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Support for the Transatlantic Partnership on the Rise

The German Marshall Fund released its 2008 transatlantic trends poll yesterday, which shows a thaw in transatlantic relations. From the press release:

“Based on common values and shared interests, the survey shows that Americans and Europeans want closer relations,” said Craig Kennedy, president of the German Marshall Fund of the United States. “Whether it’s the result of world events, a new U.S. administration on the horizon, or insecurity on several fronts, a new American president will have the opportunity to not only improve the United States’ standing in the world, but perhaps also to ask more of European leaders.”

However, despite perceived common values and a general interest in the same topics, Europeans generally feel that Europe should act more independently, although the number of Europeans who want closer relations with the US is increasing. Interestingly, though, few Europeans think that Europe should take a 'go it alone' course, with the majority favouring partnership with the US in addressing threats. This could be taken to mean that Europeans want Europe to be more assertive in such a partnership, or simply that the general population hasn't thought this through and exhibits a well-known but surprisingly extreme differential response to differently phrased questions (31% want closer relations, 67% want to address international threats in partnership).

Continue reading "Support for the Transatlantic Partnership on the Rise"

Understanding John McCain's Appeal to US Voters

The Economist has a good cover story about John McCain and explains quite well why Americans might elect him as president. It is a good summary for the average reader, who is not a news junkie.

Such an analysis is missing in the commentary of a Washington correspondent with the German public broadcaster ARD: Anna Engelke fails to understand McCain's appeal. Instead she makes a list of problems for McCain (his age, the bad shape of US economy, high debts and deficit, two wars) and concludes that a skilled politician like Barack Obama has to lead in the polls, if you take a "sober look at it."

She mentions only two reasons why Obama does not have a strong lead in the polls: It might be partly due to his inexperience, but it is primarily due to his black skin. Engelke opines that Obama would win this election "with the utmost probability," if he were white.

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Obama Stresses Security Policy Differences with McCain

In his nomination speech, the Democratic presidential candidate reiterates his commitment to direct diplomacy with Iran and his hawkish position on Pakistan, which I describe at Atlantic-Community.org. I am also asking whether Obama is an Atlanticist and look forward to your views on Germany's security policy of free-riding.

Texas Columnist: America's Wishful Thinking Leads to Further Foreign Entanglements

Rod Dreher, a Dallas Morning News editorial columnist, writes in RealClearPolitics:

"We are all Georgians now," John McCain said in response to Russia's invasion of the former Soviet republic.

We are? Spare me. You couldn't find one American in a thousand who could locate Georgia on a map, but the Republican hothead who would be president is ready to bind America's sacred honor to the place. And more than our sacred honor, our military might, too. Mr. McCain, a tempestuous Russophobe to the marrow, demanded that the U.S. accelerate efforts to bring Georgia into NATO, thus extending a trip wire for war with Russia to Moscow's southern border. Because, you know, having conquered Iraq and Afghanistan while barely breaking a sweat, we're rested and ready to let an adventurous Caucasus nation led by a nut shown on TV chewing on his cravat drag us into World War III.

He does not like Barack Obama's support for NATO membership for Georgia either and wonders whether the Democrats are "so afraid of being baited by the Republicans as cowards that they sign on to any foolish policy proposed by GOP jingoes?"

Dreher is frustrated with the lack of realism in the political debate:

Dr. Bacevich said, "What neither of these candidates will be able to, I think, accomplish is to persuade us to look ourselves in the mirror, to see the direction in which we are headed." That direction, he went on, is deeper into the hole of debt and foreign entanglements involving an overstretched U.S. military. We prefer to believe the romantic image of ourselves and our country and to deal with the world as we wish it were rather than as it is.

Europe-bashing has Diminishing Returns

In reporting on the U.S. presidential campaign, it is taken for granted that showing excessive friendliness towards Europe would be damaging for the candidates. They would seem too concerned with the opinion of the world, and not enough with America's security. That downside to touring Europe has also been highlighted by David Francis in his Atlantic Review post 'By Giving a Speech in Berlin, Obama is playing with Fire'.

A spokesman for McCain has tried to capitalise on an expected anti-European sentiment by alleging that Obama was more interested in meeting 'throngs of fawning Germans' than in visiting American troops. If this is a broader campaign strategy, it may well backfire.

On the left-leaning democracyarsenal blog, Michael Cohen ties together the data we have on America's perceptions of European countries, and their perception on the perception of America abroad. This leads him to conclude:
The notion that Americans want their presidents to maintain an arm's distance relationship with our Allies is a canard. There simply is no evidence to support this notion. But due to constant repetition by neo-conservative politicians and various enablers of this Administration it has become conventional wisdom. It's about time we put this silly idea to rest.
Don't let the colour on that distract you from the data. The polling shows that since recently, a majority of Americans perceive the image of America abroad as a major problem, and, a fortiori, the vast majority now have a favourable view of Germany, the UK, and France.

