Friday, November 10. 2006
Posted by Joerg Wolf in Transatlantic Relations on Friday, November 10. 2006
One of the most outspoken reactions and quoted in many papers and blogs is "We are relieved that we now see the beginning of the end of a six-year nightmare for the world. The Bush administration is seriously weakened by this Democrat election victory." Martin Schulz, a German member of the European Parliament, made that statement as president of the 201 members strong Socialist Group in the EP. Many media reports, however, present this statement as if all 201 members have put their signature on it. Schulz also said that "European social democrats have worked hard to prevent widespread despair among European citizens at the aggressive foreign policy of the Bush administration turning into naked, and wholly unjustified, anti-Americanism" but unfortunately did not explain what kind of hard work his group has done.
Matthew Schofield writes for the McClatchy Newspapers:
Under the headline US Elections Mark New Beginning for Transatlantic Ties, DW World reports: "The Democratic Party's victory in US midterm elections has been welcomed across the Atlantic. German experts expect this political change to improve bilateral relations, both politically and in terms of public opinion."
Many in the German media and most experts don't expect a drastic shift in U.S. foreign policy or in transatlantic relations. Besides, not every policy shift will be welcomed in Germany: The new US Congress will probably put more pressure on Germany to increase international commitments. Many German observers are also concerned about rising isolationism and protectionism after the defeat of the Republicans and the new majority for the Democrats in the House of Representatives and in the Senate as well.
Davids Medienkritik's perception that Europeans want the US to "cut and run in Iraq" is misinformed. I think most Europeans are very concerned about developments in Iraq and Afghanistan and will blame the US for any problem in Iraq resulting from a pre-mature withdrawal in Iraq.
Wednesday, November 8. 2006
According to CNN projections at 4:30 a.m. EST (10:30 in Germany):
- Democrats and Republicans have secured 49 seats in the Senate. Two Senate races are still undecided. (CNN considers Joe Lieberman a Democrat, because he has said that he will align himself with the Democrats. He ran as an Independent after having lost the Democratic primaries.)
- In the House of Representatives, Democrats secured 227 seats and Republicans 191 seats, while 17 races are still undecided. The Democrats are in charge for the first time since 1994.
- 28 states will be run by Democratic governors and 20 states by Republicans, while two races are still undecided.
• Karsten Voigt, the German government's coordinator for German-American relations, told Spiegel (German) about his hopes that German prejudices against America will decrease now, because he thinks that the election results show more diversity rather than one political direction: "Jetzt wird in Deutschland sichtbar werden, dass es in den USA nicht nur eine politische Richtung gibt, sondern sehr vielfältige Stimmungen und Orientierungen. Ich erhoffe mir dadurch einen Abbau von deutschen Vorurteilen gegenüber Amerika, die sich in den Jahren der Bush-Regierung verfestigt haben."
• Germany could learn some direct democracy from the United States. German voters do not often get a chance to vote on specific policy issues, unlike in the United States where 205 measures were on yesterday's ballots in 37 states, according to CNN:
South Dakotans rejected a toughest-in-the-nation law that would have banned virtually all abortions, even in cases of rape and incest -- defeating one of the most high-profile state measures facing voters Tuesday. The outcome was a blow to conservatives, although they prevailed in five other states where voters approved constitutional amendments to ban gay marriage. Among them was Wisconsin, where gay-rights activists had nursed hopes of engineering the first defeat of such a ban. Five states approved increases in their minimum wage, while Arizona passed four measures targeting illegal immigrants, including one making English the state's official language. Voters weren't keen about another, more quirky Arizona measure: They defeated a proposal that would have awarded $1 million to a randomly selected voter in each general election.Related post in Atlantic Review: Will the midterm elections change US foreign policy?
Another question: Why has voter turnout in the US been much lower than in Germany and Britain in recent decades?
UPDATE: Markos Moulitsas Zúniga, the founder of Dailykos, declares "Today is the end of the electronic voting machine" because "Republicans are complaining about voting irregularities as loudly as we are today." (via B.L.O.G.) Princeton University shows you how to hack a voting machine in a video at Pursuit of Serenity.
