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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...

Mutual Disappointment

Chancellor Merkel is traveling across America this week. She loves the United States, but she is still having trouble connecting with Barack Obama, writes Spiegel International (HT: David). The media loves to personalize politics. I think at the end of the day the problem is not the personal relationship between Obama and Merkel, but its structural. After long descriptions of the well-known differences in Obama's and Merkel's style of politics, Spiegel comes to the same conclusion in the end:

At the moment, the partners on both sides of the Atlantic are disappointed with each other. Whenever the Americans want something from the Germans, they are guaranteed to be turned down: on prisoners from Guantanamo, on sending significantly more soldiers to Afghanistan and on new economic stimulus programs.

Merkel, on the other hand, was repeatedly appalled last year at how inconsiderate the Americans were of German or European interests. Whenever she spoke to Obama about climate protection, he was only concerned with the consequences for the United States. When the Americans settled on a new strategy for Afghanistan, they didn't ask their allies first. Merkel also suspects that the United States is not interested in reining in the financial industry.

She is forced to look on as America becomes more and more enmeshed in a duel with China. Nothing is done that could impair Washington's position toward China, which is why the United States doesn't want to take on the burdens of a strict climate policy or a more tightly controlled financial market. German interests are of little importance, because Germany has little left to offer the Americans.

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.

The Publics Commitment to NATO is Shaky

Wow, our fellow citizens take NATO's article 5 real serious, according to The Harris Poll:

If Russia was to make a similar military move into another Baltic country (Latvia, Lithuania, or Estonia) all of who are NATO members, people are divided as to whether troops from their country should defend these states. Half of Germans (50%) and two in five Spaniards (40%) and Italians (39%) would oppose troops from their country defending the Baltic states while two in five French adults (41%) and just over one-third of Americans (37%) and Britons (35%) would support it.

Apparently "the West" is a really great community of common values and solidarity.

I hope the poll has some methodological shortcoming. If not, then I am glad that we are living in representative democracies rather than direct democracy, i.e. our politicians don't have to make policy based on polls or referendums.

Germany Saves the United States

The United States has done so much for Germany in the 20th century. I thought we had to be eternally grateful. Nope, not anymore. Germany has saved Americans from themselves. Now we are even. Yeah! ;-) Read what Justin Logan, the associate director of foreign policy studies at the Cato Institute, has to say:

Recall that President Bush made a full-court press to get Georgia (and Ukraine) onto Membership Action Plans at the recent NATO summit in Bucharest. In a heroic move, the Germans spiked the deal, saving us from ourselves. But both Barack Obama and John McCain favor Georgian accession into NATO - and with it, a full-on security commitments as Article V of the NATO charter makes clear.

Let's hope that even more Americans will realize Germany's opposition to NATO membership action plans for Georgia was a "heroic move" rather than appeasement of Russia. Seriously: While I do think that Justin Logan exaggerates quite bit, I agree with his basic point.

Endnote: The CATO blog is pretty cool. Benjamin Friedman, for instance, warns about China Rising by linking to a Defense News report that notes: "China has banned its air force pilots from drinking alcohol at lunchtime." We better watch out. The West's real threats come from the Far East, not from Eastern Europe. Russia + Vodka = Yoga! ;-)