Germans Think of Barack Obama: Continuity We Can Believe In

The majority of Germans support Barack Obama for the US presidency, not because they believe he will radically change US policy, but because he is expected to return it to the familiar pre-Bush trajectory. This is the conclusion from my colleague Ben Heine over at atlantic-community.org

Ben and I have interviewed German, American and other attendees of the Obama rally in Berlin yesterday. We have asked some of the questions that you suggested on Atlantic Review. Here's our video with their responses:

 

What do you think of the opinions expressed by the interviewees?

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Pat Patterson on :

Jeez, what a coincidence that Mr. Heine found a completely disinterested listener that just happened to be wearing a Fulbright t-shirt! Not what are the odds?

Joerg - Atlantic Review on :

Nope, he was cool. I just had to cut so much good material. I figured he is already making a statement with the cowboy hat and Fulbright T-shirt. And that I could concentrate on others. The woman by his side is a Fulbrighter as well.

Joe Noory on :

Thanks, that was great. It's good to know that we really won't be missing out on anything when the next president fails to please 90% of these people.

John in Michigan, USA on :

Those were some excellent interviews. Citizen journalism rocks! --- One of the depressing things I keep hearing is "it can't get any worse" than the current President. This to me is silly. The entire world is worried about the Iranian bomb, and their genocidal, apocalyptic rhetoric. Although it is difficult to predict, it is entirely possible that Iran and Israel will soon be as close to a major nuclear exchange as were the US and the USSR during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Of course there are different ideas about how to avoid that, and we are not there yet. Meanwhile, India and Pakistan are nuclear powers that have had acute, low level conflict for decades. Things seem stable for now, but that could change. Worse, if a future nuclear exchange doesn't begin here, it could easily spread to here. Also meanwhile, there have been no more 9-11's, 7-7's, or 3-11's. That could change too, but so far, things have improved since those dark days. I am not saying this necessarily to defend Bush. I am just disturbed by the lack of awareness as to the world situation revealed by statements like "it can't get any worse". Things could easily be much, much, much worse.

SC on :

"The majority of Germans support Barrack Obama for the US presidency, not because they believe he will radically change US policy, but because he is expected to return it to the familiar pre-Bush trajectory." So let me get this straight, Joerg: Your colleague Ben Heine implies that the German public regards the foreign policy of the current US administration post 9/11 as something less than a radical change in US foreign policy from the prior two administrations. Well, that would be news; but how else would one interpret the sentence quoted. Do you agree with this assessment of the views of the German public? As a member of that public, would you characterize the change in US foreign policy under the current Bush administration as a less than radical change from, say, the Clinton administration?

John in Michigan, USA on :

You will hear the expression "in the tank" referring to Bush and Fox News, or Obama and the rest of the media. That expression has nothing to do with a battle tank...or a think tank. The original phrase probably is from boxing, where a fighter who was "in the tank" would bet against himself, then intentionally loose a match. This in turn probably came from the expression "tanking" used to describe a stock that is declining rapidly in value, or achieving the lowest possible value, indicating it is worth betting on. [url=http://www.juliansanchez.com/2008/02/28/in-the-tank/]There are other possible meanings and origins as well[/url]. The WSJ blog OpinionJournal [url=http://online.wsj.com/article/SB121700331721584879.html?mod=Best+of+the+Web+Today#KERRY]translated this to German[/url] as "im Tank für Obama" but I am certain they were joking. I wonder, is there a amusing idiom in German for a boxer (or something like that) loosing on purpose? Is there anything involving the concept of "in" that suggests either drunkenness, infatuation, or having an ulterior motive? What would be a fun German idiom for "the fix is in"? Maybe with German it is better to be literal? Also there is [url=http://online.wsj.com/article/SB121691868752381569.html?mod=djemBestOfTheWeb]this amusing and true account[/url] of how CNN interrupted a live discussion over whether the media was "in the tank" for Obama to report...that his plane landed safely!

