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"The Silent Partner" Who Does not Care

"An American drone killed eight German citizens in Pakistan [last] week. Germany's non-reaction says volumes about its role in the war on terror," writes Cameron Abadi in Foreign Policy and concludes "Judging from their eerie silence this week, Germans generally seem willing to let America handle the world's dirty work abroad." It's a great article and I recommend fully reading it and some of his links.

I tend to agree with him, but I also have the impression that the German public does not worry about terrorist attacks in general. They do not consider the US as acting on Germany's behalf and doing "the world's dirty work abroad."

Even the NATO mission in Afghanistan is not given credit for uncovering and disrupting the plot to attack European targets. I have not heard or read a statement in Germany along the lines of Con Coughlin's op-ed in the Wall Street Journal: The Afghanistan War's Dividends in Europe (Free access, if you use Google search): 

"The main reason we can identify these plots and implement measures against them is because of the extensive military and intelligence-gathering infrastructure we have invested in the region," a senior NATO officer in Kabul told me following reports of the latest al Qaeda scheme. "But it is doubtful we would have the same ability to track the plots and respond to them if we suddenly reduced our presence in Afghanistan."

German parliamentarians find it increasingly difficult to tell their voters why they always vote for extensions of the Bundeswehr mandate for Afghanistan, but they don't use the disrupted terror plot aimed at European cities (Paris, Berlin) as a chance to convince voters that our participation in the Afghanistan mission has made us safer. Or what am I missing here?

ENDNOTES: Reuters: "Italy could begin pulling out troops from Afghanistan next summer, the foreign minister said on Tuesday, as the nation mourned four soldiers killed in an insurgent ambush at the weekend.

Germany was elected to the UN Security Council for the next two years. (Canada, I am so sorry!) So, Germany might be less quiet in the years to come. Remember the "fun" we had in the run up to the Iraq war? Any chance for a deja-vu regarding Iran in 2011 or 2012?

"Hamburg cell at heart of terrorist plot against Europe"

The US, the UK, France and now Japan issued warnings of a Mumbai-styled terrorist plot against European cities. Every government warns its citizens of an increased chance of attacks. Everybody? No, a small country at the Baltic Sea appears immune to fear mongering and minds its own business. (Hm, I tried to paraphrase the introduction of the Asterix comics, but probably failed.)


A group of jihadists from the German city of Hamburg are alleged to be at the heart of the recent al Qaeda plot to launch co-ordinated terrorist attacks against European cities, according to European intelligence officials. The plan prompted the U.S. State Department to issue a Europe-wide security advisory for Americans traveling in Europe. Japan issued a similar alert Monday, citing the warnings issued by the United States and by Britain, which raised the level highest for France and Germany.

German authorities seem to be much less concerned than Washington, London and Paris. I wonder why. Any theories? Are Germans ignorant ("nobody will attack our peaceloving country" because the Age of Aquarius has started) or are we the only non-fear mongers, who are skeptical of "the Al-Qaeda brew"? German analysts have not yet interrogated Sidiqi. Perhaps that explains the difference? Spiegel points out:

Still, it remains unclear whether the reports can be considered reliable or whether Sidiqi's claims are the typical al-Qaida brew, consisting of one-third truth, one-third lies and one-third omission. Although the CIA is taking Sidiqi seriously, German authorities are more reserved in their analysis.

Terrorism: Should Europe and the US Go to Red Alert?

Counterterrorism officials in France, Germany, Britain, and the United States have given warnings this week about the rising threat of attacks by Al Qaeda and its affiliates, especially in Europe. Are our politicians listening? Are you concerned?

"Al Qaeda and its allies are taking aim at Europe, according to US and Western intelligence officials, who say there are indications a terrorist plot is in the offing" writes the Washington Times. (HT: ACUS)

While FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III told a Senate hearing on Wednesday that Al Qaeda continues to be "committed to high-profile attacks directed at the West," Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano stressed the increasing threat of smaller-scale attacks, which require less planning and fewer pre-operational steps and therefore are more difficult to detect before they occur.

Continue reading "Terrorism: Should Europe and the US Go to Red Alert?"

Are We Missing the Big Stories?

James Joyner asks on the Atlantic Council's website: "NATO: A Fat, Bloated, Job Creation Project?"

So, the senior defense policymakers of the two most significant military players in Europe think that the tiny portions of their tiny defense budgets going to NATO is mostly wasted?  Now, perhaps having spent the last three years ensconced at a pro-NATO think tank has clouded my judgment but this strikes me as A1, above-the-fold, banner headline news.   At very least, it deserves a sidebar or off-lede treatment of its own.   But the average news consumer would surely have stopped well short of that point in the stories, once the writers started delving into the arcana of budgeting history.

What do you think? Should this be front page news?

