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Steyn: "World Should Give Thanks for America"

Hyperbole Alert! Mark Steyn writes in the OC Register:

On this Thanksgiving the rest of the world ought to give thanks to American national sovereignty, too. When something terrible and destructive happens a tsunami hits Indonesia, an earthquake devastates Pakistan the United States can project itself anywhere on the planet within hours and start saving lives, setting up hospitals and restoring the water supply.
Aside from Britain and France, the Europeans cannot project power in any meaningful way anywhere. When they sign on to an enterprise they claim to believe in shoring up Afghanistan's fledgling post-Taliban democracy most of them send token forces under constrained rules of engagement that prevent them doing anything more than manning the photocopier back at the base.
If America were to follow the Europeans and maintain only shriveled attenuated residual military capacity, the world would very quickly be nastier and bloodier, and far more unstable. It's not just Americans and Iraqis and Afghans who owe a debt of thanks to the U.S. soldier but all the Europeans grown plump and prosperous in a globalized economy guaranteed by the most benign hegemon in history.

Well, some European relief agencies are pretty fast as well: German relief experts at work in New Orleans. Still, I agree that the US military is the fastest and biggest provider of emergency help around the world. And Berliners continue to be grateful for the Airlift: During the 15 months long blockade of West Berlin in 1948-49, the US Air Force delivered everything the West-Berliners needed to survive (food, fuel, medicine, hope) in 190.000 flights.

I tend to agree with Steyn's comment on the European "token forces," but I doubt that "the world would very quickly be nastier and bloodier, and far more unstable," if the US reduced its defense spending. He is exaggerating the influence the United States currently has.

Anyway, Germans continue to have many reasons to be thankful for everything Americans have done for us. And I am thankful for many things, including the constantly growing number of Atlantic Review readers, commenters and guest bloggers. Thank you, ladies and gentlemen! I wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving!

Germans probably are not very thankful for Defense Secretary Gates' decision to freeze plans for further reducing Army forces in Europe. It is my impression that Germans don't consider US bases in Germany as a requirement for national security. (German readers, what do think?) The local communities surrounding the bases, however, will probably be thrilled to be able to continue business with the US forces.

The New York Times reports that the US "will maintain about 40,000 soldiers in Germany and Italy, nearly twice as many as had been envisioned under a drawdown that began two years ago, according to senior Pentagon and military officials." This issue was discussed on Atlantic Review last week, when Gates has not yet made the decision: US Forces May Stay Longer in Europe.

Berliners are faster than New Yorkers

The British Council secretly timed how fast city dwellers are walking. Singapore residents are the fastest, followed by the folks in Copenhagen and Madrid. "Berlin walkers outpace the New Yorkers," writes Benjamin Perry in Anglofritz.
Besides, p
eople are walking 10% more quickly than a decade ago, according to research in 32 cities across the globe.

Black History Month in Germany

Every February, millions of Americans and Canadians celebrate Black History Month, sometimes referred to as African-American History Month or African Heritage Month. While the month-long series of events discusses oppression and prejudices against people of color, the main aim is to recognize the rich history and culture and significant contributions to society made by people with African heritage.
The United Kingdom has a Black History Month in October of every year. The Sueddeutsche Zeitung wrote in February 2006 that the Initiative Schwarze Menschen in Deutschland ("Black People in Germany Initiative") has been organizing a Black History Month in Germany since 1990 but I have not found much information on their homepage.  In order to shed more light on the history and contributions of black people in Germany, the Atlantic Review has teamed up with Jewels in the Jungle blogger Bill, an African-American who has been living in Germany for years, as well as two Afro-German friends of his: Patrick and Patricia.

