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German Moralizers Criticize United States on Killing of Bin Laden

1. Many German politicians, media and church representatives criticize Chancellor Merkel for expressing her joy about the killing of Osama bin Laden, because it is not appropriate to have such a feeling when a human being gets killed. She was only "allowed" to express her relief. => Okay, fine with me.

2. The same folks also criticize those Americans who celebrated bin Laden's death. => Okay, fair enough. I do, however, consider the reactions understandable since he headed a terrorist group that killed thousands of Americans and was determined to kill more. Moreover, no government official celebrated. No "mission accomplished" parties. So, please let's not make a big deal out of it.

3. The same folks and several German law professors (in German) and talk show pundits question the legality of killing bin Laden. This issue seems to be dominating the debate in the German media currently. => Now I am getting annoyed. This is so typical. Aren't there bigger problems? Should not we question our policy on Pakistan? How supportive is the Pakistani military and intelligence of terror networks? As Leon T. Hadar writes in the Huffington Post: "Pakistan is a failed state with nuclear military power, whose elites and public are hostile to the U.S. and sympathetic to its enemies. (...) Pakistan is not a strategic ally but an irresponsible client state."

Law professors could also make sound proposals for ethical and efficient changes to international law to meet the realities of of the 21st century, like terrorism and assymetric warfare, failing states etc. That would be more important and more constructive than making a fuss about the killing of Bin Laden.

4. And this Süddeutsche article discusses whether bin Laden was buried correctly. => Give me a break and rethink your priorities.

Spiegel International provides an English language summary of some commentaries from German newspapers. More evidence for the above claims in this Tagesthemen commentary, which Davids Medienkritik would rip apart, if they'd still be active. Criticism of the German coverage can be found in Die Welt by Clemens Wergin and Alan Posner (all links in German)

Endnote: Last week Congressman Dana Rohrabacher responded to a four year old article on this blog. He provided some context to the quote "Well, I hope it's your families, I hope it's your families that suffer the consequences [of a terrorist attack]."

Poor Taste

Chile's president is on a world tour to bask in on the glory of the miners' rescue and benefit from the huge media interest. That might be poor taste. (I think it is, but still alright in terms of pursuing national interests.)

What is definitely poor taste is the phrase the president wrote in a government guest book in Berlin. Sebastian Pinera wrote "Deutschland ueber alles," or "Germany above all." He has now apologized, reports Yahoo! News.

The European and North American media also demonstrates poor taste considering its obsession with the 33 Chilean miners while at the same time ignoring the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Pakistan caused by the floods. See the article by Sidra Tariq, cross-culture intern at

Endnote: A few Latin American friends of mine told me in the past that we should include their countries when discussing transatlantic relations because the continent has an Atlantic coast and European heritage/history. Well, here you go ;-(

Preventing History from Repeating Itself

Spiegel International:

German police on Monday closed a mosque that had been a meeting place for the 9/11 terror cell. They believe the mosque continued to promote jihad and may have been a staging site for Islamist extremists living in Germany who have traveled to Afghanistan and Pakistan to participate in militant camps.

Obama's Afghan Strategy: Regional Perspectives

The Atlantic Review is pleased to present this guest article by Dr. Shanthie Mariet D'Souza of the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi, India.

Dr. D'Souza (image file)President Barack Obama’s ‘new strategy on Afghanistan’, unveiled on December 1 at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, linking additional troop deployment to a timetable of drawdown of forces and narrowly defined goals, misses out on the core essentials of counter-insurgency (COIN) campaigns which hinges on time, long-term commitment, institution building and larger political strategy. Ultimately, COIN campaigns are won in the political domain, where military is only one of the many essential elements to achieve the long-term solution.

As the debate on the troop surge raged in the United States following the controversial Afghan presidential elections and waning domestic support for the Afghan war, President Obama announced his decision to send 30,000 troops within the first half of 2010, nearly acceding to his top military commander General McChrystal’s request for an additional 40,000. President Obama banking on his approach of ‘multilateralism and diplomacy’ has requested NATO allies to pitch in another 10,000 troops. So far NATO appears to have managed to garner support for another 7,000. Combined with NATO troops, the top US Gen. McChrystal would eventually get the required number of 40,000. The amount spent on Afghan war will increase from an estimated $130 billion in fiscal 2010 to $160 billion.

