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Two American Experts Comment on the European Reactions to the U.S. Elections

The Atlantic Review has already written about German Reactions to the Midterm Elections. Americans are now commenting about the European reactions to the elections: "Aspen Institute Berlin Director Jeffrey Gedmin has an interesting and useful piece, 'Even Happier than the Democrats,' in the Weekly Standard," writes Steve Clemons, director of the American Strategy Program at the New America Foundation and also adds his own thoughts in his Washington Note.
Gedmin:
When European commentators say they are still yearning for an end to American unilateralism, moral crusades, and the influence of "fundamentalist evangelicals," what they really mean is that they are longing for a United States just like secular, post-national, consensus-seeking, Social Democratic Europe. But, of course, even with Democrats controlling the House and the Senate, it ain't gonna happen.
Clemons agrees to some degree, but adds:
Europe yearns for a pragmatic, problem-fixing America, engaged in the world's real problems and building international collaborations to meet these challenges. America has departed this space on ideological quests and left a giant void in global affairs that the Europeans have had to partially fill.
Related post in the Atlantic Review: Will US Foreign Policy Change if the Democrats Win the Midterm Elections?

ENDNOTE: There was quite a stir in the blogosphere about the news that former Abu Ghraib prisoners, supported by an American NGO, seek prosecution of Secretary Rumsfeld in Germany. Several popular American bloggers misunderstood the Time Magazine article and incorrectly blamed the German government and vented their anger. Some even made Nazi references, as reported in a previous post.
U.S. law professor Andrew Hammel writes in his blog that there have been 53 petitions to invoke Germany's "universal jurisdiction" law for war crimes (adopted in 2002), but "none has been acted on, according to this week's Die Zeit, so there's pretty much zero chance of Rumsfeld going to prison in Germany."
Besides, yesterday, an association of peace groups filed a lawsuit against Chancellor Merkel and Defense Minister Jung for "preparing an offensive war." They claim that the White Paper on German Security Policy violates Germany's constitution, reports Die Welt (in German). Thus, the significance of the lawsuit against Rumsfeld should not be exaggerated.

Prosecution of Secretary Rumsfeld in Germany? (UPDATE)

According to Time Magazine, "new legal documents, to be filed next week with Germany's top prosecutor, will seek a criminal investigation and prosecution of Rumsfeld, along with Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, former CIA director George Tenet and other senior U.S. civilian and military officers, for their alleged roles in abuses committed at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison and at the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba." The plaintiffs include 11 Iraqis who were prisoners in Abu Ghraib. They have chosen Germany for the court filing because
German law provides "universal jurisdiction" allowing for the prosecution of war crimes and related offenses that take place anywhere in the world. Indeed, a similar, but narrower, legal action was brought in Germany in 2004, which also sought the prosecution of Rumsfeld. The case provoked an angry response from Pentagon, and Rumsfeld himself was reportedly upset. Rumsfeld's spokesman at the time, Lawrence DiRita, called the case a "a big, big problem." U.S. officials made clear the case could adversely impact U.S.-Germany relations, and Rumsfeld indicated he would not attend a major security conference in Munich, where he was scheduled to be the keynote speaker, unless Germany disposed of the case. The day before the conference, a German prosecutor announced he would not pursue the matter, saying there was no indication that U.S. authorities and courts would not deal with allegations in the complaint. (...)
"The utter and complete failure of U.S. authorities to take any action to investigate high-level involvement in the torture program could not be clearer," says Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, a U.S.-based non-profit helping to bring the legal action in Germany. He also notes that the Military Commissions Act, a law passed by Congress earlier this year, effectively blocks prosecution in the U.S. of those involved in detention and interrogation abuses of foreigners held abroad in American custody going to back to Sept. 11, 2001.
Continue reading "Prosecution of Secretary Rumsfeld in Germany? (UPDATE)"

Historical Comparisons: Fritz Stern Publishes "Five Germanys I Have Known"