Joe Noory on :

It's a new age of the new and improved intellectualism! "Continuity" and "Change" have now been declared to be the EXACT SAME THING! The cadres have spoken!

Joerg - Atlantic Review on :

@ SC and Joe I got the impression yesterday that many Germans hope that transatlantic relations will return to what they used to be. Obviously, that is not going to happen. It can't happen. So, we can draw to conclusions: A negative one and a positive one: a) Many folks have unrealistic expectations. (I wrote "many," not "most," because many are also skeptical of Obama, and some even expressed support for McCain.) b) Many Germans are optimistic and hopeful about transatlantic relations, i.e. they have not given up on the America they love. They blame Bush, not America. Yeah, that's not fair to Bush, but the good news -- also for Republicans -- is that you can win back the hearts and minds of many Germans. Many of us want to love America again. They don't want a divorce from America, but consider the nearly 8 years of Bush as just a phase that will pass away soon. Does this make sense? Do you know understand what was meant with "change" and "continuity"? According to popular opinion: [b]The two Bush administrations was the change from how transatlantic relations are supposed to be.[/b] Obama will undo this change and return the quality of the transatlantic relationship to how it used to be and is supposed to be. [b]He will reestablish continuity.[/b]

Fuchur on :

Thanks, the interviews were very interesting. Seems that the people have quite reasonable views on Obama and on what to expect from him.

Joerg - Atlantic Review on :

Helmut Metzner from the Liberal Democrats has critized the German media coverage of the Obama speech. Suggestive and stupid questions, journalists wearing Obama stickers etc. See his blog in German:; [url]http://muntermachermetzner.de/2008/07/25/war-was/[/url] He also links to the video interview that we did with him. We are the only media outlet he does not criticize in his blog post. Well, he does not praise us either... Anybody want to translate his blog post? Or write a guest blog post about the German media coverage of Obama?

John in Michigan, USA on :

David, [url=http://www.redlasso.com/ClipPlayer.aspx?id=439d9642-fe10-49ff-bce0-b2aac6607972]here is some real racism for you to condemn[/url]. You're welcome.

John in Michigan, USA on :

Let's not ignore the Paris leg of the trip. What were the impressions of the French? Separately, this outstanding McCain quote is not an attack on the French, it is an attack on the press: "My opponent, of course, is traveling in Europe, and tomorrow his tour takes him to France," Mr. McCain said with [Tour de France champion Lance] Armstrong at the Columbus event, according to his prepared remarks. "In a scene Lance would recognize, a throng of adoring fans awaits Senator Obama in Paris -- and that’s just the American press." From NT Times, headline: [url=http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/25/us/politics/25mccain.html?_r=1&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss&oref=slogin]"Hey, Obama: There’s Bratwurst in Ohio, Too (but No Cheering Masses)"[/url]. In Michigan, bratwurst is also very popular. In fact, I will be helping out at a party for about 900 people next weekend, Cincinnati brats will be one of the main dishes. We have a lot of German families in NW lower Michigan.

John in Michigan, USA on :

Wow, from what little I can tell from [url=http://translate.google.com/translate?u=http%3A%2F%2Fmuntermachermetzner.de%2F2008%2F07%2F25%2Fwar-was%2F&hl=en&ie=UTF8&sl=de&tl=en]Google's translation[/url], that looks like it is a very interesting post from Metzner. He quotes Helmut Schmidt, who apparently says about the Bundeswehr "Die Deutschen bleiben verführbar" Google renders this as "The Germans remain seducible". Could that really be true? What kind of flowers would be required? Chocolate? Metzner is photographed with Christopher Paun, who is wearing a "Get FISA Right" T-shirt. Very, very interesting. According to the Atlantic Community video, Paun is a German doctoral student in political science. I wonder if he knows that the FISA issue is the banner for a large (23,000 member) faction of activists at [url=http://www.barackobama.com/]my.barackobama.com[/url] that objects to Obama's reversal on the recent FISA bill? This faction routinely (and usually, politely) post threats to vote for a 3rd party candidate, or even McCain. These posts are usually removed from my.barackobama.com within a couple of days, but this means that a large number of people will have seen them and saved them to their hard drives, Google, etc. will have discovered these posts, etc. From a blogging / new media point of view, this is really something new, and remarkable -- that a campaign could be so attached to new media that it actually lets people use campaign resources to vent their frustrations, even to the point of letting them organize to alter the candidate's official (if rather recent) policy on an issue as important as FISA. The campaign appears to understand that if they delete the group blogging area inhabited by this faction, the members can simply go elsewhere on the Internet and keep on posting...but they will be even more alienated. Very, very interesting.