"Black Germans? Are you serious?"
Answer: Definitely! guide Hyde Flippo, a retired teacher of German language, history, and literature in the U.S.A. provides some statistics and some history:
Black Germans? Non-Germans may be understandably surprised to learn that there are Afro-Germans (Afrodeutsche), but many Germans themselves are unaware of the concept of a German who is also black (ein Schwarzer). While compared to other minorities, such as the 2 million Turks living in Germany, blacks are definitely a tiny minority among Germany's 82 million people. While EU countries do not keep track of ethnicity, there are an estimated 300,000 to 500,000 Blacks living in Germany today.
The history of black people in Germany goes back much further than most people think. One of the first Africans known to have lived in Germany was Anton Wilhelm Amo (1703-1759). Born in what is today's Ghana, Amo came under the protection of the Duke (Herzog) of Wolfenbüttel in Lower Saxony (Niedersachsen) and grew up in the duke's castle. He was both the first African known to attend a German university (Halle) and the first to obtain a doctorate degree (in 1729). As a professor, under his preferred name of Antonius Guilelmus Amo Afer, he taught at two German universities and published several scholarly works, including a Latin treatise entitled De Arte Sobrie et Accurate Philosophandi (1736, "On the Art of Philosophizing Soberly and Accurately"). Knowing the level of his achievements, it is all the more surprising to learn that Amo returned to Africa in 1747. Most accounts claim the reason for his return to his native Africa was the racial discrimination he encountered in Germany.
Mr. Flippo provides a lot more information about African Americans in Germany and lists some famous Afro-Germans which includes well-known entertainers like Roberto Blanco (very popular with older Germans) and singer Xavier Naidoo (a big star with younger Germans), as well as two members of the German National Soccer Team (Gerald Asamoah, David Odonkor), and ZDF-TV network morning news anchor Cherno Jobatey.

While Germany does not have a series of big events labeled "Black History Month," there are nevertheless quite a few projects that highlight Afro-Germans. 

Below the jump, this Atlantic Review post presents some quotes from articles about various Afro-German artists and their views on life in Germany, followed by a few thoughts on the concept of Black History Month:
Continue reading "Black History Month in Germany"

Responding to "Al-Qaeda's Revival"

• "Intelligence agencies see worrying signs of al-Qaeda's revival," writes The Economist:
In his annual threat assessment on January 11th, John Negroponte, America's outgoing intelligence chief, changed his tone. Al-Qaeda's core leadership was "resilient". Its hiding places in Pakistan were "secure" and it was "cultivating stronger operational connections and relationships" with affiliated groups across the Middle East, north Africa and Europe.
That sombre view matches the alarm of British intelligence chiefs in recent months. In November, Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller, the head of the security agency, MI5, said her overstretched spooks were contending with some 200 terrorist networks involving about 1,600 suspects, and investigating up to 30 high-priority plots. Home-grown radicals were "foot-soldiers" trained and guided by al-Qaeda on an "extensive and growing scale".(...)
The same Western officials also worry about what they call "blowback" from Iraq: instead of sucking in would-be suicide bombers on one-way tickets, it could pump out battle-hardened fighters to wage violent campaigns elsewhere in the world. Mr Negroponte said an American pull-out would allow Iraq to replace Afghanistan as an al-Qaeda sanctuary.
Germany's domestic intelligence unit (Verfassungsschutz) is searching for home-grown terrorists. Of course, they do. That's part of their job, but it contradicts the frequent claim that Europe is spineless and in denial about terrorism. Heinz Fromm, the head of the agency, defended the use of information that may have been obtained under torture, wrote DW World in December:
"All information we receive on threats will be looked into," he had told German tabloid Bild am Sonntag a day earlier, adding that there was still "considerable" risk of a terror attack in Germany. "The possibility that it may not have been obtained in accordance with our principles on the rule of law may not allow us to ignore it," he said, adding that he was only talking about using the material for intelligence purposes and not legal prosecution.
Germany Info reports briefly that Homeland Security Secretary Chertoff and Interior Minister Schaeuble met in Berlin on January 26, 2007.

