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German-American Festival in Berlin on July 5, 2008

 

On Saturday, Berlin will celebrate Independence Day and the return of the American Embassy to the famous Pariser Platz with the grand "Amerikafest 2008," which will take place where the German soccer fans celebrate their team today...

The festivities are organized by the The Federation of German-American Clubs e.V. (in German), which describes the event as an occasion to discover many aspects of American culture, from politics to sport and entertainment.

I will be there from noon until 6:00 PM as part of my day job at the Atlantische Initiative e.V. We have a stand on Pariser Platz (on the Eastern side of the Brandenburg Gate). See our announcement: Meet the atlantic-community.org Editorial Team at the Amerikafest!
Anybody planning on coming? Write a comment or send me an email.

US Foreign Policy: "It's All Power, No Influence"

While many Americans criticize Germany and other European countries for not spending enough on defense, there seem to be more and more Americans, who criticize the huge US defense budget, which is not only much much bigger than the combined budgets of half a dozen US enemies and allies, but also huge compared to other foreign policy instruments.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates for instance calls for more money and effort to "soft power" tools, including communications, because the military alone cannot defend America's interests around the world. (See Atlantic Review post "Al Qaeda is better at communicating its message on the Internet than America").

Today, James Carroll refers to Gates speech and writes in The Boston Globe (HT: David): "For US foreign policy, it's all power, no influence":

A MAN bit a dog last week. Not just any man, and not just any dog. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates decried the vast disproportion between America's annual investment in the Pentagon - something like $700 billion - and what is spent on the State Department - about $35 billion. That's less, Gates said in a speech in Kansas, than the Defense Department spends on healthcare. The total number of foreign service officers is about 6,600 - which is less, Gates said, than the number of military personnel serving on one aircraft carrier strike group.

And a for me even more shocking comparison was quoted in FP Passport: "There are substantially more people employed as musicians in Defense bands than in the entire foreign service," says David J. Kilcullen, a senior advisor to Gen. David Petraeus in Iraq.

I know, why Germany spends comparatively little on defense: a) A long history of starting the wrong wars, b) domestic priorities (unemployment, ageing society etc), c) less fear of terrorism than in the US, and d) belief in soft power, especially in the stabilization effects of an ever expanding EU.

But why is the US spending comparatively little on regular foreign policy, including public diplomacy? Why is the Pentagon budget and staff sooo much bigger than the State Department budget and staff? Why is hard power considered soo important?

Which country's policy is more short-sighted and could prove to be more of a problem in the coming years? Germany's or America's?