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Transatlantic Unity on Marijuana

American and German Youtube users are most interested in asking their respective heads of government about the legalization of marijuana. This seems to be another indication that US and German social media users think much more alike than the political elites do. I am disappointed that more important questions are much less popular.

Last week, Chancellor Merkel responded on the government's Youtube channel to ten questions from citizens. She responded negatively to this questions about the legalization, regulation and taxation of marijuana which had received the most votes on Youtube:

Wie stehen Sie zur Forderung, den bestehenden Schwarzmarkt für Cannabis durch einen regulierten Markt mit Jugend- und Verbraucherschutz (Kontrolle von Qualität und THC-Gehalt) zu ersetzen und mehr Suchtprävention über Cannabissteuern zu finanzieren?

For Merkel it was the first Youtube Q&A, while President Obama has been conducting three YouTube question-and-answer sessions already. According to CBS News, the session in January 2011 was "as always" dominated by marijuana:

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Obama Turns to Europe?

"Aspreading financial crisis has accomplished what tradition, habits of alliance management and shared security concerns could not: It has given Europe a central place in President Obama's view of global affairs," writes Jim Hoagland in The Washington Post:

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German Moralizers Criticize United States on Killing of Bin Laden

1. Many German politicians, media and church representatives criticize Chancellor Merkel for expressing her joy about the killing of Osama bin Laden, because it is not appropriate to have such a feeling when a human being gets killed. She was only "allowed" to express her relief. => Okay, fine with me.

2. The same folks also criticize those Americans who celebrated bin Laden's death. => Okay, fair enough. I do, however, consider the reactions understandable since he headed a terrorist group that killed thousands of Americans and was determined to kill more. Moreover, no government official celebrated. No "mission accomplished" parties. So, please let's not make a big deal out of it.

3. The same folks and several German law professors (in German) and talk show pundits question the legality of killing bin Laden. This issue seems to be dominating the debate in the German media currently. => Now I am getting annoyed. This is so typical. Aren't there bigger problems? Should not we question our policy on Pakistan? How supportive is the Pakistani military and intelligence of terror networks? As Leon T. Hadar writes in the Huffington Post: "Pakistan is a failed state with nuclear military power, whose elites and public are hostile to the U.S. and sympathetic to its enemies. (...) Pakistan is not a strategic ally but an irresponsible client state."

Law professors could also make sound proposals for ethical and efficient changes to international law to meet the realities of of the 21st century, like terrorism and assymetric warfare, failing states etc. That would be more important and more constructive than making a fuss about the killing of Bin Laden.

4. And this Süddeutsche article discusses whether bin Laden was buried correctly. => Give me a break and rethink your priorities.

Spiegel International provides an English language summary of some commentaries from German newspapers. More evidence for the above claims in this Tagesthemen commentary, which Davids Medienkritik would rip apart, if they'd still be active. Criticism of the German coverage can be found in Die Welt by Clemens Wergin and Alan Posner (all links in German)

Endnote: Last week Congressman Dana Rohrabacher responded to a four year old article on this blog. He provided some context to the quote "Well, I hope it's your families, I hope it's your families that suffer the consequences [of a terrorist attack]."

State of the Union: "We Revitalized NATO" and "We Do Big Things"

"With our European allies, we revitalized NATO and increased our cooperation on everything from counterterrorism to missile defense.  We've reset our relationship with Russia, strengthened Asian alliances, built new partnerships with nations like India." declared President Obama in yesterday's State of the Union Address (Enhanced video).

The focus of his speech was of course domestic rather than foreign -- "and perhaps properly so, given Americans' continuing preoccupation with the economy. Even in that context, though, President Obama's portrait of U.S. engagement in the world was thin -- and weak. By Obama's account, the most important American foreign initiatives in 2011 will be retreats," comments Jackson Diehl in the Washington Post.

Still, I very much like his speech. I felt inspired afterwards, and I assume the speech moved many Americans as well. An optimistic yet realistic message during tough times.

My favorite quotes:

This is our generation's Sputnik moment.  Two years ago, I said that we needed to reach a level of research and development we haven't seen since the height of the Space Race.  And in a few weeks, I will be sending a budget to Congress that helps us meet that goal.  We'll invest in biomedical research, information technology, and especially clean energy technology -- (applause) -- an investment that will strengthen our security, protect our planet, and create countless new jobs for our people. (...)

That's what Americans have done for over 200 years: reinvented ourselves. (...)

Continue reading "State of the Union: "We Revitalized NATO" and "We Do Big Things""

Ecological-Industrial Complex

Environmental policies produces more inequality than neoliberal ones, says Malte Lehming in the Wall Street Journal. He works for Der Tagesspiegel, which has published the provocative German original (HT: Ava). He acknowledges German leadership in the green industry:

In 15 years, according to a government-sponsored study, green technology will overtake the automobile industry as Germany's core industry. A multi-billion-dollar market has developed, and Germany is the leader in many emerging branches, with a worldwide market share in green technology of around 16%. Some 1.5 million Germans already work in the green industry.