Pat Patterson on :

The "two Bush administrations?" Does that mean that the Germans want to split the country in two again? It wasn't a member of the bush family that threatened nuclear war over Soviet demands in 1961. If the elder Bush hadn't backed Ch. Kohl just what then would have happened to Germany? What exactly are the Germans so upset about considering they have a bare minimum of troops in Afghanistan with no consequences from the US, their trade to the US is generally unimpeded and near as I can tell they haven't been forced to do anything, except complain and pine for some imagined state of grace between the two countries?

Joerg - Atlantic Review on :

I had hoped it was obvious that I was referring to the last two George W. Bush administrations. Does not the term "administration" also refer to the four years between presidential elections?

Joerg - Atlantic Review on :

[i]"Google renders this as "The Germans remain seducible". Could that really be true?" [/i] The translation is correct and the statement is IMHO true. Here is a bit more context for you to put in google or for others to volunteer with a translation: Altkanzler Helmut Schmidt (SPD) versicherte den Rekruten laut Manuskript: "Ihr könnt Euch darauf verlassen: Dieser Staat wird Euch nicht missbrauchen." Schmidt, der als Ehrengast der Gelöbnisfeier sprach, sieht die Gefahr eines deutschen Rückfalls in eine kriegerische Politik nicht dauerhaft gebannt. "Zwar glauben viele, unser heutiger Friede sei doch selbstverständlich", sagte er. "Aber seit Jahrhunderten haben wir Deutsche uns keineswegs als eine sonderlich friedfertige Nation erwiesen." Die Menschen seien verführbar. "Auch wir Deutschen bleiben verführbar." [url]http://www.derwesten.de/nachrichten/nachrichten/politik/2008/7/20/news-63610880/detail.html[/url]

Pat Patterson on :

Actually no, an administration is simply a reference to the term in office of a particular president. Thus the eight years of Pres. Clinton and Pres. Bush would be referred to as an administration. While the truncated term of Pres. Ford, and the one terms of Pres. Carter and Pres. Bush are also referred to as an administration. Two administrations would refer to two different presidents. But I'm still left wondering exactly what Germany has been forced to do that disturbed their comity and the continuity of their lives and a transatlantic relationship? Invade Chechnya, threaten to cut off oil and natural gas supplies or withdraw from KFOR? I mean let's be honest in that except for some strenuous hyperventiliating the only thing the US has done to legitimately upset Germany is the new CAFE standards that Porsche might not be able to pass for another twenty years, hybrid Cayennes or not!

Zyme on :

The term "seducible" is misunderstood here I believe. Schmidt was probably thinking about the political developments after 1933 more than the role of the military. As regards "seducible" today - well on the one hand it sure is possible to draw large amounts of the german people to one direction when the time is right. This could be witnessed at the massive public identification with our nation in both the world championship in 2006 and the euro championship this year. In the right moment it almost seems like somebody pushed the right button and all (at least the younger ones) wear the same clothes, sing the same songs and enjoy doing the same things in a collective environment. The more taking part, the better. On the other hand, clearly none of our current leading politicians has even the slightest ability to push that button. So, little to worry here.

Joerg - Atlantic Review on :

Thanks for the explanation re "administration"! I learned something. Again! [i]But I'm still left wondering exactly what Germany has been forced to do that disturbed their comity and the continuity of their lives and a transatlantic relationship?[/i] I got your point, but lack the time for an answer. It is a complicated issue, I believe. [b]Perhaps someone else can answer your question.[/b] That would be great.

