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"The Strongest Trans-Atlantic Relations..."

Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee accused the Bush administration of having an "arrogant bunker mentality" on foreign policy. Secretary Rice responded:

We have right now probably the strongest trans-Atlantic relations ... I would say in a very long time. (...) We're working with allies in Europe, Russia and China on Iran. The (NATO) alliance is mobilized together in Afghanistan.

Phillip Carter over at Intel Dump believes "Condi succumbs to the Kool-Aid:"

Strongest trans-Atlantic relations in a "very long time"? Are you serious? I mean, maybe I'm nostalgic for the good old days of the Marshall Plan and the Berlin Airlift, or even the good old days of the 1980s when NATO stood against the Soviet threat. I wouldn't say our relations with Europe and the world are all that stellar right now. But maybe I'm wrong. Maybe there's some super secret diplomacy going on, and the Germans and French are really our best friends right now. Maybe underneath all that anti-American sentiment and rhetoric on the streets of Europe, they still do think we're that bright shining city on a hill.

I basically agree, except for the last sentence, which is far too black and white, even for provocative closing words. It sounds too much like: You either love us or if you don't, you apparently must hate us. (Related post in the Atlantic Review: The Anti-Americans and the Manichaean Narcissists.)

IMHO Anti-American sentiment on the street should not be used as the main indicator of how good or bad transatlantic relations are. BBQs between our heads of government should not be used as the main indicator either. Instead, all that counts is how well we cooperate regarding Afghanistan, climate change, Middle East, trade, counter-terrorism, Kosovo etc. And here, I believe, cooperation is not as strong as it could and should be.

But, let's face it: Have Europe and the US ever cooperated that much on such a wide range of global issues? During the Cold War transatlantic cooperation was limited to a few policy areas. European and American leaders did not bother themselves with doing something about climate change. NATO did not send 20,000 troops to some far away country.

Today's transatlantic agenda is longer than it ever was before. Perhaps that is what Secretary Rice was referring to. Therefore it is okay, that we do not agree on everything.

Will Merkel Request the Extradition of CIA Agents?

Officials in Washington have since realized that the German investigation is more than just a symbolic act. This week in Berlin, a group of senior officials from the interior, foreign and justice ministries will meet to discuss the sensitive issue of how the German government should handle the Munich petition for "arrest for the purposes of extradition." There is general agreement within the government in Berlin that the request should be promptly delivered to the Bush administration, which would be tantamount to an official request for the arrest of the men being sought. (...)
At a recent lunch in the German Embassy in Washington, Michael Hayden, the new CIA director, complained about the "bottomless criticism" from Europe that the US government faces for abducting suspicious Islamists. One US diplomat calls Germany's approach the "German double standard."
On the one hand, he says, the Germans seek to benefit from information gleaned by the CIA. On the other, they are careful to keep their hands clean. According to US diplomats, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has made it clear to her German counterpart, Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, that the investigations of the agents present a serious problem.
Apparently, the German prosecutors discovered the real names of the CIA pilots involved in the "renditions":
The US agents were not as smart as the police had assumed -- or perhaps criminally negligent. Thanks to the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), all it took was a simple computer search for the investigators in Old Europe, without any official assistance from the US Department of Justice, to determine the real names of "Captain James Fairing," "Eric Fain" and "Kirk James Bird."
UNRELATED: "Verboten: Germany Bans Tom Cruise" reports ABC News:
Germany has barred the makers of a movie about a plot to kill Adolf Hitler from filming at German military sites because its star Tom Cruise is a Scientologist, the Defence Ministry said on Monday.

American Moral Principles and European Giggles

Considering the usual political leanings of The Washington Times, the op-ed "We are Americans" (March 19, 2007) by Nat Hentoff is a bit surprising: He writes about CIA renditions and points out:
A 1998 U.S. statute, part of the Foreign Affairs Reform and Restructuring Act, states: "It shall be the policy of the United States not to expel, extradite or otherwise effect the involuntary removal of any person to a country in which there are substantial grounds for believing the person would be in danger of being subjected to torture." I have heard administration semanticists maintain that this law applies only to prisoners we hold in our own jurisdiction, not to suspects kidnapped off the streets of another country. I sometimes think there may be courses for officials of this administration in how to conjugate what George Orwell called "newspeak" words and meanings turned inside out.
Consider what our Secretary of State said in the Feb. 5, 2005, London Daily Telegraph: "There cannot be an absence of moral content in American foreign policy. Europeans giggle at this, but we are not European, we are American, and we have different principles." Not only Europeans have ceased extolling at our claiming moral and legal principles despite the CIA's "extraordinary renditions," our treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo and the CIA's own "black sites." So it was that when, on Feb. 6, nations signed an international treaty protecting terrorism suspects from being forced to disappear from any country's streets and kept in secret detention, the United States was not among the signers. There were no giggles at that evasion of our past pledges to the world.
Is Secretary Rice's comment condescending? Is it arrogant? She assumes an air of superiority, does not she? Or is European cynicism the problem?
I think, some relaxed giggling at moralistic rhetoric is more appropriate than accusing the US government of hypocrisy because several European governments supported the CIA renditions in one way or another. Many European politicians make moralistic policy statements, although the policy results look different.

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.

Will U.S. Foreign Policy Change if the Democrats Win the Midterm Elections?