With increased troop levels, Gen. McChrystal had promised to turn the tide of the Taliban momentum in 12 months. By adopting a ‘population-centric’ COIN strategy of ‘clear, hold, build and transfer’, the additional troop could help in ‘clearing and holding’ insurgency afflicted areas in the south and east. However, with focus of troop deployment being the South and the East, concerns abound regarding the stability of Afghanistan’s North and the West. The Taliban insurgency which works through various networks has the capacity to cause instability in these regions, as witnessed recently in Kapisa, Kanduz and Baglan. More importantly, the COIN strategy does not look at new measures of cutting the symbiotic nexus and sources of funding of the various strands of Taliban insurgency which is a huge motley of various anti government groups, followers of Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s radical group Hizb-i-Islami, the Haqqani network, Al Qaeda and its affiliates, religious clerics, narcotic traffickers, bandits and tribal fighters in the Pakistan-Afghanistan border region. For instance, the Haqqani network, operating in Khost, Paktia, Paktika, and North Waziristan has now extended its activities to Ghazni, Logar and Wardak provinces.
Continue reading "Obama's Afghan Strategy: Regional Perspectives"

Pakistan Requires "Geopolitical Therapy"

If Afghanistan resembles a Vietnam-like quagmire, then more policy makers and analysts will seek an exit. This raises fears in Pakistan.

Special Envoy Richard Holbrooke has to provide "geopolitical therapy for Pakistani generals who hedge their bets with the Taliban out of fear the Vietnam syndrome may return and collapse the U.S. commitment."

This is the main policy recommendation from Marin Strmecki of the Smith Richardson Foundation, writes Arnaud de Borchgrave in an excellent article for UPI. He also stresses that "geopolitical psychiatry is not America's diplomatic strong suit." Could Europe provide therapy?

A New Strategy for Afghanistan

This is a guest post by Dr. Assem Akram, author of two books on modern Afghan History and two works of fiction. He was born in Kabul in 1965, studied in Paris, where he obtained his PhD from the Sorbonne. He now lives in Springfield, Virginia, with his wife and two sons.

To save Afghanistan from the current downward spiral, radical changes and serious rethinking are needed. Here are laid out the four legs of a plan that would decisively change the equation:

1) Fast-pace the build-up of the Afghan Army so that it quickly reaches a minimum of 150,000 - and ideally 250,000 - men.

2) Reorient the mission of all US and international troops to cease all operations inside Afghanistan to exclusively concentrate - under a new UN mandate - on the border with Pakistan and hermetically close it.

3) Dramatically increase pressure - including imposing sanctions - on Pakistan to do its part to halt cross border militant violence.

4) Overhaul the Afghan political process to favor the creation of a new interim governing entity capable of showing independence, effectiveness, integrity; a Government that presents a new public face at the helm of a new strategy and which can restore confidence inside and outside of Afghanistan and radically change the existing equation.

Read his full article below the fold:

Continue reading "A New Strategy for Afghanistan"

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 I am also asking whether Obama is an Atlanticist and look forward to your views on Germany's security policy of free-riding.

EU Foreign Policy Chief in Favor of Talks with the Taliban

Javier Solana, the EU's High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy and a Spanish Fulbright Alumnus, said according to AFP that he backed the new Pakistani government's moves to hold talks with Taliban militants, but ruled out any negotiations with Al-Qaeda.

This puts Europe at odds with the United States, not just with the Bush administration, but also with all remaining presidential candidates. Even Barack Obama, who is willing to meet with Iran's President Ahmadinejad, seems to be against negotiations with Taliban. He wrote in Foreign Affairs last summer:

Our strategy must also include sustained diplomacy to isolate the Taliban and more effective development programs that target aid to areas where the Taliban are making inroads.

I agree with Niklas Keller, who argued in the Atlantic Community that "negotiations with the Taliban may be the West's most effective tool to successfully 'divide and conquer' the Afghani insurgency."