Anonymous on :

The cowboy is a German Fulbrighter

David on :

I was going to translate Metzner's post until I actually read it. Can't think of a good English word for "menschenverachtend" (dripping with contempt for people). No wonder the German voters have kicked the FDP out of any governing coalition. And why do they still have a "D" in their name? Replace it with an "M" - Freie Maerkte Partei.

Zyme on :

Don't you know the name of the former Eastern German State ? It was "German Democratic Republic". Anymore questions on this subject?

John in Michigan, USA on :

A better way to refer to the last 4 years of the Bush administration is the 2nd term of the Bush administration. Adding to the fun, "term" can mean "word" as in terms of endearment (what Germany wants from Obama or McCain) or it can mean "period of time" as in term in prison (what Europe wants for Bush) :-) You probably knew that already.

John in Michigan, USA on :

David, Are you using "menschenverachtend" to describe Metzner's post? To describe Schmidt's remarks? Or does it refer to your reaction to their words?

John in Michigan, USA on :

Still waiting. Normally you're very quick on this. Cat got your tongue?

SC on :

Joerg: Yes, it makes sense. Your point is that the current Bush administration is seen, broadly, as an historical aberration. In this sense then people see or equate "change" with return to what they see as past policy continuum. Nevertheless, I believe that a return to the policy principles of prior administrations would be a radical change for this reason, most notably: the doctrine of unilateral preemptive war is now in play as it really had not been in previous administrations since 1945. "The horse has left the barn", "the genie is out of the bottle": pick your favorite phrase here. I don't think Obama has disowned it: perhaps other participants here have knowledge of whether he has or hasn't. I rather expect that neither candidate has spoken definitively to this for the simple reason that the implied threat may be useful to those concerned with strategic deterrence. There appears to be a significant discussion taking place in policy circles, particularly in the Pentagon, about the elements of deterrence doctrine in an environment of nuclear proliferation. Moreover, the US has had one presidential election in which this very issue was considered and the country expressed itself; the point being that a large number of people, while dissatisfied with operations in Iraq, seem more comfortable than most realize, or at least acknowledge, with the general principal of preemption and unilateral action. While this may seem new, it really isn't and, I think, can be taken as a more extreme manifestation of longer trends. I hate to be an old bore about history, but there is plenty in America's to suggest that this is anything but new. However, boldly stated as policy this is something more in keeping with the 19th than the 20th century, and thus is consistent with deep currents in US history and at the same time is much at odds with many of the trends and international institutions created in the last half of the twentieth century supported by successive US administrations and apparently loved by Europeans. But these very same trends and institutions, for reasons much discussed in this community, have over my reasonably long life proven less than effective and seem to enjoy an ever decreasing level of American public support: I seriously doubt that either Obama or McCain will change that despite campaign rhetoric or the hopes of others. So I'm inclined to favor your first assessment, in particular. As for the second, with all due respect, the America that Germans thought they knew and loved has probably been strongly influenced their own imaginings and yearnings - as it always has been for much of humanity, I suspect, and I write this with a bit of knowledge and experience. This is not intended to be dismissive, but it something to bear in mind going forward.

Pat Patterson on :

The US has sent soldiers and Marines into Korea before UN approval, as well as without consultation with Germany or Europe into Lebanon, Libya, Grenada, Haiti, Panama, the Dominican Republic and even sponsoring an invasion of Cuba. As well as leaving our fingerprints all over covert actions in Guatemala, Poland, Iran, Chile, Colombia, Afghanistan, Tibet, etc. These are all examples of unilateral action on the part of the US and it just seems that Europe wants to get into the Wayback Machine. Again I might ask what Golden Age does Europe imagine they want to return to especially if they seem to think that Pres. Bush represents an outlier of American foreign policy rather than business as usual?

Bill on :

I really enjoyed viewing this video and listening to all of the opinions from people who attended this speech in Berlin. Thanks Jörg and thanks to the rest of the crew from Atlantic Review and the Atlantic Community for putting this together. You did a very good job.