DW World writes about a new German program for civil security research:
Germany plans to earmark 123 million euros ($160 million) in the next four years for training and research in civil security. Currently, Germany is one of the most secure countries in the world, Research Minister Annette Schavan noted. Further development of security technology aims to help it stay that way.
I wonder what indicators Minister Schavan uses to claim that Germany is "one of the most secure countries." How can anybody know which countries are the most secure?  The Third Risk Report by the Advisory Board for Civil Protection ("Dritter Gefahrenbericht der Schutzkommission") presented to the German Interior Minister on 26 March 2006 outlined many shortcomings: Summary in English. Zusammenfassung auf Deutsch.

While Al Qaeda seems to be on the march rather than on the run, as the Economist points out, the US might not have enough resources to deal with it, worries Senator Rockefeller according to the Washington Post:
The new chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee said he fears the government will not have enough money for homeland security and other domestic priorities because of President Bush's "Iraq adventure." In an interview on Monday, Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., criticized almost every major facet of the Bush administration's national security course since Sept. 11, 2001. "The president has in a sense walked away from the war on terror," Rockefeller said. Because of what he termed a misplaced fascination with Iraq based on faulty intelligence, Rockefeller said al-Qaida and Afghanistan have been neglected. He said he worries that U.S. intelligence on Iran is lacking, and what the nation knows about North Korea is even worse.
While Senator Rockefeller just started calling the Iraq war an "adventure," Chancellor Schroeder used this term already in 2002, when he was heavily criticized for being Anti-American and not taking the threat of WMD seriously.
USA Erklaert pointed to this article and the often underestimated influence of the intelligence committee chairman.

Coming Anarchy writes about trouble in the former USSR: "Sausage trader caught with weapons grade uranium."

David A. Bell, a professor of history at Johns Hopkins University,  asks in the Los Angeles Times: "Was 9/11 really that bad?" His answer: "The attacks were a horrible act of mass murder, but history says we're overreacting:"
Imagine that on 9/11, six hours after the assault on the twin towers and the Pentagon, terrorists had carried out a second wave of attacks on the United States, taking an additional 3,000 lives. Imagine that six hours after that, there had been yet another wave. Now imagine that the attacks had continued, every six hours, for another four years, until nearly 20 million Americans were dead. This is roughly what the Soviet Union suffered during World War II, and contemplating these numbers may help put in perspective what the United States has so far experienced during the war against terrorism. It also raises several questions. Has the American reaction to the attacks in fact been a massive overreaction?
Related posts in the Atlantic Review: Terrorism News from Germany and Iraq War Made the Global Terror Problem Worse. Also check out the transatlantic survey for European and American perceptions of the threat of terrorism.

The Super Bowl's European Veterans

Europe seems to have boosted the careers of many NFL players: "Eight players with NFL Europa experience -- including three-time Super Bowl-winning kicker Adam Vinatieri (Amsterdam 1996) -- will be featured on the rosters of the Indianapolis Colts and Chicago Bears in Super Bowl XLI this Sunday, capping a season in which 201 NFL Europa veterans occupied spots on NFL rosters," reports (via EU Digest): 
Indianapolis Colts: Bryan Fletcher TE Berlin, 2003-04;  Adam Vinatieri K Amsterdam, 1996;  Kory Chapman RB Cologne, 2005 (Practice Squad);   Aaron Halterman TE Rhein, 2006 (Practice Squad).
Chicago Bears: Brendon Ayanbadejo LB Amsterdam, 2001;  John Gilmore TE Amsterdam, 2002;  Israel Idonije DE Berlin, 2004 ;   Anthony Oakley G Frankfurt, 2005.
NFL News also reports that "an elite group of players will welcome a new member after Super Bowl XLI when either Indianapolis Colts tight end Bryan Fletcher or Chicago defensive lineman Isreal Idonije adds a Super Bowl ring to their World Bowl rings. Both men helped the Berlin Thunder record a 30-24 victory over the Frankfurt Galaxy in World Bowl XII, and one of them will become the 19th player to have won a championship in both leagues. "
The Indianapolis Colts defeated the Chicago Bears (29-17) and is now World Champion.

