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Fulbrighters Reflect on their Exchange Year

In this video produced by the German Fulbright Alumni Association in 2014 former German and US grantees talk about the relevance of their exchange experience and their reasons to get involved with the Alumni Association. 

The video captures the importance of the Fulbright program quite well. Authentic, personal, no exaggerations. After watching it, you will probably want to get in touch with the German Fulbright Alumni Association or learn how to get a Fulbright grant: For Germans going to US, for Americans going to Germany, for all other nationalities and destinations

The last link takes you to the State Department and promotes the Fulbright Program as "the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government and is designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries. (...) Currently, the Fulbright Program operates in over 160 countries worldwide." Most programs with rich countries are financed jointly. The German-American Fulbright program has received 2.6 Mio EUR from the State Department and US Host Institutions, but the much larger amount of 5.6 Mio EUR from Germany's federal and regional governments in 2013/2014. 332 Americans and 408 Germans received grants in that academic year.

The American Fulbright Alumni Association has just released this promotional video:

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Fulbright Alumna interviews Chancellor Merkel

Ahead of her US visit Chancellor Merkel answered questions from Fulbright Alumna Kate Lindemann on TTIP, the US funding cuts to an exchange program with Germany, and racism & xenophobia in the US and Germany. Video is in German:

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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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A Slogan and Theme Song for NATO

The new US Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, Victoria Nuland, called for a Transatlantic Renaissance. From a speech at the Atlantic Council:

What is required is a "Transatlantic Renaissance" - a new burst of energy, confidence, innovation, and generosity, rooted in our democratic values and ideals. When so much of the world around us is turbulent and unmoored, we are once again called to be a beacon of security, freedom and prosperity for countries everywhere. That will require both confidence and investments at home, and commitment and unity abroad. Together, we must lead or we will see the things we value and our global influence recede.

A great speech, which also included what could make a great suggestion for a NATO slogan and theme song ;-)

When people ask me what NATO is for after we stop fighting in Afghanistan, I invariably hear the Ghost Busters theme song in my head: "Who ya gonna call?"

Remembering Holbrooke and Bosnia

Richard Holbrooke, described by President Obama as a "true giant of American foreign policy," has died following heart surgery. He was only 69, but his career covered nearly fifty years. From 1993-1994, he was the US Ambassador to Germany and founded the American Academy in Berlin.

Ambassador Holbrooke died on the eve of the 15th anniversary of the Dayton Peace Accords, which was the biggest of his many accomplishments and ended more than three years of bloody war in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

NATO published a three-part mini video documentary "From Peacekeeping To Partnership":

Part I: Building Peace tells of NATO's gradual engagement in support of United Nations' efforts to end the Bosnian War (1992-1995) and the deployment of its first peacekeeping force in December 1995. NATO's mission continued for nine years until responsibility for security was handed over to the European Union in December 2004. 

Part II: Reforming the Military shows how NATO's support for essential defence reforms in Bosnia and Herzegovina has helped downsize the armed forces and turn them into a single military force under state-level control. Progress made allowed the country to join NATO's Partnership for Peace in 2006.

Part III: The Road to Integration highlights the country's deepening partnership with NATO and provides an insight into the challenges ahead on the road to the country's possible membership of the Alliance.

Richard Holbrooke's book about Bosnia "To End a War" (Amazon.com, Amazon.de) is my favorite foreign policy memoir. It is so well written that it reads like a good thriller. I was very inspired when I read his book during my Political Science studies in the late 90s. Richard Holbrooke was an inspiration to many other German students as well.

Wikileaks Hyperventilation or "Transatlantic Brainwashing"

According to Spiegel, Wikileaks reveals that US diplomats consider Foreign Minister Westerwelle to be incompetent and Chancellor Merkel to be risk averse. So what? Most Germans think the same. Of course, US diplomats are more candid in secret cables than in public statements. Everybody is.

I refuse to join the media's hyperventilation over these revelations caused by WikiLeaks' "information vandalism." The Guardian opines that the leaks have already created a "global diplomatic crisis." They used that headline right after publishing the cables. That sounds like we are at the brink of war. All of a sudden it is 1914 and Franz Ferdinand has just been assassinated.

Okay, for a few seconds, I was hyperventilating, when I read in the September 2009 cable published on Spiegel:

According to XXXXX Westerwelle has never been able to shake his skepticism about how the United States wields power in the world. Citing an exchange with former U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Burt (1985-1989), XXXXX recalls how Westerwelle forcefully intervened in a discussion the Ambassador was having on U.S. foreign policy during the Cold War to say: "But you are not the police of the world." XXXXX comments further that Westerwelle was immune to any "transatlantic brainwashing."

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Don't Take the 'North Atlantic' out of NATO

In an apparent attempt to prove that the worst foreign policy ideas are bipartisan, Will Marshall, president of the Progressive Policy Institute, has renewed the call for a 'global NATO'. The idea bascially comes down to having all the liberal democracies in the world join NATO, and the purpose is to enable NATO to engage in more wars of intervention. This is written in a 'memo to the next president':
You should seize the opportunity to lead NATO's transformation from a North American-European pact into a global alliance of free nations. By opening its doors to Japan, Australia, India, Chile, and a handful of other stable democracies, NATO would augment both its human and financial resources. What is more, NATO would enhance its political legitimacy to operate on a global stage.
There isn't much difference between this and Bob Kagan's 'League of Democracies' except that Will Marshall still pays lip service to working with the UN. The objective, however, is clearly to be able to bypass the Security Council. The 'global NATO' idea has been around for longer. It was proposed by Ivo Daalder and James Goldgeier in a 2006 Foreign Affairs article. It has also been discussed at a NATO forum, where current SecGen Jaap de Hoop Scheffer quickly dismissed it and offered some lucid thinking on the current development of the alliance.

Aside of the concern that expanding the alliance will trigger a reaction and the reality that neither Europe nor most of the designated candidates have any kind of appetite for the idea, the rationale of increasing foreign interventions shows that a lot of liberal hawks have really learned nothing at all. But it is not clear what kind of influence they have.

The PPI is the think tank of the Democratic Leadership Council, which also has Hillary Clinton, the next US Secretary of State, as a prominent member. This is mere association, but it will be worthwhile to keep a tab on whether the ideas (and careers) of liberal hawks at the DLC and the Brookings Institution gain traction in the State Department.

(via Yglesias)

"Only the Chinese Embassy is Uglier"

Wow, the German press, incl. the pro-American Die Welt, is very critical of the US embassy, which was reopened on July 4th. Gregory Rodriguez writes in the Los Angeles Times:

The daily Süddeutsche Zeitung called it "Ft. Knox at the Brandenburg Gate." Der Tagesspiegel pronounced it a "triumph of banality." Particularly offended by the embassy's windows, the critic at the conservative Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung contended that they "look as if a bankrupt homeowner had bought them in a home-improvement store near Fargo in order to get his house ready for winter." Die Welt, meanwhile, stated simply that "only the Chinese Embassy is uglier."

While some Americans consider this criticism as part of the Anti-Americanism, I would like to point out that none of the German government buildings garned any approval from architectural critics, when they opened in Berlin. The chancellery is still called "the federal washing machine" by many Berliners. And the beautiful glass dome of the Reichstag was not appreciated in the beginning either.

More important than the architecture of the embassy is its outreach to the policy community, the media and the wider public. Many ambassadors are described as more active than the US ambassador.