Christopher Paun on :

Hi! I am the guy wearing the "get FISA right" shirt in the Video and Jörg was so kind to send me a link to this site. I am a civil liberties activist and member of the German Liberal Democrats (FDP) since several years. I also studied in the US (with a Fulbright scholarship) and so learned more about politics in the US, esp. international and transnational issues. The topic of my doctoral thesis is globalization of law enforcement. (more details upon request) I was amazed by the momentum of the Get FISA Right Group and how they managed to hijack the online campaign tools of Barak Obama. They did not succeed in blocking the most recent FISA bill, but the fight is not over. Civil Liberties are meant to protect individuals and minorities in a democracy so that the democracy does not turn into a tyranny of the majority. So as civil liberties presently do not have the support of the majority, it is time for legal action. And that is what the ACLU does now, together with several other organizations. So if you want to support action against warrantless wiretapping, then click this link and sign up as a supporter or donate to the ACLU: http://www.aclu.org/safefree/nsaspying/faachallenge.html

John in Michigan, USA on :

Christopher, Thanks for writing. I am impressed with your knowledge of the US political scene. "So as civil liberties presently do not have the support of the majority" I disagree. In the US, civil liberties remain very popular, it is only the ACLU that has lost popularity. When 9-11 came, I had been on the ACLU mailing list for some time, and the first, post 9-11 communication from the ACLU that I remember was an appeal to prevent a crackdown on, of all things, illegal immigrants! Over the following months and years it became clear the ACLU were out of touch. They had completely misjudged both the mood of the country and the seriousness of 9-11. They had no plan or vision for how to defend civil liberties in time of war. Their rhetoric became so shrill and sensational in tone, so over-the-top, I found it hard to take them seriously, even though I know they have many serious civil libertarians in their ranks. [i]The ACLU seemed all too comfortable creating their own little climate of fear, and no good can come of that.[/i] And yet, with the country fearful and the ACLU disoriented, WW II style mass internment was never seriously considered. TIA and similar programs were killed, in most cases before they even entered the proof-of-concept stage. The fear of government power, and the desire for freedom over the promise of security, remains embedded deep in the American soul, and cannot easily be suppressed. The Patriot Act passed only on condition that it be renewed every year. FISA, even in its current form, puts the US head and shoulders above most countries (outside of Western Europe) who do not accept or enforce any meaningful limitations on their ability to spy outside of their borders, or on national security exceptions within their borders. Self-confident civil libertarians understand that during times of war, certain limits are inevitable and can even serve to protect civil liberties in the long run. The trick is to limit the emergency measures in such a way that it is easier to modify or repeal them once the emergency is passed. [i]Now that 'stateless terrorism' appears to have reverted to a chronic problem, rather than an emergency, it is indeed appropriate to revisit all emergency measures[/i]. Also, I hope the ACLU will give serious thought as to their plan of action, should another emergency occur. The ACLU is still useful to civil libertarians because of their organizational resources. However, I fear the ACLU remains too focused on a few hot-button issues that are popular on the left. As a result, they don't see the big picture, and they fail to speak to the legitimate concerns of civil libertarians on the right (hate speech/speech codes, multicultural exceptions to fundamental rights, etc.) The ACLU risks turning civil liberties from a philosophy into a mere fetish.

Virginia Shanahan on :

With all due respect to the peoples of Europe but I could give rats behind what you think about our candidates. It is not the job of the U.S. President to please the world. It is the job of the U.S. President to help defend and protect the rights, liberties and freedom of the American people. The European nations are socialist societies. Their daily internal struggles continue to mount. Well, the U.S. is on the precipice of socialism and the people of this country best regain control now. The Power of Government Stops With Mehttp://conservativepolitics.today.com/2008/07/27/limited-government-made-easy/

Joerg - Atlantic Review on :

"I could give rats behind what you think about our candidates." Wow. Very interesting. Why do you read Atlantic Review and comment here? I am just curious... "The European nations are socialist societies." That's why we are not allowed to practice free speech and comment on US presidential candidates? What's your point?