Moreover, should this be big news at this time of the year? "Terror Alert: Hamburg Islamist Speaks of Threat of Attacks in Germany"

German officials are investigating apparent statements by a Hamburg Islamist recently arrested by US forces in Afghanistan about attack scenarios for terror strikes in Germany and neighboring countries. Ahmad S. is one of a number of Germany-based Islamists thought to have traveled to Pakistan and Afghanistan in 2009.

The biggest Germany related story in the Huffington Post is our new and young First Lady. Seven photo stories of Bettina Wulff within three weeks. OMG. I am disappointed by the Huffington Post, but I should have known better. Oh, and don't get me started on the media brouhaha for all these professional provocateurs like Thilo Sarazzin, Geert Wilders, and Terry Jones, who are selling stuff.

ENDNOTE: I am sorry for the light blogging these days. Atlantic Review misses big transatlantic stories. You can change that. Write a guest post. Send your submission to "ar-team AT" Thanks!

Preventing History from Repeating Itself

Spiegel International:

German police on Monday closed a mosque that had been a meeting place for the 9/11 terror cell. They believe the mosque continued to promote jihad and may have been a staging site for Islamist extremists living in Germany who have traveled to Afghanistan and Pakistan to participate in militant camps.

A European Saves Americans on Flight 253

The 9/11 attacks and the failed Christmas Day airplane bombing have two things in common: US agencies had enough information about the terrorists and could have intervened if they had properly analyzed and shared the information that they had, but instead another systemic failure - as President Obama called it - has occurred. Like with United 93 in 2001 it was again the passengers, in particular the Dutchman Jasper Schuringa, who subdued the Nigerian terrorist.

Yep, it was a European. And it is documented well. It is, however, not well documented what exactly happened on United 93. Nevertheless a movie was made that defames the German passenger Christian Adams as the "stereotypically weak-kneed Euro-pacifist," even though no information suggests that he acted that way. Hollywood should apologize by making a good movie about Flight 253 with a Dutch hero.

And while we are at it: The Dutch are also taller than Americans, probably because of better health care and more comprehensive welfare systems. So, perhaps Obama's health care reform will prevent further terrorist attacks ;-) Nah, I hope the systemic problems will be fixed. And to be fair: The system, including the much criticized No-Fly List, has probably prevented a few attacks, but such success can't be quantified and does not make headlines.

Endnote: Thanks to Robert Farley for the related post "But Bob Kaplan Said that Europeans Have Lost Their Will to Live!"

I used to be big fan of Kaplan, when he published The Coming Anarchy in the early 90s, but I got more and more disappointed by his writings since the turn of the millenium. I am not sure to which article Farley refers to. It could be this month column Let's Go, Europe about the "neopacifism" in a "debellicized Europe," which can only make a difference in the naval sphere. Or it is his November column The Fall of the Wall, where he argues that "We may have gained victory in the Cold War, but lost Europe to apathy and decadence in the process." Kaplan was so nice and took the 20th anniversary of the first ever peaceful revolution in Germany (our best contribution to the 20th century) as well as the revolutions in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, which are now part of the EU, as an opportunity for Eurobashing:

What does the European Union truly stand for besides a cradle-to-grave social welfare system? For without something to struggle for, there can be no civil society—only decadence.  Thus, with their patriotism dissipated, European governments can no longer ask for sacrifices from their populations when it comes to questions of peace and war.

Of course, Jasper Schuringa's initiative on Flight 253 won't change Kaplan opinion about the decadent, neopacifist, debellized, unpatriotic Europeans.

Tough Love for Terrorists and Troubled Teens

Maia Szalavitz, author of "Help At Any Cost: How the Troubled-Teen Industry Cons Parents and Hurts Kids", writes in Mother Jones:

Americans tend to valorize tough love at times, even tough love that verges on torture in prisons, mental hospitals, drug rehabs, and teen boot camps. We aren't squeamish about the psychological aspects of torture. We might even admire them. Thousands of troubled children, for instance, now attend tough "wilderness programs" "emotional growth boarding schools" and other "tough love" camps where they face conditions like total isolation, sleep deprivation, food deprivation, and daily emotional attacks. (...)

Most of all, we need to stop thinking that getting tough is the answer to everything. It’s often harder to resist kindness and compassion than it is to submit to brute force and tell your captors what you think they want to hear. This is, in part, why the FBI wanted nothing to do with "enhanced interrogation." The data on both teen treatment and legal interrogations by the FBI are clear: torturous tactics are both unnecessary and harmful.

Less tough love for the Gitmo detainees in Germany? The German government currently reviews the official US request to accept as many as 17 Uighur detainees from Guantanamo. The initial reaction is mixed. Chancellor Merkel has said that Germany has an obligation to help US President Barack Obama in his efforts to close the American military prison camp, writes DW World. Foreign Minister Steinmeier is in favor of taking some inmates as well, but apparently Wolfgang Schäuble, who heads the Interior Ministry, which is comparable to the Department of Homeland Security, has expressed reservations, writes the Washington Post.

The conservative newspaper Die Welt is running an online poll. Right now 91 percent of 1473 voters are against it. Tough love...