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:
Continue reading "We Saved Fulbright, Now We Need to Save CBYX"
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.
"Hello Börlin. Thank you, Chancellor Mörkel." Obama charmed the crowd and gave an emotional boost to German-American relations, but I think his political message to Germany was too subtle and has not convinced politicians and citizens.
President Obama said that "freedom won here in Berlin", while he stood behind bullet-proof glass in a sort of aquarium... More than anything he said, it is this level of protection that convinced me that we live in a dangerous world and that we cannot take security for granted and that freedom is precious.
My video is shaky, but I think you will see that the crowd was in a great mood. Yes, it was by invitation only, but still pretty diverse:
Continue reading "Obama Criticizes Complacency in the "City of Hope""
Berlin is excited about President Obama's upcoming visit and his speech at the Brandenburg Gate. Can he coin a memorable phrase like Kennedy's "Ich bin ein Berliner" fifty years ago? Or Reagan's "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall"? Will he offer Germany a different version of Bush senior's "partnership in leadership", but this time with more impact? I doubt it.
I have high hopes, but not high expectations. Yes, Obama will ask Germany to lead in Europe and beyond. He'll appeal to our responsibility, to our shared values and to the trust that has been built over six decades of transatlantic cooperation and how fundamental it is to freedom (and to all the other buzzwords). He will - hopefully - say a few nice words about our troops in Kosovo and Afghanistan, but probably ignore (or gloss over) PRISM and other controversial issues. Instead he will talk about the wonderful possibilities of the transatlantic trade and investment partnership (TTIP) and how it will lead to growth, strengthen our bonds and global influence and reinforce our values etc.
Obama will reassure Germany of America's continued support and solidarity, because he knows that Germans are concerned about America's pivot (balancing) to Asia and have complained that he has not visited us in his first term. [Oh, we crave so much attention and ignore that Obama has been to Europe eleven times since assuming the presidency, incl. three times to Germany. It has been my long position that Obama would have come to Berlin earlier and worked more with us, if we had make concrete suggestions for revitalized transatlantic cooperation rather than just photo-ops at various summits.]
Instead of turning his speech into a love fest for German-American relations, he should give some tough love. German citizens and politicians need a dose to understand where the United States is headed and what responsibilities Europe now has in its neighborhood.
Continue reading "Germany Needs Tough Love from Obama"
Deutsche Welle, Germany's international broadcaster, interviewed me about John Brennan and his nomination for CIA Director. The article is available in various languages, including Arabic, Turkish, German, Albanian and Chinese, because my opinion about the CIA is so super important that folks need to read it in their mother tongue. ;-) Not In English though.
My argument was in a nutshell that Brennan is a good choice for CIA Director because he worked for the agency in the operative and analytical divisions, has Middle East expertise, and is close to Obama. Better than a politician or a general.
Continue reading "Interview about Obama's Nomination of John Brennan"
I was not that impressed by Obama's speech yesterday, but I strongly believe that Europe can learn a lot from the inauguration. Take for instance today's German/French celebrations of the Elysée Treaty.
The French parliamentarians and many ministers commemorated the 50th anniversary with their German counterparts in the Bundestag. That's a great gesture. I listened to Lammert and Hollande during my lunch break. It was okay, but rhetorically far from the level of Obama. And I missed the hope and vision thing. My main criticism, however, is the lack of big public celebrations.
Continue reading "A Tale of Two Cities"
Many Americans have rocked huge crowds in Berlin. Here are videos of John F. Kennedy in June 1963, Ronald Reagan in June 1987, Bruce Springsteen in July 1988, and Barack Obama in July 2008.
Presidents John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan spoke in West-Berlin and stressed America's solidarity and commitment to freedom.
Bruce Springsteen performed his political songs in East-Berlin, the biggest rock concert the GDR had seen. When the Berlin Wall fell a year later, President George Bush senior was not a loud rock star, which would have been inappropriate and added insult to injury to the Soviet Union. (Poking a wounded super power in free fall would have been dangerous.).
Senator Obama was greeted like a rock star when he spoke in Berlin during his presidential campaign. Berliners longed to hear his message of hope and change after the disappointment in America caused by the Bush junior presidency.
Continue reading "Top Five: Americans who rocked Berlin"
1. Germany's Federal President will resign after less than two years in office. Christian Wulff will be the second head of state in a row who resigns because he does not like what the press writes about him. Germans will get new president. Again without the opportunity to vote.
2. Americans will vote, but they won't get a new president. Obama will win in November because the economy improves, unemployment goes down and the Republican base does not care enough for Mitt Romney to do intensive door-to-door campaigns.
Continue reading "My Predictions for 2012"
Georgetown Prof Charles Kupchan has published the interesting essay "Grand Strategy: The Four Pillars of the Future" in Democracy Journal.
The first and most important, yet also quite mainstream and redundant recommendation is to reduce oversea commitments:
A progressive grand strategy must help guide the United States from its current state of overextension toward a new balance between its foreign policy ends and its economic and political means. In both Iraq and Afghanistan, the scope of America's commitment has far outstripped the interests at stake. The Iraq War, as unnecessary as it has been expensive, has drained the nation's coffers and ground down the U.S. military. In Afghanistan, it makes little sense for the United States to spend more than $100 billion per year in a nation whose annual GDP is roughly $14 billion, or for 100,000 U.S. troops to be in the fight when Al Qaeda's operational capability in that country has been largely dismantled. An open-ended strategy of counterinsurgency should give way to a much smaller U.S. mission focused on counterterrorism.
The fourth pillar of his grand strategy concerns the transatlantic alliance. I am positively surprised that Prof. Kupchan still sees enough value and potential in Europe to make this one of his pillars: "Fourth, the United States should breathe new life into the Atlantic community":
Continue reading ""The United States should breathe new life into the Atlantic community""