"Can It Happen Here?" is the headline of the NY Times review of the Fritz Stern's memoir:
In November 2005, Fritz Stern received an award for his life's work on Germans, Jews and the roots of National Socialism, presented to him by Joschka Fischer, then the German foreign minister. With a frankness that startled some in the audience, Stern, an emeritus professor of European history at Columbia University, peppered his acceptance speech with the similarities he saw between the path taken by Germany in the years leading up to Hitler and the path being taken by the United States today. He talked about a group of 1920's intellectuals known as the "conservative revolutionaries," who "denounced liberalism as the greatest, most invidious threat, and attacked it for its tolerance, rationality and cosmopolitan culture," and about how Hitler had used religion to appeal to the German public. In Hitler's first radio address after becoming chancellor, Stern noted, he declared that the Nazis regarded "Christianity as the foundation of our national morality and the family as the basis of national life."
Stern was of course not suggesting an equivalence between President Bush and Hitler but rather making a more subtle critique, extending his idea that contemporary American politics exhibited "something like the strident militancy and political ineptitude of the Kaiser's pre-1914 imperial Germany." At 80, Stern has just published a sprawling memoir, "Five Germanys I Have Known," (Amazon.com, Amazon.de) and as with that speech, he does not file away his experiences of Nazism in a geographical or temporal box.
About the frequent Nazi comparisons:
Outraged by the facile interpretations of Nazism floating around in the 1950's — "all the tomes and slogans about Germany’s inevitable path 'from Luther to Hitler'" — he charts his own, more subtle interpretation of what caused the Third Reich. Over the years Stern protests the ways radicals abuse the memory of Nazism to support their present-day political agendas, whether the 1960's students who called authority figures fascists and Nazis, or those today who compare foreign leaders they dislike to Hitler and cry "Munich" at every diplomatic gesture.
Yet the value of Stern's work is precisely that it has refused to keep Nazism safely on the other side of a historical and geographic chasm. His first book, "The Politics of Cultural Despair" (1961), is one of the durable masterpieces of 20th-century history because it seems to locate the roots of a peculiarly modern malaise. As he explained in a later edition of the work, "I attempted to show the importance of this new type of cultural malcontent, and to show how he facilitated the intrusion into politics of essentially unpolitical grievances."
Hitler comparisions are still very popular:
•  Secretary Rumsfeld has German roots, used to visit his relatives in Germany in the 80s, and should know German history.
Continue reading "Historical Comparisons: Fritz Stern Publishes "Five Germanys I Have Known""

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 (Amazon.com, Amazon.de) 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""

The Times: Britain Handed Control to German and American Ideologues

Anatole Kaletsky writes in the The Times about Tony Blair's troubles and Gordon Brown's options. He describes what German monetary policy in the early 90s and U.S. foreign policy today have in common:
Mr Major's failure as a prime minister was down to a fatal policy mistake: his decision to keep Britain in the ERM [= European Exchange Rate Mechanism] regardless of cost. In doing this, the Tories effectively handed control of monetary policy to the Bundesbank, just as Mr Blair has subordinated foreign policy to the White House. (...)
Like US foreign policy today, German economic policy in the 1990s was run by a pair of arrogant but incompetent ideologues. Theo Waigel and Helmut Schlesinger, the German Finance Minister and Bundesbank President, were to economics what Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney are to the art of war. The German leaders of the early 1990s managed to turn their once-great economy into the sick man of Europe, just as Mr Rumsfeld and Mr Cheney have reduced America from a military superpower to a paper tiger. (...)
To my mind, Mr Blair's truly unforgivable crime was not the invasion of Iraq. (...). No, Mr Blair's crime was to continue backing President Bush after it became obvious that his policies were criminally negligent, politically cynical and doomed to failure. Mr Blair was the one man in the world who could have forced President Bush to back Colin Powell, sack Donald Rumsfeld, close down Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo and launch a serious drive for Palestinian statehood.
Considering the lasting impact of the ERM disaster on British attitudes towards Europe (on top of the already existing Eurosceptism/-phobia), what long-term impact will Blair's foreign policy have on British attitudes towards the United States?