Monday, October 30. 2006
Posted by Joerg Wolf in US Foreign Policy on Monday, October 30. 2006
While "the Bush administration has complained about the tenor of media coverage of the war in Iraq ever since the April 2003 looting that followed the fall of Baghdad," negative stories in the U.S. media have only "outweighed positive ones by a factor of roughly 2.5 to 1 across several major outlets and in the course of the three years of the U.S. presence in Iraq." according to Michael O'Hanlon and Nina Kamp. The Brookings Fellow and his senior research assistant argue in the Washington Quarterly (pdf) that the ratio between positive and negative stories is an accurate mirror of the negative developments in Iraq. Of course, the ratio is about the general media coverage; the ratio is different for each media outlet. They also write:
Many critics of the media believe that negative coverage could cost the United States the war. By their reasoning, the United States could fail in Iraq only if our national resolve falters, which could only happen if the American public gets an unfairly pessimistic view of the situation as a result of the media's fixation on violence and other bad news. If the United States and its coalition partners do not prevail, however, the failure will most likely result from events on the ground there, not from an untimely wavering of domestic political support. In fact, more than three years into the campaign, the U.S. body politic remains surprisingly tolerant of the mission in Iraq and, in general, resists calls for immediate withdrawal, despite far more bad news than anyone in the administration forecast or even thought possible when the war was first sold to the nation and launched. (...)US public opinion might have shifted dramatically since that poll was conducted in the spring of 2006...
The latest bad news from Iraq:
• The Washington Post reports today (October 30, 2006) that "the U.S. military announced the death of the 100th servicemember in Iraq this month."
• And NYT writes about a government report: "The American military has not properly tracked hundreds of thousands of weapons intended for Iraqi security forces." Are US weapons killing US soldiers?
Shaun Waterman analyzes for United Press International the criticism of the Johns Hopkins survey about excess mortality in Iraq and also points out that "the U.S. military's own estimates suggest that the casualty rate for Iraqis is five times what it was at the beginning of 2004":
The U.S. military's estimates, buried in a little-noticed recent report to Congress, are drawn from a daily tabulation of "significant activity reports," about "incidents observed by or reported to U.S. forces," known as the SIGACT database. do not distinguish deaths from injuries, nor between Iraqi civilians and members of the army, police or other government security forces. The estimates "are derived from unverified initial reports submitted by Coalition elements responding to an incident; the inconclusivity of these numbers constrains them to be used for comparative purposes only," says the report, titled "Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq." But the comparisons they enable show that average casualty rates for Iraqis have sky-rocketed from just over 20 per day in the first quarter of 2004, to nearly 120 per day between May and August of 2006. (...) By way of comparison, Human Rights Watch has estimated Saddam Hussein's regime killed 250,000 to 290,000 people over 20 years.Let's not forget Afghanistan, writes Bradford Plumer:
Thanks to the colossal cock-up in Iraq, virtually no one has taken a hard look at the flailing occupation of Afghanistan and asked whether, in retrospect, it was also a mistake to invade that country. No one asks that. Afghanistan's the ultimate uncontroversial war—even liberals point to it approvingly to show they're not reflexively dovish. But Stephen Zunes is right -- the Afghan war's not going that well, Osama bin Laden has eluded capture, and second-guessing the various decisions made back in 2001 to go to war really shouldn't be out of bounds.Related post in the Atlantic Review: Europe Loses Afghanistan and America Looks at Nice Pictures.
Sunday, October 8. 2006
Posted by Joerg Wolf in US Foreign Policy on Sunday, October 8. 2006
• Polls: The public diplomacy blog Eccentric Star quotes an AP report about Iraqi views of their country's future, including this:
About six in 10 Iraqis say they approve of attacks on U.S.-led forces, and slightly more than that want their government to ask U.S. troops to leave within a year, according to a poll in that country. The Iraqis also have negative views of Osama bin Laden, according to the early September poll of 1,150. The poll, done for University of Maryland's Program on International Policy Attitudes, [full report] also found: Almost four in five Iraqis say the U.S. military force in Iraq provokes more violence than it prevents.¡No Pasarán! writes about several more positive Iraqi polls that are worth reporting, but do not get enough coverage.
