German Politics

Ein Platz an der Sonne? Deutschland und der UNO-Sicherheitsrat.

Eines der weniger prickelnden Kapitel der Außenpolitk der rot-grünen Koalition war die „Bewerbung“ Deutschlands um einen ständigen Sitz im UNO-Sicherheitsrat im Rahmen der Rerformen des selbigen im Zusammehang mit den institutionellen Reformen mit denen die Nachkriegsinstitution UNO zumindest für die Aufgaben der Gegenwart etwas besser gerüstet werden sollte.

Das Ansinnen, so etwas im Rahmen der nicht gerade übersichtlichen Koalitionsstruktur der UNO gegen einen immer noch schmollenden amerikanischen Präsidenten durchsetzen zu wollen, war ein wenig naiv, selbst für EU-geschulte deutsche Diplomaten, nicht zuletzt, da sich auch das Italien des Silvio B. vehement wehrte, nicht nur auf Zuruf aus Washington, auch ein wenig aus Selbstschutz, um nicht zugeben zu müssen, daß es in der EU eigentlich keine BIG4 gibt.

Für Telepolis beschreibt nun Gerrit Wustmann den aktuellen Stand der Dinge – Deutschland will nun eine Zwischenlösung mit einem längerfristingen, aber nicht permanenten und nicht mit einem Veto ausgestatteten Sitz im UN-Sicherheitsrat anstreben, ohne aber den langfristigen Anspruch aufzugeben. Eine Haltung, die daran erinnert, daß es ob der so oft erkannten und beklagten institutionellen Ordnung des Sicherheitsrats und der Problematik der Vetorechte, den Verdacht nicht unbegründet läßt, es gehe der Bundesregierung vor allem um einen Platz an der Sonne. Wer weiß, vielleicht muß sich Thomas Matussek, zur Zeit der deutsche UN-Botschafter, ja auch mal für eine Quadratwurzellösung starkmachen…

„Dass aber der angekündigte Verzicht sofort wieder negiert wird mit der Festlegung, man wolle langfristig auf gar keinen Fall von den Ambitionen auf einen permanenten Vetositz abweichen, führt die gesamte Aussage ad absurdum. Vor allem aber zeigt es, wie wenig die deutsche Regierung eigentlich an einer wirklichen Reform der Vereinten Nationen interessiert ist, denn letzten Endes plädiert man für die Festigung bestehender Machtsysteme, in denen man sich nicht länger als Außenseiter fühlen möchte. Die Frage aber, was Deutschland als Vetomacht denn zur Verbesserung der globalen Politik beitragen könnte, muss vorerst offen bleiben, denn diesbezüglich verlor sich schon Joschka Fischer vor drei Jahren in Platituden.“

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Economics

Kein Spekulatius

Helmut Schmidt ist wahrlich kein Oskar Lafontaine. Daher ist es auch immer lesenswert – wenn auch nicht immer zustimmungspflichtig – wenn er sich in der Zeit zu Wort meldet: Wenn er, wie in diesem Falle, die gesellschaftliche Kontrolle von zur Zeit unkontrollierten Kapitalclustern fordert, dann stimme ich ihm darüber hinaus auch grundsätzlich zu – Helmut Schmidt: Beaufsichtigt die neuen Großspekulanten!

Die New Yorker Investmentbank Goldman Sachs hat im vergangenen Jahr 16 Milliarden Dollar an ihre Vorstände und Mitarbeiter ausgezahlt, die fünf größten amerikanischen Investmenthäuser zahlten insgesamt 36 Milliarden Dollar. Für einen normalen deutschen Staatsbürger ist das eine unvorstellbare Summe, sie entspricht in der Größenordnung der Jahreskreditaufnahme durch den deutschen Finanzminister. Man fragt sich unwillkürlich, ob auf den Finanzmärkten alles mit rechten Dingen zugeht. Der ehemalige Finanzminister Helmut Schmidt erklärt Ursachen, Zusammenhänge und Gefahren.