Also on Sunday:
Germany's national handball team defeated Poland (29-24) is now World Champion.
Nice gesture: Germany's president Koehler was wearing a Polish fan scarf, and President Kaczyński the German fan scarf.
IHT: "Market research agency Media Control said Monday that the television audience for the final peaked at more than 20.1 million. Germany has 82 million people."
Related post in the Atlantic Review:  America is expected to win the Super Bowl

Why direct negotiations with North Korea, but not with Iran?

Reuters reports:
U.S. and North Korean officials will hold a third day of bilateral talks on Thursday in Berlin amid hopes of a breakthrough in efforts to curb the communist state's nuclear weapons program. A spokeswoman for the U.S. Embassy confirmed that U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill, who met North Korean officials for six hours on Tuesday and 1-1/2 hours on Wednesday, would hold more talks on Thursday.
I am convinced the German government would also be happy to host some bilateral talks between high-ranking U.S. and Iranian officials. Such direct negotiations might help Iraq and lead to a solution of the nuclear issue.
The BBC (via CQ) has learned from a "senior former US official" that "Iran offered the US a package of concessions in 2003":
Tehran proposed ending support for Lebanese and Palestinian militant groups and helping to stabilise Iraq following the US-led invasion. Offers, including making its nuclear programme more transparent, were conditional on the US ending hostility. But Vice-President Dick Cheney's office rejected the plan, the official said. The offers came in a letter, seen by Newsnight, which was unsigned but which the US state department apparently believed to have been approved by the highest authorities.
In return for its concessions, Tehran asked Washington to end its hostility, to end sanctions, and to disband the Iranian rebel group the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq and repatriate its members. 
(...) Observers say the Iranian offer as outlined nearly four years ago corresponds pretty closely to what Washington is demanding from Tehran now.
More international negotiations: German news agency dpa reports that US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice briefed German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday on the outcome of her latest trip to the Middle East:
'I have the impression that there has been some movement on the issue of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,' Merkel said. (...) Merkel made a revival of the Mideast peace process a key goal of the EU's foreign policy during Germany's current presidency of the 27-nation bloc. Rice said after her arrival in Berlin on Wednesday that the Mideast Quartet comprised of Russia, the United States, the UN and the European Union was likely to meet early next month in a bid to kickstart Middle East peace talks. Merkel said Germany would take part in the meeting in its capacity as EU president.
Observing Hermann adds a much needed dose of humor to the coverage of the "Mideast Quartet."

Endnote: Currently a severe storm is gathering pace in Germany. A weather expert talked to DW World about the unusual storm and predicts more storms in coming winters. I am more concerned about the upcoming political storms in the Broader Middle East.

Martin Luther King Day

Today is a national holiday in the United States to mark the birthday of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and to "celebrate the life and legacy of a man who brought hope and healing to America," wrote Mrs. Coretta Scott King.
The musical "Martin Luther King - The King of Love" by and with Ron Williams premieres in Berlin on February 2, 2007, writes Die Welt (in German).
Ron Williams is a German-American entertainer, who came to Germany as a GI in the 60s. His homepage.

has a 17 minutes video of Martin Luther King's "I have a dream" speech, which is still very powerful and moving on the European side of the Atlantic as well. Transcript. Let freedom ring...
Crooks and Liars has another video: "The evolution (devolution?) of rhetoric: Bill O'Reilly vs. Martin Luther King, Jr." which includes some of the reverend's quotes on Vietnam and dissent vs disloyalty.

UPDATE: Martin Luther King used his American Express Card to enter East Berlin: See Freitag (in German) or English summary in this comment.

The Koelner Stadt Anzeiger (in German) has a bit more extensive coverage of the musical.