Virginia Shanahan on :

Oh certainly you are permitted to exercise free speech (unless it's considered hateful by someone and then they try to shut you down). Ain't America grand? Why? It's quite simple. Do the peoples of Germany - or any other nation- factor in what the world thinks of their candidate or do they vote their conscience based on whom they believe will do the best job leading their country? Certainly they decide on who will best lead their country. America should be doing the same. There is no reason for our presidential hopefuls to be campaigning in Germany - or any other foreign country for that matter. He is not running for president of the world. He is not even running for president of Germany. To date, the Germans are not permitted to vote in U.S. elections. So what is the actual purpose of Obama's trip there?

Joerg - Atlantic Review on :

To answer your question: Obama believes that his trip to Germany will bolster his foreign policy credentials. I am not sure, if giving a speech in front of a huge crowd indicates foreign policy expertise. Anyway, watch the video above about people's reactions. Moreover, I am sure you agree that the United States has a better chance to achieve many of its foreign policy goals if it has international partners. It has been easy to say to "No!" to George Bush's requests for help in Afghanistan and elsewhere, because of his many past mistakes. If Americans elect Obama, it will be much more difficult to refuse help, because we cannot blame Obama for Bush's mistakes and rhetoric etc. Does that answer your questions?

Virginia Shanahan on :

I did watch the video and I found the peoples reactions to be in line with what I imagined they would be. Yes, he did it to bolster his foreign policy experience, which is none. I agree this trip in no way achieves his goals. I believe the U.S. over reaches it's foreign policy. However, when the U.S. is correct on principle and policy it should be strong enough to not need foreign aide and should certainly not be requesting permission from global nations. By no means has Bush been a perfect President and certainly he has angered me on more than one occasion but he has been far from a failure and I do believe history will reflect that.

Pat Patterson on :

Actually I found Christopher sadly lacking in knowledge of the US. First in that the Consitution was plainly created to guarantee the right of the majority, "We the people..." and then goes on to refer to the common defense and the general welfare. It is not really a document that promotes the rights of minorities except toleration especially when those minority rights come at the expense of the majority. I mean it seems sometimes that most of the Fulbright Scholars that come to the United States get their information about American people from Oprah and their knowledge about the Constitution from Daily Kos. Secondly in this form of a republic the minority generally abides by elections and does not and is usually prevented from placing its own interests above the majority. And as a result does not engage or brag about the kinds of acts that puts its own interests above the 1st Amendment rights of others namely the Obama supporters. But if Christopher truly believes that then I don't expect to hear any whining if, God forbid, the CIA or more likely the FSB begins funding small minority parties in Germany so that they can hack into, deface and steal bandwith because they have "rights."

Kevin Sampson on :

“Many Germans are optimistic and hopeful about transatlantic relations, i.e. they have not given up on the America they love.” Do Europeans learn anything at all about US history prior to World War 2? For most of our existence, American attitudes toward Europe have varied between sublime indifference and outright hostility. And I mean Europe as a whole, not a particular nation. Remember Washington’s warning against European entanglements? Even after World War 1 the US lost no time in returning to isolationism as quickly as possible. It was only after World War 2 that the ‘Western’ alliance came into being, and that (as I have said here before) was due to the common threat posed by the Soviet Union. That threat no longer exists (or is no longer perceived to exist). Attitudes on both sides of the Atlantic are now returning to their historical norms. I hate to tell you guys this, Joerg, but ‘the America you love’ was a historical anomaly which can not exist in the post-Cold War world. And the eight years of GWB was not ‘just a phase’, it is the shape of things to come, irregardless of who’s in the White House.

Christopher Paun on :

@ Pat: Your argument about the constitution protecting majority rights would be right if it had not been amended. But maybe you should read the first ten amendments, also known as the bill of rights. It is specifically about individual rights. And by the way: it grants those rights also to non-US citizens. I am not sure If I got your argument about the FSB funding a small minority party. But yes: I support civil liberties even if people use those liberties to do something I personally do not like.