This progress, however, comes at the expense of the working classes:

The Greens like to portray themselves as fighting against the excesses of capitalism. Now it's clear that the ecological-industrial complex increases inequality more than neo-liberal policies ever could.

Meanwhile a very different situation in the United States, home of the so-called "military industrial complex." The midterm elections are bad for America's green industry and the future of the US economy in general, writes Carnegie Fellow John Judis in The New Republic. His article on the Lost Generation is among the most negative assessments of the Republican gains at Congress:

America's challenge over the next decade will be to develop new industries that can produce goods and services that can be sold on the world market. The United States has a head start in biotechnology and computer technology, but as the Obama administration recognized, much of the new demand will focus on the development of renewable energy and green technology. As the Chinese, Japanese, and Europeans understand, these kinds of industries require government coordination and subsidies. But the new generation of Republicans rejects this kind of industrial policy. They even oppose Obama's obviously successful auto bailout.

Instead, when America finally recovers, it is likely to re-create the older economic structure that got the country in trouble in the first place: dependence on foreign oil to run cars; a bloated and unstable financial sector that primarily feeds upon itself and upon a credit-hungry public; boarded-up factories; and huge and growing trade deficits with Asia. These continuing trade deficits, combined with budget deficits, will finally reduce confidence in the dollar to the point where it ceases to be a viable international currency.

Strong stuff! Both articles!. Germans are screwed in the short run, Americans in the medium run? And in the long run we are all dead. Speaking of which: Is Obama a Keynesian?

Obama Uses anti-Americanism in Election Campaign?

First Gerhard Schroeder was accused of using anti-Americanism to win an election. Now the British Telegraph's Toby Harnden claims that Obama echoes Europe's anti-Americanism to win the midterm elections: 

Bill Clinton spoke like a Good Ol' Boy from the Deep South, ate junk food and enjoyed trashy women. He was clever, but he did not look down on people. Obama, by contrast, has become a parody of the Ivy League liberal smugly content with his own intellectual superiority and pitying the poor idiots who disagree with him. It is an approach that shares much with the default anti-Americanism of British and European elites, who love to mock the United States as a country full of gun-toting, bible-clutching morons. (.)

Joining the Europeans in mocking ordinary Americans for their supposed idiocy may play well at big-dollar fund-raisers. In adopting this as a political strategy, however, the Democrats could be the ones who end up looking stupid.

WTF? No wonder the article received more than 400 comments since Saturday.

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...

U.S. Generals Indicate No Quick Withdrawal from Afghanistan

Recent statements from top U.S. generals are dashing hopes in the US and among European Allies that the war in Afghanistan will wind down in the next year, despite President Obama's stated intentions to begin troop reductions in July 2011.

Consider comments from the top U.S. Marine in Afghanistan, General James Conway, reported by Daily Times:
In recent months, US officials have played down expectations of any large withdrawal of troops in July 2011. Conway echoed those sentiments, saying he believed Marines would remain in the south for years. He said that Afghan forces would not be ready to take over security from US troops in key southern provinces for at least a few years.

“I honestly think it will be a few years before conditions on the ground are such that turnover will be possible for us,” he said, referring to Marines deployed in the provinces of Helmand and Kandahar. Conway said some Afghan units somewhere might be able to assume the lead for security in 2011 but not in the south.
Further statements by General David Petraeus regarding the Afghanistan drawdown make it clear that the July 2011 date does not signal a hard end of the war, writes GlobalSecurity.org:
Petraeus also repeated his view that the drawdown in U.S. and NATO forces, scheduled to begin in July 2011, will not result in a swift withdrawal.

"July 2011...is the date when a process begins. It is not the date when the U.S. forces begin an exodus and look for the exit and a light to turn out," Petraeus said.
General Petraeus discusses the July 2011 drawdown in a video interview with the BBC, found here.

In the article "Why Europe Fears
Petraeus's Urge to Surge", Financial Times argues that European leaders not only desire a more expedient withdrawal from Afghanistan, but also want to pursue a different strategy for ending the conflict based on negotiations with the Taliban:
In discussions with European generals, diplomats and officials – each involved in their government’s Afghan policy – a common fear emerges. That US president Barack Obama will not be able to refuse demands from Gen Petraeus to extend the surge well beyond July 2011; that the general will continue to push for a continuation of military strategy; and that he will decline any suggestion of opening negotiations with the Taliban – something that many Europeans are very keen on.
...
European officials are coming to the consensus that they would like the Nato summit and Mr Obama’s Afghan policy review – both at the end of the year – to reach a position where negotiating with the Taliban is the political strategy around which military strategy is determined.

Troop withdrawals, which Mr Obama says will start next July, would then take place according to the pace of talks between the US, the Taliban and the Afghan government; not on the basis of hard-to-gauge battlefield success. Europe also wants the US to press Afghanistan’s neighbours not to interfere in its affairs.

Gen Petraeus wants to convince Washington, Nato and Europe to do just the opposite, determining withdrawals on the basis of the military, not the political, situation.