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German Politics, Germany, US Politics, USA

Bush in Bild

For those of you, gentle readers, who do not engange in in-depth analysis of Germany’s tabloid newspapers, here’s a transcript of the US President George W. Bush’s interview with Kai Diekmann of BILD here’s the edited German version published by BILD. They met in the Oval office and discussed, among other issues, the rug-choosing dilemma every leader of the free world is facing. At least this one knows how to delegate.

Oh, and there’s a chance the US forces on German soil will have to do more than singing Karaoke in local Irish Pubs soon: Via SFGate, I noticed, that the President is not entirely sure about the state of democracy in Germany…

Zeroing in on the United States‘ ties to Germany and recalling that German troops did not help attack Iraq, Bush admits: „I’ve come to realize that the nature of the German people are such that war is very abhorrent, that Germany is a country now that is — no matter where they sit on the political spectrum, Germans are — just don’t like war…. The point now is how do we work together to achieve important goals. And one such goal is a democracy in Germany [sic].“ (The White House published its transcript with Bush’s glaring error and called attention to it.)

A part of the American blogosphere, on the other hand, was most excited to finally learn hrough the interview that President Bush’s best moment of all was

„when [he] caught a seven and a half pound perch in [his] lake.“

A little fishy, indeed.

I’m starting to wonder if we’re gonna miss him, after January 2009…

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Iraq, US Politics, USA

I’m having a déjà vu.

reading the NYT’s report about the updated US national security strategy.

An updated version of the Bush administration’s national security strategy, the first since the invasion of Iraq in 2003, includes a vigorous defense of striking pre-emptively against countries seen to threaten the United States.
The document declares for the first time that diplomacy to halt Iran’s nuclear program „must succeed if confrontation is to be avoided.“

The Tehran government is given new prominence in the latest document, which declares that „we may face no greater challenge from a single country than from Iran.“

Administration officials cautioned that the reference to confrontation with Iran did not necessarily mean military attack, though both the United States and Israel have extensively examined what kind of surgical strikes could be aimed at Iranian facilities should diplomatic efforts fail to persuade Tehran to abandon its nuclear weapons program.

The warning to Iran also stands in stark contrast to the wording about North Korea, a nation that, as the strategy document notes, now boasts that it already possesses nuclear weapons. The North Korean regime „needs to change these policies, open up its political system and afford freedom to its people,“ it says.

„In the interim, we will continue to take all necessary measures to protect our national and economic security against the adverse effects of their bad conduct.“

Missing, however, is the threat of any military action, perhaps because, in the words of a senior administration official, North Korea is „already considered a lost cause“ that already has weapons, while Iran is still considered 5 to 10 years away from having them. „

Somehow, this makes me think of Bob Dylan… „…when will they ever learn, when will they ever learn.“

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media, quicklink

Congo.

Read the Economist’s ( premium link | 2) and Die Zeit’s (Africa’s First World War) current coverage of the genocidal slaughtering occurring in Congo almost unnoticed by the rest of the world. How many deaths in a single instance does it need to wake the West up that something is going on in Africa, Die Zeit asks a German diplomat in Burundi.

His reply – „500 plus, in my experience“. Tragically – that even bodes well for Congo, where 966 people died in a recent massacre.

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Allgemein

The Middle Ground.

The Guardian „Backbencher“-newsletter (could not find a web address…) also believes in C-movie screenplays and goes on to explore the middle ground in the Galloway affair. This is what it might look like –

„The Backbencher approached Guardian security affairs editor Richard Norton-Taylor and asked him to untangle the web of intrigue surrounding George Galloway MP.

‚I think the documents relating to George Galloway from the Iraqi foreign ministry, found – fortuitously and by chance – by the DailyTelegraph (hardly a friend of Mr Galloway’s, by the way) were certainly genuine. They could have been found, I suppose, by British intelligence or someone who had an interest in smearing Mr Galloway and then deposited there and the Telegraph reporter pointed in that direction. It’s possible the box was planted, but unlikely, I think. Journalists bump into things and chance has a lot to do with such scoops.

