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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: Continue reading "About Terrorism and Security Policy Debates in Germany and the United States"

Using the United States to Scare Germans

"Amerikanische Verhältnisse" means "American conditions" and is a quite popular phrase to scare Germans about hire-and-fire capitalism, poverty, crime, health care etc. Olaf Gersemann, currently with Financial Times Deutschland, wrote a book about it in 2004. The German original is called Amerikanische Verhältnisse. Die falsche Angst der Deutschen vor dem Cowboy-Kapitalismus and the English translation is Cowboy Capitalism: European Myths, American Reality.
Liberale Stimme has written a Review in German. Synopisis from the publisher:
Europeans and many American pundits believe that while the U.S. economy may create more growth, Europeans have it better when it come to job security and other factors. Olaf Gersemann, a German reporter who came to America, found the reality quite different. He checked facts and found the market freedoms in America create a more flexible, adaptable and prosperous system then the declining welfare states of old Europe.
Just last week (August 4, 2006) the semi-tabloid Berliner Zeitung chose "Amerikanische Verhältnisse" for the headline of an editorial about the growing gap between the rich and the poor in Germany and the increasing unfairness (income, wealth, education, health care). The editorial did not analyse the economic conditions in the United States, but only dealt with the socio-economic trends in Germany and concluded that American conditions are now reality in Germany as well. A closer look at the socio-economic situation in the United States (just like in Germany) would reveal good and bad aspects, but only the bad aspects are featured in the phrase "Amerikanische Verhältnisse." Some German papers write about the good aspects of the US economic system, many papers and politicians recommend more U.S. type reforms, and the term "American Dream" is still popular and still has a good ring to it, but whenever the phrase Amerikanische Verhältnisse is used, it sounds really bad, because it excludes what is good in America.
Bret Stephens wrote in The Wall Street Journal in January:
Amerikanische Verhaltnisse--"American Conditions"--is a term of disdain in German politics, meant to suggest the inhumanity of American capitalism. Press reports repeatedly portray the U.S. as a place in which the have-nots are savagely exploited by the haves, where civil liberties are in rapid decline, and in which a government that is by turns buffoonish and cunning schemes to gain control of world oil supplies.
(Mr Stephens' interesting editorial covered Chancellor Merkel's visit, her criticism of Guantanamo, and the German public's views of the US. Unfortunately, he misunderstood a poll and wrote "One-third of young Germans reportedly believe the Bush Administration instigated the attacks of September 11." More about this in the Atlantic Review in about two weeks.)

Amazon Germany sells Olaf Gersemann's book in German (1) and the cheaper English translation (2). Amazon USA has the English translation (3):
(1)
  (2)               (3)

In May 2006 the conservative Die Welt used the phrase Amerikanische Verhältnisse in the headline to express the concern that companies could be confronted with a flood of law suits due to the new anti-discrimination law in Germany. The United States is popular for references or comparisions. The Netherlands or Denmark, which had pretty successful reforms, are sometimes mentioned as role models, but do not get as much coverage as the US.
The Economist wrote about successful tough welfare reform two weeks ago:
Welfare reform was once regarded as a harsh, right-wing, America-only idea. But an unexpected lesson of the past ten years is that it enjoys much wider political appeal. Within America, its success has silenced the former fierce opposition of left-wing Democrats, which Mr Clinton had overruled. For the Labour government in Britain and for social democrats in Europe, reform offers a way to reintegrate people who would otherwise live in a welfare apartheid. Furthermore, it is a way to defend generous support for the poor—as long as they find work.
Hat tip for the Economist article to Don, who also summarized another Economist article.
A related post in Atlantic Review:
Germany in danger of "Americanization" without the good points.
A related post in Medienkritik's Unemployment: Kannapolis Instead of Chemnitz.

Germany's Outgoing Ambassador to the U.S. discusses the War on Terrorism

After five years as Germany's ambassador to the US, Wolfgang Ischinger is concerned about the potential of a clash of civilisations:
An even more complex challenge confronts us: radical Islam and the likelihood of even greater terrorist threats and a potential for escalating political, cultural and religious tension between the West on the one hand and the Muslim world on the other.
In his farewell article in the Washington Post Finding Unity On Terrorism (March 2006), Ambassador Ischinger seems to strongly criticize U.S. policy:
The dream of transforming the entire region by getting rid of Saddam Hussein and creating democracy through elections has turned out to be elusive. In Iraq, Iran, Egypt and the Palestinian territories, recent elections have actually tended to strengthen radical political groups. While the very holding of elections in Iraq and the Palestinian territories is a success, these developments have so far not contributed to regional stability -- on the contrary.
But then he argues:
In short, there is more than enough fuel available in the region to further stoke the radical fire. What is new is that the battleground of this emerging larger conflict will most likely not be in the continental United States, as was the case on Sept. 11, but rather in the European-Mediterranean space: Europe, or Europe's back yard. What is also new is the element of personal fear beginning to descend upon Europeans -- as it descended upon Americans on Sept. 11. This is the fear inspired not only by terrorist train bombings in London and Madrid but by political assassinations in the Netherlands and, more recently, the dramatic escalation of the cartoon controversy in Denmark.
The German embassy provides more information about Dr. Ischinger's five years of service in Washington D.C.  Germany's new ambassador to the United States is Dr. Klaus Scharioth. His latest post was State Secretary of the Foreign Office. Ambassador Ischinger has held many high-ranking government positions as well. He worked closely with President Clinton's Balkan envoy Richard Holbrooke on the Dayton Peace Accords.