• Edit Copy has interviewed Borzou Daragahi, the Baghdad bureau chief for the Los Angeles Times. Borzou was a nominated finalist for a 2005 Pulitzer Prize "for his vivid, deeply reported stories on the impact of the Iraq war on citizens and soldiers alike."
In a separate post Edit Copy quotes an email from an American officer in Iraq:
Every day is a nasty gun battle. They blast us with giant bombs in the road, snipers, mortars and small arms. We blast them with tanks, attack helicopters, artillery, our snipers (much better than theirs), and every weapon that an infantryman can carry. Every day. Incredibly, I rarely see Ramadi in the news. We have as many attacks out here in the west as Baghdad. Yet, Baghdad has 7 million people, we have just 1.2 million. Per capita, al-Anbar province is the most violent place in Iraq by several orders of magnitude. (...)He continues to describes the "Bravest Guy in al-Anbar Province, Biggest Mystery, Coolest Insurgent Act, Highest Unit Re-enlistment Rate, Most Surprising Thing I Don't Miss, Biggest Hassle, Best Chuck Norris Moment" etc. Quotes from and discussion about the email and about the presumed author at Edit Copy.
Two more links we did not get around to linking earlier:
• The Washington Post wrote on September 8th:
Long before the United States invaded Iraq in 2003, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld forbade military strategists to develop plans for securing a postwar Iraq, the retiring commander of the Army Transportation Corps said. Brig. Gen. Mark E. Scheid told the Newport News Daily Press in an interview published yesterday that Rumsfeld had said "he would fire the next person" who talked about the need for a postwar plan. Scheid was a colonel with the U.S. Central Command, the unit that oversees military operations in the Middle East, in late 2001 when Rumsfeld "told us to get ready for Iraq."Another general who joined the ranks of other war critics as reported in Ret. General Zinni on Iraq: "Ten years worth of planning were thrown away" and Are the revolting ret. generals feeling guilty?
• FOXNews' Bill O’Reilly has learned something in May 2006:
The chaos in Afghanistan and Iraq will never end, because there will always be people who hate Americans. And we are an occupying force in those countries. (...) But Iraq should be a lesson learned. We cannot ever again put American boots on the ground in a hostile Arab country. Iraq was an optional war. There will always be or there were other ways, I should say, of removing Saddam. That being said, the John Murtha solution of cutting and running would lead to greater conflicts down the road, as Iran would dominate the Gulf.And then he moved on to show Halle Berry do a cartwheel. Likewise Newsweek's US edition recently had Annie Leibovitz's "Amazing Life in Pictures" on the cover, while Newsweek's international editions had "Losing Afghanistan" on the cover.
Thursday, October 5. 2006
The Independent asks in light of last week's shooting in the Rockies in Colorado and in the Amish county of Pennsylvania: "Can America ever be weaned off its love affair with guns?" and mentions these shocking statistics:
In the US, there are roughly 17,000 murders a year, of which about 15,000 are committed with firearms. By contrast, Britain, Australia and Canada combined see fewer than 350 gun-related murders each year. And it's not just about murder. The non-gun-related suicide rate in the US is consistent with the rest of the developed world. Factor in firearms, and the rate is suddenly twice as high as the rest of the developed world.Read the entire article at The Independent and the discussion at The Moderate Voice.
Among Germany's 82 million citizens there have been 794 murders in 2005. That's two more murders than in 2004. These numbers are from "the German FBI" Bundeskriminalamt (pdf). DW World reports about "Safer Streets, Growing Fear",
Between 1993 and 2003, the number of murders fell by 40.8 percent and domestic burglaries fell by 45.7 percent. All in all, crime in general dropped by 2.6 percent during the 10-year period and today, Germany is considered one of the industrialized world's safer countries.US statistics from Associated Press:
Murders, robberies and aggravated assaults in the United States increased last year, spurring an overall rise in violent crime for the first time since 2001, according to FBI data. Murders rose 4.8 percent, meaning there were more than 16,900 victims in 2005. That would be the most since 1998 and the largest percentage increase in 15 years.Okay, let's do the math: Murders per 1.000.000 inhabitants in the US: 56,3. And in Germany: 9,7. That means the murder rate is nearly six times higher in the US than in Germany.