Most pundits don't expect the Democrats to (be able to) change much. Foreign Policy Magazine asked a few experts to predict US foreign policy if the Democrats win. Mark Halperin expresses an optimistic opinion on bipartisan cooperation:
Forget partisan warfare matching that of 1993–2006. President Bush and Speaker Pelosi (and/or Majority Leader Reid) would recognize the need to work together or face two years of stalemate. Watch for an immigration deal, a bipartisan "peace with honor" Rose Garden announcement on Iraq, and a joint 41/42 (Bush/Clinton) presidential diplomatic mission to the Middle East.
The latest polls see Republicans keeping Senate control. Lee Feinstein, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and a former Defense and State Department official during the Clinton administration, opines that Iraq policy will not change much, even if the Democrats gain control of the Senate. Joe Biden would be elected chairman of the Foreign Relations committee and "hold hearings that look comprehensively at what the administration has described as the 'global war on terrorism' in an effort to disaggregate the problem. This would entail hearings on Iraq, Afghanistan, and on counterterrorism strategy more broadly." President Bush, however, will stay the course, according to Feinstein's prediction:
On the strength of this conviction he was prepared to go into Iraq without international support. He is prepared to stay there now without domestic support. This White House believes there is already too much congressional oversight so it will push back against efforts to apply more scrutiny.
While Feinstein also opines
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has pursued a policy of undoing the Bush policies of the first term, for example, proposing talks with Iran and North Korea. Democratic control of the Senate in particular would tend to reinforce the more moderate direction in foreign policy undertaken by Secretary Rice.
Neocon Joshua Muravchik launches "Operation Comeback": "Neoconservatives have the president's ear, but they also have lots of baggage. To stay relevant, they must admit mistakes, embrace public diplomacy, and start making the case for bombing Iran."

The Feinstein interview was recommended by Dr. Andrew Denison, director of Transatlantic Networks, a research consortium based in Koenigswinter, Germany. On November 3, 2006, he participated in the German TV debate "International Military Missions: Where are the Results?", which focuses on Germany's participation in ISAF (Afghanistan) and UNIFIL (Lebanon). You can watch the video of English language debate at DW World.

UPDATE: "As the U.S. Congressional elections draw near, Democrats and Republicans disparage their opponents in ways Germans cannot even imagine.", opines Reymer Kluever in the Sueddeutsche Zeitung. The editorial is translated into English at Watching America.

Negotiations with Syria and Democracy Promotion in the Arab World

While a German Intelligence analyst negotiates with Hezbollah for the release of Israel's kidnapped soldiers, what has the United States been doing lately in regard to the Middle East conflicts? Recently Secretary of State Condoleezza visited Israel for the sixth time in the course of a year and a half, writes Gideon Levy in Haaretz and then asks about those trips:
What has come of it? Has anyone asked her about this? Does she ask herself? It is hard to understand how the secretary of state allows herself to be so humiliated. It is even harder to understand how the superpower she represents allows itself to act in such a hollow and useless way. The mystery of America remains unsolved: How is it that the United States is doing nothing to advance a solution to the most dangerous and lengthiest conflict in our world?
Levy's criticism of the US and Israel in the rest of his article is even harsher. [Via The Washington Note]

While Secretary Rice visits Israel and "US friendly" Arab governments (Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan) often, she has not yet visited Damascus, as far as I know. The Bush administration does not even have an ambassador in Syria, because he was recalled in February 2005 in the wake of the Hariri assassination, according to the State Department.
Jim Lobe writes for the
Inter Press Service News Agency about the Bush administration's refusal to talk to Damascus and about
former Secretary of State James Baker, who stresses that he believes in talking to enemies:
Continue reading "Negotiations with Syria and Democracy Promotion in the Arab World"

Iraq and Vietnam and the "State of Denial" and Krepinevich's "Oil-Spot Strategy"

Bob Woodward, who has been known for his incredible access to classified reports and close contacts to members of the Bush administration, has just published a new book State of Denial (, and writes in the Washington Post article "Secret Reports Dispute White House Optimism":
There was a vast difference between what the White House and Pentagon knew about the situation in Iraq and what they were saying publicly. But the discrepancy was not surprising. In memos, reports and internal debates, high-level officials of the Bush administration have voiced their concern about the United States' ability to bring peace and stability to Iraq since early in the occupation.
Continue reading "Iraq and Vietnam and the "State of Denial" and Krepinevich's "Oil-Spot Strategy""

State Department: Global Repositioning and Transformational Diplomacy

Secretary Condoleeza Rice described how the State Department's "transformational diplomacy" contributes to the vision President Bush outlined in his second Inaugural Address: "to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world." In a speech at the Georgetown School of Foreign Service, Secretary Rice said:
The new front lines of our diplomacy are appearing more clearly, in transitional countries of Africa and of Latin America and of the Middle East. Our current global posture does not really reflect that fact. For instance, we have nearly the same number of State Department personnel in Germany, a country of 82 million people that we have in India, a country of one billion people. It is clear today that America must begin to reposition our diplomatic forces around the world, so over the next few years the United States will begin to shift several hundred of our diplomatic positions to new critical posts for the 21st century. We will begin this year with a down payment of moving 100 positions from Europe and, yes, from here in Washington, D.C., to countries like China and India and Nigeria and Lebanon, where additional staffing will make an essential difference.
Secretary Rice spoke about the the localization of the diplomatic presence, the broadened authority and mandate of the Reconstruction and Stabilization Office and how diplomats have to work side-by-side with the men and women in uniform in disaster relief and stabilization missions as well as in the fight against drugs. The State Department provides her speech
and a fact sheet on Transformational Diplomacy. (Hat tip ROA)