Christopher Paun on :

@ John: Yes you are right. I think I exaggerated a bit when I said that civil liberties do not have the support of the majority. Maybe I should have said “civil liberties presently do not have sufficient support of the majority.” In general I like the attitude in US of being skeptical of to much power for the government. But I think the state of emergency is overrated. I don’t want to be cynical, but even in 2001 more Americans died in car accidents than in terrorist attacks. 9-11 was terrible, no doubt, but I think the US should switch back form emergency to normal mode. As you say: "Now that 'stateless terrorism' appears to have reverted to a chronic problem, rather than an emergency, it is indeed appropriate to revisit all emergency measures." I agree.

Fuchur on :

What?? I hope this is just a language problem, but since your German seems to be excellent, I can't really believe this. "Menschenverachtend" is something you'd use for the likes of Stalin or Hitler. Using it here, for someone who just doesn't share your political ideas, is way out of line and extremely poor style. It surprises me, btw., that you apparently would consider a "free market party" as something bad and anti-democratic. FDP supporters (and I consider myself to be one) indeed vouch for freedom in every aspect of life, economy included. We do this not out of contempt for people, but because we believe in human dignity.

John in Michigan, USA on :

"even in 2001 more Americans died in car accidents than in terrorist attacks." True, but not all deaths are equal. A car death with no one at fault is less disturbing than one with someone at fault...which is less disturbing than murder...which is less disturbing than (for example) rape-murder...and so on. Also, tactics matter, and yes, even culture matters. Serial killers are given more attention and resources than say a drug runner or mobster accused of the same number of murders. Why? There are a number of reasons, but surely a big one is that serial killers are seen as inheirantly more terrorizing than drug deals gone bad, or mob hits. So I think it was fair to treat 9-11 as both an act of war (albeit by a non-state actor) and an emergency of a qualitatively different nature than a busy weekend on the highway, even though statistically driving is much more dangerous than terrorism. "revisit emergency measures" Some of the 9-11 emergency measures have already been cancelled. Officially we never tortured anyone; but thanks to McCain and others, even 'enhanced interrogation', including waterboarding, is no longer practiced (as far as anyone can tell...which short of utopia is probably the best one can hope for). Also it is unlikely that we will do any more extraordinary renditions, absent another 9-11. There are a few other post-9-11 practices I would like to see ended or modified. But even if than happens, we will still have to struggle with the huge threat to civil liberties of the war on (some) drugs, which no-one wants to talk about right now...

John in Michigan, USA on :

Christopher, I am also interested in learning more about espionage vs. civil liberties in Europe. For example, my impression of France is, when it comes to national security and even commercial espionage, they are...how to put this...quite permissive. But maybe my impression is incorrect our out of date? How would you compare French limited on spying (internally or externally) to the US or Germany? Also, what limits does Germany place on its ability to conduct espionage outside of Europe? Is there an article I should read for this?

Christopher Paun on :

Yes, indeed. Since the war on terror started, there is much less media attention for the war on drugs, although it continues. And by the way: one of those drug warriors was Bob Barr, who is now the candidate of the libertarian party. How could that have happened? With his position on drugs and gay marriage he is not really a libertarian, or what do you think?

Christopher Paun on :

A good comparative overview is: [url=http://www.amazon.com/Whos-Watching-Spies-Establishing-Accountability/dp/1574888978/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1217250312&sr=1-1]Hans Born, Loch K. Johnson, and Ian Leigh (2005): Who's Watching the Spies?: Establishing Intelligence Service Accountability[/url]

John in Michigan, USA on :

Interesting question re Bob Barr. When he joined the Libertarian Party, [url=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bob_Barr#Libertarian_Party]he changed his position[/url] on the issues you mention, and other issues as well. For example: "Incredibly, this new partnership saw Barr working to repeal his very own 'Barr Amendment' — the amendment that overturned a voter-approved medical marijuana initiative in Washington, D.C. and prohibits consideration of similar initiatives." It seems likely these changes are a sincere change of heart for Barr, since the LP has very little power with which to 'bribe' him... Here is an [url=http://www.bobbarr2008.com/snippets/2/bob-barr-on-the-colbert-report/]absolutely hilarious video[/url] of an interview Barr did. Warning: lots of inside jokes. I am encouraged that experienced politicians like Barr are joining the LP. Also, the LP seem to be getting more practical and a less obsessed with ideological purity.