„Having said that, what do they actually mean? Who is the person actually being protected and who is being accused? On the face of it, the documents say Mr Galloway took GBP300,000 plus out of the oil-for-food programme that Iraq had negotiated with the UN and that he wanted more. But did he himself know about the money, let alone get any of it? … Like intelligence people, in my experience, middle men often want money for themselves but blame a third party, in this case Mr Galloway. I think it is very possible that this money didn’t line his pockets at all, but went to these middle men.

There’s no evidence at all that he had it, no bank accounts in Britain or Switzerland, and I must say he’d be a bit of a fool to have taken any money – let alone over GBP300,000 a year – not just from Iraq but directly from a UN-sponsored food programme. I just can’t see that. Certainly, some of the money might have gone to his campaign, the Mariam Appeal, which started off protecting a young Iraqi girl from leukaemia who was given hospital treatment in Glasgow, but became a political campaign which Mr Galloway was very open about. If the money went to the campaign and not for his personal use, then I think he’ll have a very strong case.

Mr Galloway claims it is a smear campaign and that this stuff was planted, even forged. There’s no evidence for that. Now he has also commenced legal action. The question now for the paper is one of proving a negative, but you can’t have a libel case where you subpoena Saddam Hussein and others in the former Iraqi regime. The trouble for the Telegraph is that in such libel cases the burden of proof is on them.'“

Well, maybe we’ll know at some point. But whatever the outcome of the libel suit – or possible party sanctions against Galloway for this affair or earlier statements calling Tony Blair and GWB „Wolves“ and urging British troops not to follow orders – this case proves an important rule: Don’t expect to return home with a clean shirt when you go mud catching with Saddam Hussein.

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Political Theory, US Politics

Famous Words.

Not that I think the current international crisis is even slightly reminiscent of the danger posed by the Cuba Missile Crisis in 1962, the words JFK used in his speech to the American people are worth remembering in these days.

„Our goal is not the victory of might, but the vindication of right-not peace at the expense of freedom, but both peace and freedom, here in this hemisphere, and, we hope, around the world. God willing, that goal will be achieved. Thank you and good night.“

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German Politics, Germany, Iraq, Political Theory, US Politics, USA

A deeper rift? Some context…

Firstly, a noteworthy article by Robert Kagan concerning the fundamental policy-style differences between Europe and the US, published in May in the Washington Post.

Secondly, The Economist’s analysis of these differences. Thirdly, a paper called „Mutual Perceptions“ by Peter Rudolf of the German Institute for Foreign and Strategic Policy (Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik (SWP), Berlin), presented at a conference of the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies on Sept. 10, 2002.

Some key quotes from the latter :

„The American and the European publics, including the German public are also not so far apart in their view of the world. They do not live on different planets, the one on Mars, the other on Venus, as Robert Kagan`s now famous dictum says. Looking at the collective preferences on both sides of the Atlantic, we are no way drifting apart. In their majority, Americans and Europeans do share a positive view of international institutions, Americans are more multilateral than unilateral oriented; Europeans, even Germans, are by far less opposed to the use of military force, although they are inclined to support it for humanitarian purpose and for upholding international law. Although the use of military means for combating terrorism finds support among a majority of people across Europe, the preferred measures to combat terrorism lie – to a greater extent than among Americans – in the economic realm: in helping poor countries to develop their economies. Thus, Americans and Germans do not live on different planets but those neoconservatives do, those – to quote former President Carter – „belligerent and divisive voices“ now seemingly dominant in Washington, those whose vision of America`s role in the world implies a basic strategic reorientation of American foreign policy. Using the dramatically increased perception of vulnerability to asymmetric threats and instrumentalizing the „war on terror“ as the legitimizing principle, the hegemonic – or better: the imperial – wing of the conservative foreign policy elite effectively dominated the political discourse and left its imprint on a series of decisions..“ (p. 2)