Is the U.S. strategy of pre-emptive war more accepted now?

Former Sec of State Henry Kissinger -- the most powerful German emigrant in the US government in recent history -- noticed in The International Herald Tribune:
The recent publication of the second Bush administration statement on national strategy passed without the controversy that marked its predecessor in 2002 even though the new statement reiterates the commitment to a strategy of pre-emption in exactly the same words as the last. (...) The 2006 report was received with less hostility because other countries have had more experience now with the emerging new threats - and partly because a more conciliatory American diplomacy has left new scope for consultation.
Continue reading "Is the U.S. strategy of pre-emptive war more accepted now?"

Bipartisan outcry against Dubai Port Deal

In an unusually unanimous, bipartisan outcry, both politicians and the public reacted to a proposed deal of the Bush administration which would have put a company from Dubai in charge of six major ports in the US, including Newark, New York, Baltimore and Miami. The company has since withdrawn its bid, saving Bush a showdown on the matter. But the discussion has once more drawn attention to some of the prevailing security gaps that frighten the population. According to the New York Times, only 5.6 percent of containers headed into the US are screened by gamma-ray machines or manually. Experts have been quoted calling port security "a card house.". With New Orleans still lying in ruins half a year after hurricane Katrina, more Americans seem to loose faith in the government's ability to protect them - and their interest in even thinking about it. Three articles about the port deal in the International Herald Tribune.

German Chancellor calls for closure of Guantanamo

Chancellor Merkel, who is scheduled to meet President Bush on Friday in Washington DC, told Der Spiegel (In English): "An institution like Guantanamo can and should not exist in the longer term." She would discuss the issue with President Bush, but would not allow Germany and the United States' long-standing relationship to be trivialized into one focused on differences over the fight against terror and the Iraq war. An amnesic American lost in Berlin criticizes "Angela Merkel's Lecture Tour."

The German site of Der Spiegel reports about a German-Turkish initiative for the release of Murat Kurnaz, who was born and raised in Bremen, but has Turkish citizenship. This would mean that the Merkel government is much more active than the Schroeder government, who has cooperated with the US in Guantanamo according to some reports. Dialog International writes:
The neoconservative gang was anxious to see Gerhard Schroeder leave office, but Angela Merkel could be a much bigger headache, since she is seen (so far) as having a much more independent position (outside the Schroeder - Chirac - Putin axis).
The Atlantic Review wrote in November that Kurnaz has been detained at Guantanamo without charge since 2002, although U.S. military intelligence and German law enforcement authorities had largely concluded there was no information that linked him to a terrorist organization. The Court of Appeals currently contemplates the case of Murat Kurnaz and other detainees on the basis of habeas corpus. The Observer, however, writes on January 8th:
Last week, President Bush signed into law a measure removing detainees' right to file habeas corpus petitions in the US federal courts. On Friday, the administration asked the Supreme Court to make this retroactive, so nullifying about 220 cases in which prisoners have contested the basis of their detention and the legality of pending trials by military commission.
If Murat Kurnaz is released, he may not immediately return to Germany, because the German authorities believe that his four years long detention at Guantanamo without charge radicalized him, writes Der Spiegel, but his lawyer points out his valid residence permit for Germany. What an irony it would be if Murat Kurnaz were only to be considered a threat due to his experiences at Gitmo.

Many of our posts have led to thoughtful and provocative debates in the comment sections. Steve commented on our previous post about the Guantanamo Detainee from Germany:
The evidence to date overwhelmingly makes clear that jihadi terrorists are provoked by American weakness, not the harshness of American policies. (...) When [former Syrian president] Hafiz Assad leveled Hama, he went out of his way to show the devastation on TV for a reason--jihadi terrorists are intimidated by brutality greater than their own. On the other hand, our humanitarian interventions in Bosnia and Kosovo have won us no credit in jihadi terrorist circles. These are not people you can cozy up to. They treat friendly gestures with contempt.
You find both of Steve's elaborate comments by scrolling down here. Many great and thought provoking arguments are made by our wonderful readers in the comments section of Europe vs. America and Isolationism on the rise.

UPDATE: The full interview with Chancellor Merkel is now available on Der Spiegel's English site.

Fighting Extremism – the American or the European Way?

"It's long been predicted that France's simmering cauldron of lawless Muslim ghettoes would someday combust," contends Duncan Currie in his article called "Over There, Over here" in the rightwing magazine The Weekly Standard.

Along with the chronic troubles in Iraq, the 7/7 bombings in London, and last year's murder of Theo van Gogh in Holland, the French riots pose one of the central geopolitical questions of our age: Does democracy quell ideological fanaticism?  President Bush thinks so, and he's based his long-range anti-terrorism strategy on spreading liberal institutions and decent governance in the Middle East. 

Continue reading "Fighting Extremism – the American or the European Way?"

"No Fly Watch List" problems and civil liberties concerns

One fellow Fulbrighter recommends "Who's Watching the Watch Lists?" by a former US diplomat, who was put on the "No Fly Watch List" and had to be specially cleared to board a plane to visit his grandchildren. Following are some excerpts: Continue reading ""No Fly Watch List" problems and civil liberties concerns"