Christopher Paun on :

Thank you for that info on Bob Barr. My previous post to your question did not get through (awaiting modereation because of link). A good comperative overview in democratic control of intelligence services is: Hans Born, Loch K. Johnson, and Ian Leigh: Who's Watching the Spies?: Establishing Intelligence Service Accountability

ADMIN on :

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SC on :

A bit of a quibble here: It certainly is not the case that non-citzens are granted rights equivalent to citizens under the US Constitution. Now, one day in the future the US Supreme Court may interpret the Constitution as it stands to mean this but at the moment it hasn't: Hamdan and other recent decisions did not go that far. In their relationship to the US Government, the US Constitution follows US citizens wherever they go and such is certainly not currently the case with non-citizens - among other things, location matters.

Bill on :

The correct expression is "I could give a rat's ass..." followed by whatever it is you don't give a shit about. Virginia was just being ladylike while at the same time showing her ignorance about how US national politics and US foreign policy really works. Can you imagine a US presidential candidate saying to the peoples[sic] of Europe and the world "I could give a rat's ass about what you think of me."? Come to think about it, perhaps we've seen this attitude in US presidents past and present. Doesn't work very well for America and the people of the world, does it?

John in Michigan, USA on :

Joerg, When yearning for continuity, Europeans need to keep in mind that normally, the US electorate is pretty unconcerned with foreign policy. The break in continuity on this point was not the election of Bush in 2000, it was 9-11. This break took US foreign policy out of the hands of the mandarins at the State Department with whom some Europeans are more comfortable, and into the hands of the politicians, who can be unpredictable and appallingly populist. I don't think you are calling for our foreign policy to revert to its pre-9-11 mode, and even if you were, it isn't likely to happen. So, continuity would mean, in effect, Americans revert to not caring much about foreign policy, and our foreign policy goes on auto-pilot. However, the mandarins don't really have the mandate for big changes to existing, post-9-11 policies. So this means no major changes to the visa requirements, travel restrictions, limits on cultural exchange, and all the other stuff that came out of the GWOT that is causing tension in the trans-Atlantic relationship. While auto-pilot wouldn't support any more big adventures like Iraq, it would permit smaller adventures like Somalia or Clinton's various bombing runs, which caused a great deal of resentment in the Islamic world and, unlike Iraq and Afghanistan, played right in to bin Laden's "paper tiger" rhetoric. Finally, if Bush is an aberration, Reagan's change from detente to confrontation was even more so. Worse, it was Reagan's initiative, and not an unforeseen event, that drove the change. Almost every European complaint about Bush sounds familiar to someone like me who became politically aware during the 80's. Yet the Regan "aberration" worked out fantastically well for Europe, especially Germany. Continuity may not be all that you hope it to be.

John in Michigan, USA on :

Good point. That is a little creepy! For additional, possible creepiness, have you seen [url=http://mypetjawa.mu.nu/archives/193417.php]LOLz: Obama = Lenin[/url]? N.B. [url=http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/lolz]LOLz[/url] in this context means something like "just for laughs" so don't have a cow, David. Any experts on German poster art or street art care to comment?

Joerg - Atlantic Review on :

"I don't think you are calling for our foreign policy to revert to its pre-9-11 mode" You are correct. "Continuity may not be all that you hope it to be." I am just writing about the impression I got from talking to Germans. My comments on popular opinion are here: [url]http://atlanticreview.org/archives/1131-What-Germans-Think-of-Barack-Obama-Continuity-We-Can-Believe-In.html#c15338[/url]

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