Are the revolting ret. generals feeling guilty?

Richard Holbrooke considers the motives of the growing number of recently retired generals, who call for the resignation of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. The former ambassador to Germany and to the UN and founder of the American Academy in Berlin writes in the Washington Post:
These generals are not newly minted doves or covert Democrats. (In fact, one of the main reasons this public explosion did not happen earlier was probably concern by the generals that they would seem to be taking sides in domestic politics.) They are career men, each with more than 30 years in service, who swore after Vietnam that, as Colin Powell wrote in his memoirs, "when our turn came to call the shots, we would not quietly acquiesce in half-hearted warfare for half-baked reasons." Yet, as [Retired Marine Lt. Gen.] Newbold admits, it happened again. In the public comments of the retired generals one can hear a faint sense of guilt that, having been taught as young officers that the Vietnam-era generals failed to stand up to Defense Secretary Robert McNamara and President Lyndon Johnson, they did the same thing.
Holbrooke assumes:
The retired generals -- six so far, with more likely to come -- surely are speaking for many of their former colleagues, friends and subordinates who are still inside. In the tight world of senior active and retired generals, there is constant private dialogue. Recent retirees stay in close touch with old friends, who were often their subordinates; they help each other, they know what is going on and a conventional wisdom is formed.
Secretary Rumsfeld pointed out that the number of generals calling for his resignation is insignificant compared to the thousands of active and retired generals.
Following are excerpts of Ret. Gen. Newbold's strong criticism and Sec Rumsfeld's account of the success in Iraq:
Continue reading "Are the revolting ret. generals feeling guilty?"

Politicization of the Intelligence Process

Hours after the 9/11 attacks, Donald Rumsfeld  asked his aides to look for evidence of Iraqi involvement, according to notes taken by Stephen Cambone, now undersecretary of defence for intelligence. The notes have just been declassified under the US Freedom of Information Act  in response to a request by law student and blogger Thad Anderson and published in the Guardian and elsewhere. (Time Magazine's Andrew Sullivan gives his post the title of Prof. Glenn Instapundit Reynold's new book An Army of Davids about ordinary people beating mass media, government and other Goliaths.)
Bob Woodward apparently had access to the classified documents and quoted from Chambone's notes in his book Plan of Attack: "hit S.H. [Saddam Hussein] @ same time—not only UBL [Usama Bin Laden]." According to Woodward, Colin Powell then said "What the hell! What are these guys thinking about? Can't you get these guys back in the box?"
Paul. R. Pillar, the National Intelligence Officer for the Near East and South Asia from 2000 to 2005, describes in the latest issue of Foreign Affairs how from his standpoint the "Bush administration disregarded the community's expertise, politicized the intelligence process, and selected unrepresentative raw intelligence to make its public case":
The administration used intelligence not to inform decision-making, but to justify a decision already made. It went to war without requesting -- and evidently without being influenced by -- any strategic-level intelligence assessments on any aspect of Iraq. (...) If the entire body of official intelligence analysis on Iraq had a policy implication, it was to avoid war -- or, if war was going to be launched, to prepare for a messy aftermath.
The essay of this former high-level official does not include any new revelations and accusations, but is a good summary of familiar criticism of the use of intelligence to justify the Iraq war. Concerning the prospects of a democratic Iraq, he writes:
Before the war, on its own initiative, the intelligence community considered the principal challenges that any postinvasion authority in Iraq would be likely to face. It presented a picture of a political culture that would not provide fertile ground for democracy and foretold a long, difficult, and turbulent transition. (...) The intelligence community argued that any value Iraq might have as a democratic exemplar would be minimal and would depend on the stability of a new Iraqi government and the extent to which democracy in Iraq was seen as developing from within rather than being imposed by an outside power. More likely, war and occupation would boost political Islamand increase sympathy for terrorists' objectives -- and Iraq would become a magnet for extremists from elsewhere in the Middle East.