Here is Your Article on McCain: There are no Articles on McCain!

We your Editors have received some reader emails this week that express concern we are writing about Obama too much, McCain too little.

I tend to agree Obama is covered disproportionately on AR, but I think it is important for people to realize that our main objective with AR is to identify key articles in the media, and respond to them -- the source of our problem is the fact that the media as a whole is biased toward talking about Wonder Boy Obama, and so our pool of content is limited as it is. 

We are not a news organization, but a blog that responds to news.  Subsequently, our disproportionate coverage of Obama reflects the media's disproportionate coverage of him.  The scant coverage of McCain is not limited to our website.  In fact, it seems the biggest news on McCain this week is that he is complaining about nobody wanting to write news about him.  And he is correct. 

In comparing Obama and McCain’s media entourages during Obama’s trip abroad last week, the
Globe and Mail found that:
Trailing in [Obama’s] charismatic wake was a whole legion of the top stars of the U.S. press corps. All three news anchors of the big networks were with him...  And back at home, during what was undeniably Obama Week in American journalism, when Mr. McCain touched down on a campaign stop in Manchester, N.H., there was... but one lonely local newsperson to witness the arrival of the other nominee.
However, McCain has not always been on the losing side of media bias.  Steven Chapman from Real Clear Politics makes the simple observation that the media is fickle; one day’s rock star can be old news--or no news--the next:
Continue reading "Here is Your Article on McCain: There are no Articles on McCain!"

Barnett: "Don't expect Europe to step in line behind any new American president."

Thomas P.M. Barnett has a column in the Knoxville News Sentinel in which he reports on the mood of government officials in the Netherlands. There are a lot of interesting angles in the article -- for instance on McCain's 'League of Democracies', which the Dutch do not appreciate, and on European worries about trade rhetoric by Obama, which would be overblown as Obama is pivoting to the centre faster than the eye can see.

These, however, are the article's key paragraphs:

But here's what I found during my week in The Hague: the Dutch aren't convinced that America plus Europe translates into a quorum that's sufficient to tackle all the challenges we collectively face.

In almost every issue you can name, Europe's coming to the conclusion that the West needs the East to figure out the South, as well as our shared future on this increasingly crowded and competitive planet.

It should be borne in mind that the Dutch are one of the most atlanticist nations of Europe in their outlook. Public thinkers from the States like Barnett quite frequently get an ear from the Dutch government. Yet, they have gone global. The Dutch - and the Europeans in general - do not see the 'west' as sufficient anymore, either in terms of its power or in terms of its legitimacy.

Bush's Farewell Tour: Looking Ahead and Missing the Favorite "Punching Bag"

President Bush's current trip to Europe has been described as a "farewell tour" in quite a few newspapers, which I find a bit surprising. I thought there would be plenty of reasons and opportunities for George W. Bush to visit Europe in the remaining seven months of his presidency. 

Does that sound as if I already miss President Bush? Charles Hawley writes in Spiegel International that the German media will miss the "climate killer":

Germany never much liked George W. Bush. But he was able to unite Germans. Hating the US president was about the only thing the country could agree on in recent years.

Related Atlantic Review post, which encouraged a debate with 53 comments: "Europeans Mourn End of Bush's Presidency"

William Drozdiak, president of the American Council on Germany, opines in the IHT that Europeans ignore Bush and are "anticipating a new age of enlightenment in trans-Atlantic relations":

As President George W. Bush embarks this week on a farewell tour of Europe, he should not be surprised by the lack of interest in his trip. Like most Americans, Europeans are looking past Bush.

Whether Barack Obama or John McCain moves into the Oval Office, Europe is anticipating a new age of enlightenment in trans-Atlantic relations as NATO nears its 60th birthday. While there are ample reasons not to let expectations get too high, both candidates espouse policies that could greatly enhance cooperation among leading Western democracies.

The phrase "a new age of enligthenment" is a bit too strong, but otherwise I agree with Drozdiak. Once Obama or McCain is inaugurated and asks for more troops for Afghanistan, we will start to miss George W Bush, who was the "perfect excuse" for the lack of burden sharing.

Kurt Kister wrote in the respected German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung that the presidential elections (esp. an Obama victory) would mark a new beginning for Americans, but that would not be the case in Europe and Asia: "The memory about Bush will overshadow the image of the US throughout many years in the future". In reference to the Sueddeutsche Zeitung's headline, the Atlantic Community asks: "How Long is Bush's Shadow?" Pretty long, I would say.