Tuesday, September 12. 2006
Posted by Joerg Wolf in US Foreign Policy on Tuesday, September 12. 2006
"A majority of Americans (57%) now believe the United Nations should be scrapped and replaced if it cannot be reformed and made more effective", according to a telephone poll conducted on behalf of the Hudson Institute:
75% believe the UN is no longer "effective" and "needs to be held more accountable."Nobody doubts the need for reform, but there are strong disagreements among the member countries about how to do so. To support more cooperation among the democracies in the world, the Community of Democracies should be strengthened, but I am not aware of any serious efforts to strengthen this forum founded in 2000. The United Nations, however, cannot and should not limit its membership to democracies. The UN is not an alliance like NATO, but has a different purpose. Besides, you don't make peace with your friends, but with your enemies.
The Foreign Policy blog writes:
The poll confirms that since 9/11, Americans have become more skeptical of the global body. Fifty-two percent of respondents feel more unfavorable toward the United Nations and just 27 percent feel more favorable. (...) A plurality—44 to 37 percent—feels that the United Nations generally opposes U.S. interests. (...) The poll, though, is far from all bad news for those who support greater U.S. engagement with the United Nations. A whopping 73 percent favor the United States taking a "a more active role in the UN" as it is "the best way for us to influence world affairs."
Friday, July 28. 2006
Posted by Joerg Wolf in US Foreign Policy on Friday, July 28. 2006
Foreign Policy Magazine has asked more than 100 of America's top foreign-policy experts.
A bipartisan majority (84 percent) of the index's experts say the United States is not winning the war on terror. Eighty-six percent of the index’s experts see a world today that is growing more dangerous for Americans. Overall, they agree that the U.S. government is falling short in its homeland security efforts. (...) “Foreign-policy experts have never been in so much agreement about an administration’s performance abroad,” says Leslie Gelb, president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations and an index participant. “The reason is that it’s clear to nearly all that Bush and his team have had a totally unrealistic view of what they can accomplish with military force and threats of force.” (...) The experts also said that recent reforms of the national security apparatus have done little to make Americans safer. (...)Since Germany is often criticized for its relatively small defense budget, this might be interesting:
To win the battle of ideas, the experts say, America must place a much higher emphasis on its nonmilitary tools. More than two thirds say that U.S. policymakers must strengthen the United Nations and other multilateral institutions. At the same time, the experts indicate that the U.S. government must think more creatively about threats. Asked what presents the single greatest danger to U.S. national security, nearly half said loose nukes and other weapons of mass destruction, while just one third said al Qaeda and terrorism, and a mere 4 percent said Iran.The section on With Friends Like These:
Asked to name the country that has produced the largest number of global terrorists, the index’s foreign-policy experts pointed to Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Pakistan—three of America’s marquee allies in the Muslim world.
Saturday, July 1. 2006
Posted by Joerg Wolf in Transatlantic Relations on Saturday, July 1. 2006
Having read the coverage of the EU-US summit in several U.S. and German papers, I got the impression that the German papers focus on the lack of concrete results, while pointing out that President Bush wants to close Gitmo, is more supportive of EU policies on Israel/Palestine, Iran, and on the environment. The U.S. papers, however, focused on the dialogue between President Bush and the European press.
According to the Voice of America, one journalist asked President Bush the inaccurate question why Europeans perceive America to be the greatest threat to global stability. And Raimund Loew, of Austrian Radio and TV, added: "So my question to you is, why do you think you have failed so badly to convince Europeans to win their hearts and minds?" President Bush responded:
Look, people didn't agree with my decision on Iraq. And I understand that. For Europe, September the 11th was a moment; for us it was a change of thinking.I see an irony here, but it is just my personal analysis: I believe President Bush not only explained why he is so unpopular in Europe, but he also reinforced his unpopularity. President Bush did not seize this chance to win hearts and minds in Europe, but actually lost a few more hearts and minds because of the way he responded.
Please, let me explain why and also elaborate on the poll and the press coverage of the summit and the German troops in Afghanistan:
Continue reading "Contrasting Perceptions and Failing to Win Hearts and Minds"
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