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).Continue reading "The Age of Fear Continues"
Hillary Clinton is much more supportive of NATO and Europe than all the other presidential candidates. Yesterday, Hillary Clinton gave an impressive speech describing NATO as "one of the best investments America has ever made". She stressed the need for US leadership and collaboration with allies in the struggle against ISIS. Bernie Sanders has yet to give a major speech on NATO. Donald Trump's opinion on NATO reflects widely held sentiments in the US.
Hillary Clinton's speech was impressive because she spoke at Stanford on the Pacific coast, and not on the Atlantic. She spoke to students, not the old Cold War generation with a stronger attachment to Europe. Often accused of pandering to the desires and needs of her given audience, Hillary Clinton here did not talk about opportunities in Asia-Pacific region, but about the threats in Europe and the Middle East and the need for strong US engagement in these regions. Moreover, the speech comes shortly after recent statements by Donald Trump and President Obama who criticized Europeans as mainly free-riders on defense in interviews with Washington Post and The Atlantic respectively.Continue reading "Clinton gives Atlanticist speech at the Pacific"
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.Continue reading "Scanning Cargo Containers is More Important than Scanning Emails"
Deutsche Welle, Germany's international broadcaster, interviewed me about John Brennan and his nomination for CIA Director. The article is available in various languages, including Arabic, Turkish, German, Albanian and Chinese, because my opinion about the CIA is so super important that folks need to read it in their mother tongue. ;-) Not In English though.
My argument was in a nutshell that Brennan is a good choice for CIA Director because he worked for the agency in the operative and analytical divisions, has Middle East expertise, and is close to Obama. Better than a politician or a general.Continue reading "Interview about Obama's Nomination of John Brennan"
French foreign policy has not changed that much in the last decade, but some prominent US opinions about Paris have.
I am surprised to read the headline "Can the E.U. become the world's policeman?" in the Washington Post. Anne Applebaum's latest op-ed about French policy in Mali concludes that Americans should "stop giggling about cheese-eating surrender monkeys and start offering logistical and moral support. Europe may not be the best superpower. But it's the only one we've got."
Wow. Thanks. But that's too much praise. Of course, the EU will not, cannot and does not even want to become the world's policeman or a superpower in the foreseeble future.
Still it's nice to read this as we approach the 10th anniversary of the transatlantic quarrels over the Iraq war. On January 24, 2003 the NY Post published the “Axis of Weasel” cover story about France and Germany and a play on George W. Bush’s denunciation of the “axis of evil”. And then there were the Subway ads, which SuperFrenchie campaigned against.
Anne Applebaum assumes that Europe has changed so much since the Libya operation and makes a big deal out of the French intervention in Mali and its context. I think she exaggerates, but she also makes important observations, which will change American perceptions of France:
Continue reading "What a Difference 10 Years Can Make"
In other words, the French are in Mali fighting an international terrorist organization with the potential to inflict damage across North Africa and perhaps beyond. Not long ago, this sort of international terrorist organization used to inspire emergency planning sessions at the Pentagon. Now the French have had trouble getting Washington to pay attention at all. Some U.S. transport planes recently helped ferry French soldiers to the region but, according to Le Figaro, the Americans at first asked the French to pay for the service - "a demand without precedent" - before wearily agreeing to help.
"Germany has become a key arms supplier in the Middle East despite stringent export controls that have inhibited weapons sales in the past," writes UPI (via SeidlersSiPo) in a good summary of recent sales. In the current conflict in Libya, weapons manufactured by German defense companies are being used by both sides:
Continue reading "Shame on us: Germany Boosts Arms Sales to Mideast"
Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's forces use tank transporters built by Mercedes Benz, German-made electronic jamming systems and Milan-3 surface-to-air missiles made by the French-German MBDA company. NATO forces employ the twin-engined Eurofighters for their air campaign against Gadhafi's beleaguered regime.
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]."
So much is going on these days. Multiple catastrophes in Japan, civilians slaughtered in Libya, cheating German defense minister, US soldiers shot in Germany, uprisings throughout the Arab world and in Wisconsin, bees disappear, Neo-Nazi changes sex and becomes a leftist etc. etc.
I find it hard to keep up, let alone form an opinion and blog about it. This is an open thread for you to discuss and share analyses of current issues important to transatlantic allies. Non-registered users can comment as well.
A few observations and comments of mine to get things started:
1. Japanese earthquake and tsunami and "nuclear catastrophe" and vulcano eruption
It seems that German TV and radio is full of pundits who warn about nuclear meltdowns and a looming catastrophe, while the BBC presents one analyst after another, who says that is all unlikely. What a contrast! I prefer the BBC in situation like this. Yet, I know that the Japanese power companies do not have a reputation of being entirely honest and the government might have good reasons to play down the dangers. Still, I believe this does not justify the shrill headlines in the German media. How's the US coverage?
My sincere sympathies to all Japanese readers! The images and news are so shocking. And yet, I am amazed how the Japanese deal with it. When I wrote about solidarity with Japan on Facebook, it did not take long, until someone responded: "I hope it works better this time than it did the last time." Come on! Nazi jokes are so lame, these days. Everybody Loves Deutschland.
2. Islamist Terror Attack in Germany
Two US soldiers were murdered at Frankfurt airport on March 2, 2011. The first deadly Islamist terror attack in Germany. The media liked to stress that he was an Einzeltäter (acting alone). That was probably supposed to play down the terrorist attack and the new threat level, but intelligence agencies are concerned about a large number of Einzeltäters doing low level terrorist attacks these days. After about two days, this terrorist attack was out of the newspapers. I don't even know how the two wounded soldiers are doing right now. I am very sorry.
3. Libya & Charlie SheenContinue reading "The World is on Speed"