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Clinton gives Atlanticist speech at the Pacific

Hillary Clinton is much more supportive of NATO and Europe than all the other presidential candidates. Yesterday, Hillary Clinton gave an impressive speech describing NATO as "one of the best investments America has ever made". She stressed the need for US leadership and collaboration with allies in the struggle against ISIS. Bernie Sanders has yet to give a major speech on NATO. Donald Trump's opinion on NATO reflects widely held sentiments in the US.

Hillary Clinton's speech was impressive because she spoke at Stanford on the Pacific coast, and not on the Atlantic. She spoke to students, not the old Cold War generation with a stronger attachment to Europe. Often accused of pandering to the desires and needs of her given audience, Hillary Clinton here did not talk about opportunities in Asia-Pacific region, but about the threats in Europe and the Middle East and the need for strong US engagement in these regions. Moreover, the speech comes shortly after recent statements by Donald Trump and President Obama who criticized Europeans as mainly free-riders on defense in interviews with Washington Post and The Atlantic respectively.

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We Saved Fulbright, Now We Need to Save CBYX

When the Obama administration wanted to cut $30 million from the Fulbright budget last March, the alumni started the Save Fulbright campaign. It was a success, the Senate and House voted to restore the funding and in December, President Obama "signed the 2015 federal budget into into law that not only fully restored Fulbright funding at its previous 2014 levels but also increased it by $1.8 million to $236,485,000."

Good news? Yes!

But unfortunately we got bad news from another important exchange program: The alumni association of the Parlamentarisches Patenschaft Programm (Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange: CBYX) write:

The US Department of State has cut funding for the CBYX program by 50% for the 2015-2016 program year, and the future of the program's existence is in danger. In order to guarantee that CBYX, one of the most prominent German-American exchange programs for the past 30 years, continues to support 700 German and American participants annually, funding for the program must be restored to $4 million.

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Five Theses on the State of EU Politics

The EU not only finds itself in a fiscal crisis, it is also faced with a crisis of confidence. We need a broadly based public debate on alternative proposals for the future of Europe. With this in mind, the Heinrich Böll Foundation's international conference "Europe's Common Future" explored different perspectives and policy proposals.

The Greek, French, Polish and German speakers on the panel "Germany's role in the crisis" strongly reinforced five opinions of mine:

1. Poland likes Germany much more than ever before. They count on us.

2. The French inferiority complex in EU matters is getting worse.

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Bullshit on Europe?

Dan Drezner divides Secretary Clinton's major foreign policy speech into "the good, the bad, and the BS portions." (I am wondering if he follows Harry Frankfurt's definition of bullshit) And Clinton's statements on Europe fall into the BS portion:

The whole section on strengthening bilateral and multilateral ties to Europe almost caused me to lose my cornflakes.  I mean, c'mon.  Is forcing the Europeans to cut down their number of seats in the IMF an example of strengthening alliances?  I see the intrinsic merit in occasionally dissing the Europeans, but don't tell me that anything transatlantic has been "strengthened" over the past 18 months.

Good question! What has been strengthened in transatlantic affairs over the last 18 months?

The German Marshall Fund's Transatlantic Trends 2010 survey just made the - cough -- totally surprising - cough -- discovery that Obama's popularity has not lead to converging opinions about how to address several global challenges. Apparently, it takes more than presidential popularity to make the European kids follow the lead of the US godfather? Wow, so perhaps George W. Bush's personality was not the main reason why Europeans opposed the Iraq war. Do you think that maybe - just maybe - Europeans have different national interests and preferences. And the world affairs is not a popularity contest? Oh, I am going on a limp here.

Europeans are full of bullshit as well: According to the same survey 62% of EU respondents ("large majorities") said that "NATO should be prepared to act outside of Europe to defend members from threats to their security," while at the same time 64% of those respondents "thought that their country should either reduce or withdraw troops" from Afghanistan.