„Should the neoconservatives succeed in turning the United States into a crusader state waging so-called preventive wars, German-American relations will head to further estrangement. If the current debate on Iraq is indicative of things to come, the expectation of American neoconservatives that their European allies will in the end jump on the bandwagon might be disappointed, at least in the German case. In their despise of their irrelevant amoral European allies and in their overconfidence in American hard power resources, they simply ignore the value dimension of the current transatlantic conflicts. It is a conflict about different visions of world order.“ (p. 6)

Lastly, for those who can read German, another SWP study – „Preventive war as solution? The USA and Iraq.“ For those who don’t read German, the footnotes are a remarkable collection of mostly English language documents concerning the intra-US-administrative discussion as well as the international one. I’ll probably post some key references later.

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almost a diary, traveling, USA

Ground Zero. Again.

I hate it to write entries twice. The first version of this one was killed in the lovely Apple Falgship Store in Soho earlier this afternoon by my failure to honour the subtle differences in operating OS X (Ctrl & C resp. V on a PC is Apple & C resp. V on a Mac – you better keep that in mind…). So here we go again.

Today, on the way to the Staten Island Ferry I went to see Ground Zero. I wonder how many pictures of construction sites I had taken until today. The answer is probably – none. The construction site is massive. But if you’d take away some of the surrounding buildings built after the WTC, the pictures I took today would probably look quite similar to those taken during the early stages of the Trade Centre’s initial construction back in the 1970s. A visitor from outer space would certainly not understand why thousands of people would be lining this particular construction site at any given time. But everyone living on this planet knows why they honour the thousands of innocent people who either jumped or were buried under countless tons of concrete, steel and broken glass when the twin towers crumbled after being hit by two planes hijacked by Al Quaeda terrorists, on September, 11th, 2001. Everyone living on this planet knows what happenend, what was there and what is no longer.

But isn’t it interesting that empty space can mean so much? Isn’t it good to know that the meaning people attribute to the New York’s deep scar is much stronger than that of the supposed incarnation of materialism could have possibly been?

At Ground Zero, there’s a billboard attached to the scaffolding of one of the surrounding buildings. It says something like ‚the importance of things is not the size of the act, but the size of the heart‘. Normally, that’s nothing but a cheesy line. But to those standing there, it does mean something. And to them, it’s true. But then, somewhere in the Middle East, there will probably be another billboard. Stating the same cheesy line or – the same truth. Next to a picture of Mohammed Atta.

And while it’s obvious who’s right and who’s wrong when you’re standing on Cortland Street – if this world can’t solve it’s bad case of heartache, it does not take much to predict that many more innocent people are going to die.

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Iraq, US Politics

Iraq. Or not Iraq. Is that really the question?

Brink Lindsey of the conservative US Cato Institute has made an important point in the introduction to his blogentry justifying the looming US invasion of Iraq.

He says that only very few of us have access to classified information. Quite true. But this point begs another important question. Does that really matter?

If the services have information available proving the US governments claim that Saddam is building nuclear WMD and ready to use them against Israel, the US or Europe – and that this justifies to go in and get him – why wouldn’t they publish it in order to make that point once and for all?

I can see only two reasons for the lack of such information. The first one is obvious. They don’t have any proof for their claim. The second is a bit trickier. I hope I am not going too far down the line of conspiracy theory here – but if the alleged current Iraqi threat is a consequence of secret western aid of the 1980s (and possibly later…) then weapon experts could likely point that out with the obvious political ramifications.

In that case, it is quite clear that access to this classified information could provide an improved basis to make an informed decision about attacking Iraq.

However, hoping that we won’t have to attribute another war to the secret services secret policy games around the globe, I would still bet on the first alternative. Classified information is probably unlikely to be really helpful in this context.

There is a case for ousting Saddam – but to make it, you can rely on published information on petrol economics, ethnic conflicts, and the survival struggle of all those weak autocratic regimes in the Middle East. Maybe I’ll try to put something together later on.

So far you might check the rest of Lindsey’s opinon on www.brinklindsey.com.

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