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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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Not a Riddle: Reading Russia - and Responding Resolutely

Putin's strategy is to intimidate, confuse and divide the West. He wants us to worry about his next steps. He appears stronger than he is, if Western decision-makers and opinion leaders consider Russia "a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma."

Churchill's famous description from October 1939 has made a comeback in the last fifteen months, but unfortunately not as the full quote:

I cannot forecast to you the action of Russia. It is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma; but perhaps there is a key. That key is Russian national interest. It cannot be in accordance with the interest of the safety of Russia that Germany should plant itself upon the shores of the Black Sea, or that it should overrun the Balkan States and subjugate the Slavonic peoples of south eastern Europe.  That would be contrary to the historic life-interests of Russia.

Churchill's reference to the "riddle", I believe, was mainly about forecasting Russia's actions, which is similar to the weather forecast. The next few days can be forecasted with quite some authority, but not the next weeks. Yet, we all know the not too distant future: Winter is coming. (Only stupid bureaucrats in charge of our public transport systems get surprised by the first heavy snow fall.) Russia's future looks bleak as current policies are not sustainable.

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Scanning Cargo Containers is More Important than Scanning Emails

The United States has built huge internet surveillance infrastructures, but failed to implement its own 9/11 law about maritime cargo security.

The risks of an attack at a US port or the smuggling of weapons of mass destruction (or their components) in shipping containers are big. Compared to the importance of scanning more cargo containers, the benefits of scanning emails appear quite small. What is needed is a serious debate about the right priorities for counter-terrorism and cost/benefit analysis of current policies.

While US and other Western governments claim that internet surveillance has prevented several terrorist attacks, it could also be argued that internet surveillance catches only some of the stupid terrorists, who can only pull off relatively minor attacks. (But not all of them, e.g. not the Boston bombers.)

Smart terrorists like Osama bin Laden, who have the brains and resources to kill tens of thousands of people, do not communicate over the internet. (Or they use very serious encryption, which the NSA computers won’t break in time.) They might plan sophisticated operations for American, French, Dutch or German harbors.

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The Only Thing We Have to Fear Is Fear Itself

The Eurocrisis is severe, but no reason to wet your pants -- or to mention the war, is it? As did The Times editor-at-large Anatole Kaletsky, in an op-ed for his paper by the headline: "Germany has declared war on the eurozone"

If Clausewitz is right that "war is the continuation of policy by other means", then Germany is again at war with Europe -- in the sense that German policy is trying to achieve the characteristic objectives of war: the redrawing of international boundaries and the subjugation of foreign peoples.

Holy guacamole! The Australian has republished his op-ed with free access to everyone visiting via Google. So search for the headline "Europe is at economic war, and Germany is winning". (HT Christian)

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Like America, Germany Needs More Sanity, Less Hysteria

I would like to call for a "war on hysteria," if that would not be so hysterical in itself. Where are the German Jon Stewarts, who could restore some sanity over here? The whole debate in Germany about multiculturalism and Muslims, immigration and integration is full of hysteria. It's gotten so hysterical, that this debate now includes Halloween and nuclear energy.

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Atlantica: A Threat to American Freedom

In Roland Emmerich's latest disaster movie 2012 the alignment of our solar system's planetary bodies during the winter solstice in three years will cause the Earth to topple from its axis. This leads to the end of the world.

And three years later it is likely to get even worse, because "there is a movement in the U.S. Congress to create a transatlantic free trade area by 2015." That's the impression I get from Rick Biondi's warning in The Examiner. Apparently the creation of such a free trade area will lead to a horrible "Europeanization of America:"

Europeans have always favored the rule of law and collective order over liberty. Worshippers of foreign philosophies in Congress are embarrassed by this rift, and are working hard with President Obama to reverse it through ideological capitulation.

To effectively unite Atlantica, many policymakers believe we need to meet our European friends in the middle. In essence, we must become more progressive, so our political and economic agendas can harmoniously merge on a transatlantic level. The Europeanization of America is a deliberate and calculated agenda. Once Americans are conditioned to accept and live under more socialistic ideals, a true Atlantic community can effectively be negotiated.

I find his choice of words hilarious ("Atlantica," ideological capitulation," "calculated agenda," and "conditioned to accept") and his concerns truly fascinating as they reveal such different values.

The Return of Fear

This is a guest blog post by Don, who lives and works in England:

I am an expat American who has been a staunch advocate of free-market capitalism for many years, and still mostly believe that. In recent years I have come to believe that the pressures of globalisation have opened certain fissures in the free-market model and have come to better appreciate certain aspects of the welfare state.

I have come to see definate advantages to certain aspects of the welfare state over the past few years as I've come to know the National Health Service (NHS) better and have observed the problems that Americans have with the health care insurance system in the US while being thankful that I don't have to deal with it personally. British historian Tony Judt wrote an essay masquerading as a book review in the New York Review of Books which contains some interesting analysis. It is a review of Robert Reich's recent book: "Supercapitalism: The Transformation of Business, Democracy, and Everyday Life" (,

Judt first takes Reich to task for penning a trenchant critique of the current state of the world but wimping out in the end by refusing to identify the villains of the story, but his most interesting point comes late in the book review when Judt writes about the return of fear to the citizenry of Western countries:

Thanks in large measure to the state-provided public services and safety nets incorporated into their postwar systems of governance, the citizens of the advanced countries lost the gnawing sense of insecurity and fear that had dominated and polarized political life from 1914 through the early Fifties and which was largely responsible for the appeal of both fascism and communism in those years.

But we have good reason to believe that this may be about to change. Fear is reemerging as an active ingredient of political life in Western democracies. Fear of terrorism, of course; but also, and perhaps more insidiously, fear of the uncontrollable speed of change, fear of the loss of employment, fear of losing ground to others in an increasingly unequal distribution of resources, fear of losing control of the circumstances and routines of one's daily life. And, perhaps above all, fear that it is not just we who can no longer shape our lives but that those in authority have lost control as well, to forces beyond their reach.

I agree. In the case of the US I might add the fear of being overwhelmed by illegal immigrants and the fear of losing one's property due to catastrophic health problems. I think this deserves some discussion.

Related post in the Atlantic Review: Using the United States to Scare Germans

"Guantanamo in Germany"

The two well-known sociologists Richard Sennett and Saskia Sassen claim that their colleagues are being persecuted for the crime of sociology and in the name of the war on terror. Their op-ed in The Guardian has the headline: "Guantánamo in Germany." Yeah, right...
They also claim that the "state of emergency prevails" in Germany, France and the US: "The laws meant for real threats are invoked to counter shapeless fear."