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German TV Series are Finally Taking Off

German TV series are finally taking off. Both historical drama and contemporary drama are red hot right now. Since GERMANY 83, a great Cold War spy drama based on the Able Archer NATO maneuver, all major streaming services have announced their own German productions: THE SAME SKY is an East German spy drama set in the 1970s. BABYLON BERLIN shows us the Roaring Twenties in a bipolar Berlin, torn between lavish parties and gruesome street violence. 4 BLOCKS is a gritty depiction of the present-day Neukölln mob. There is more: YOU ARE WANTED, DARK, CHARITÉ, EIGHT DAYS. Exciting times.

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Berlin is not Afraid

Terroristen dieser Welt, schaut auf diese Stadt!

Our 9/11 reflexes are alive and well, but is the tragedy of Berlin really a national crisis?

Running a lorry into a crowded Christmas market was an attack on our lifestyle and insofar it transcends Berlin. But the magnitude of the tragedy warrants individual solidarity, not a national uproar. Our thoughts should be with the families of those we have lost. Yet this is not a moment to rally around the flag - because when disaster does strike, these "9/11 reflexes" will be worn out from the almost daily routine of mourning the dead of terrorist attacks in cities around the world.

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Thought Experiment: NATO Distorts American Strategic Interest

In Aesop’s fable the Lion, the Bear and the Fox, the lion and the bear fight over a deer until both are too tired to continue, the fox, having seen their fatigue and lacerations runs off with the deer in its jaws. America, being the Lion, is reengaging in its global power struggle through NATO with Russia, the Bear. The deer in this scenario is a strategic interest or something akin to a superpower status. For the sake of argument, the Fox can be China. America too busy with Russia means it cannot pay attention to a greater threat of China who economically and demographically is far more likely to supersede it than Russia – which is both geopolitically vulnerable and demographically weak. In this sense NATO drags America to engage against Russia over Ukraine and it complicates a possible convergence of interests with Russia in combatting radical Islamic terrorism. In sum there are few direct strategic interests in combatting Russia.

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Good luck, Mr. President

Despite all the anger and frustration, the Trump victory is not the end of the world. Every American president is part of an institutional structure, his power checked and balanced by other branches of government and institutions of the state. This should lead to some degree of moderation.

Yes, nationalist populism is dangerous in that it corrodes political culture and, ultimately, this institutional structure as well. It also threatens the liberal order both within and between states, as evidenced by this polarizing and often disgraceful presidential election campaign. Not only in this sense a more optimistic political project such as Clinton's would have been preferable, something this ECONOMIST essay also argued for. At least the popular vote indicates that such pragmatic and rational incrementalism still has majority support in America.

Trump promises to give the losers of globalization a voice and democratic representation - a good thing if it can lead to a reform of transnational capitalism and the political institutions that manage it at home. I fear, however, that it will only lead to more polarization, more radicalism, and more dysfunction. The candidate's campaign promised change, hate and fear. But it is the new president's duty to bring about renewal without disruption and breakdown. A tall order under the best of circumstances. Good luck, Mr. President.

Western Foreign Policy Dissent and NATO's Role in the World

Jeremy Corbyn recently won his re-election to lead Britain’s opposition party, the Labour Party. An ardent socialist and sceptic of interventionism, he has advocated leaving NATO before being leader. Now as leader, he has consistently criticised it for destabilising eastern Europe due to its Eastward expansion in the 1990s, antagonising Russia and being involved outside NATO’s traditional sphere, for example in Afghanistan. Corbyn has publically argued at Labour Party, Stop the War Coalition and Momentum rallies (extra-parliamentary organisations closely allied to Corbyn) that NATO should be ‘closed down’ to bring a halt to potential war in Eastern Europe. With his position secure in Parliament, his argument, and the movements that agree will not disappear.    

Corbyn’s foreign policy argument is that NATO is a hegemonic instrument for the West, particularly America and oil companies. Recent history has shown that the United States has declared war on more states, like Iraq and Panama and non-state actors like Al-Qaeda or Somali rebels than Russia has. NATO has been used in interventions, like Libya, that in Corbyn’s eyes bring together NATO’s imperialism and oil security. Further evidence cited by Corbyn is that NATO is by far the strongest military alliance in the world– with a combined budget of $900 billion, with the United States contributing two thirds; it dwarfs Russia’s $50 billion. This hard military power can only ever be malign, military force that size cannot be benign according to Corbyn.    

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Colombians Reject Peace Deal. Now Back to War?

Colombians have just rejected a historic peace agreement with the FARC. 65.000 votes out of 13 million ballots made the difference. A geographic breakdown of the results will show that acceptance was highest in those areas that have suffered the most from the war, while refusal was mostly an urban middle class phenomenon.

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Remember the Wall, Forget "Bridge of Spies"

BRIDGE OF SPIES simply gets 1950s East Berlin wrong. It was not as desolate and ruined as depicted here. Unter den Linden in the historic city center had been quickly reconstructed, opera houses and state university included. A shiny new city center around Alexanderplatz and the new Stalinallee had also been created by 1957/1961 (the time BRIDGE is set in). For many, East Berlin was indeed a fragile, but hopeful place.

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The Age of Fear Continues

David Rothkopf is worried that the "Age of Fear" is not over yet. The Bush and Obama presidencies both made the international war on terror a central tenet of US foreign policy. It became the central national issue. Rothkopf had hoped that the 2016 election would mark a return to a broader foreign policy agenda, one that focused more on the larger trends going on in the world (from rising powers to the challenges of global governance).

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