I think Europeans (everyone?) expresses more support if a request or question is phrased in broad and very abstract terms and concerns the future (NATO out of area), but when you get more specific and concrete and refer to the presence (Afghanistan), then people withdraw their support. I guess, this holds true to both big politics and personal relations...

Exhibition: "Gifts From the Americans"

Who says Germans are not grateful to the United States anymore? Currently there is an architectural photo exhibition in Berlin featuring cultural buildings financed by the United States during the Cold War. The exhibition and website is called Geschenke der Amerikaner ("Gifts from the Americans"), which is in German, but includes a few good photos.

Tribute to Marla Ruzicka and the Nameless Aidworkers Around the World

When Marla Ruzicka got killed in Bagdad on April 16, 2005, many US newspapers had long and impressive obituaries about the founder of the Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict (CIVIC), who convinced Congress to create an Iraqi War Victims Fund.

Rolling Stone Magazine described her as a "youthful representative of a certain kind of not-yet-lost American idealism" in a good, balanced and heart-wrenching biographic article. The Boston Globe wrote:

Virtually alone, she directed attention and resources to the invisible victims of war. She moved the military without using force, galvanized official Washington without powerful connections, and motivated the press without sensationalism.

Four years later not a single newspaper reminds us of her untimely death, according to Google News, even though CIVIC is still very active around the world and blogs as well.

Unfortunately, the media does not write much about the many relief workers in war and natural disaster zones around the world. The nameless humanitarians, who don't just talk and write, but risk their lives to help others don't get awards or much press coverage. Their sacrifice is often only acknowledged, when they get killed or as a statistic, like earlier this month, when several media outlets covered the new report from the Overseas Development Institute (pdf), which states that 2008 was the most dangerous year on record for humanitarian aid workers:

Last year 260 humanitarian aid workers were killed, kidnapped or seriously injured in violent attacks - the highest annual toll on record. Kidnappings have increased 350% since 2006 and the fatality rate of aid workers from malicious acts surpassed that of United Nations peacekeeping soldiers in 2008.

More about Marla Ruzicka's accomplishments in these Atlantic Review posts:

Tribute to Marla Ruzicka and other Idealists Risking their Lives out there 

"Sweet Relief" - A New Book about Humanitarian Activist Marla Ruzicka 

Marla Ruzicka: Civilian Victims of War

Love for America returns

The Washington Post has learned that Americans are feeling the love from around the world:

With Obama's Election, Expatriates Say, There's a New Attitude Abroad. Instead of Challenges on Iraq and WMDs, They're Met With Hugs and Good Wishes.

Will this "love" turn into real and significant support for US policies? Probably not, but that's okay, I guess. Just being popular again is a nice change after eight tough years, when American expats were constantly blamed for President Bush's real and alleged wrong doings.

How to Keep NATO Relevant?

General John Craddock, the Supreme Allied Commander Europe for NATO, got pretty outspoken about internal and external challenges in Afghanistan and elsewhere. Speaking at the Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies (RUSI) on October 20, 2008, General Craddock even raised the issue of NATO's relevancy:

A brief look at the will of our alliance in the mission in Afghanistan demonstrates some real shortcomings. In view of the more than 70 national operational restrictions, or 'caveats', and our continual inability to fill our agreed-upon statement of requirements in theatre, we are demonstrating a political will that is somewhat wavering. And it is this wavering political will that impedes operational progress and brings into question the relevancy of the Alliance here in the 21st century.´

Craddock made some good, but hardly surprising suggestions about funding and speeding up the decision-making processes. You can start the debate over at Atlantic Community: How to Keep NATO Relevant?

Atlantic Community is now addressing Afghanistan as a focus topic and also features an article by Morgan Sheeran, veteran of the US Armed Forces with 26 years of service including a tour in Afghanistan: Afghan Surge: More Police Trainers Essential. The first comment below that article is from Florian Broschk, who has been serving four tours with ISAF in Afghanistan. He also taught Dari (the second most popular language in Afghanistan) to Bundeswehr soldiers.