Posts tagged ‘NATO’

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Huanqiu Shibao: Will Turkey turn East?

Chinese media provide relatively very little opinion on the coup attempt in Turkey and its aftermath, and prefer to quote foreign media. However, the choice of information sources may indicate where Chinese media pay special attention, and the article translated here ends with a bit of expertise from Chinese academia.

The following is a translation of a press review of sorts, originally from Huanqiu Shibao, and republished by china.com, a news portal in a number of languages (including Mandarin), that is apparently operated by Global Broadcasting Media Group, which in turn is operated by China Radio International (CRI). Global Broadcasting Media Group, as CRI’s investment vehicle, is also known as “Guoguang”. The following article – or my translation of it, for that matter – may or may not reflect the quoted sources accurately.

Links within blockquotes added during translation.

The BBC reported on July 20 that the purge of so many people had led to concern among international observers, and that the United Nations were working on making sure that Turkey maintained the essence of the rule of law, and protected human rights. Germany, on July 20, condemned the growing purges by the Turkish government even more directly. Government spokesman Steffen Seibert said, “we see actions almost daily that damage the rule of law, with measures whose force exceeds the seriousness of the problems.” Some of the measures were deeply disturbing, and unconstitutional.

英国广播公司20日报道称,如此众多的人员被清洗已经引起国际观察家的关注,联合国在努力确保土耳其坚持法治精神和维护人权。德国20日则更为直接地对土耳其政府升级整肃行动表示谴责。德国政府发言人斯特芬·塞伯特说,“我们几乎每天都看到破坏法治的新举动,措施力度超出了问题的严重性”,有些措施是令人深感不安、违背宪法的做法。

Associated Press quoted EU Parliament speaker Martin Schulz as saying that Turkey was now carrying out “retaliation” against opponents and critics, and the debate about the reintroduction of the death penalty was “absolutely worrying”. The EU has warned that such a move would spell the end of EU accession negotiations with Turkey.

美联社援引欧洲议会议长舒尔茨的话说,土耳其正在对反对者和批评者实施“报复”,围绕恢复死刑展开的争论“非常令人担忧”。欧盟已经警告,这样做将意味着土耳其加入欧盟谈判的终结。

A White House statement on Tuesday said that President Barack Obama, during a telephone conversation with Erdogan, “had urged respect for the law while investigating those involved in the coup, in a way that would strengthen public trust in the democratic system.” However, the problem US-Turkish relations were facing go far beyond the protection of rule of law and of democracy.

美国白宫在周二的声明中说,总统奥巴马在与埃尔多安的电话中“敦促对参与政变者的调查应该遵守法律,并以增强公众对民主体系信心的方式进行”。但对美国来说,美土关系需要面对的问题远不止维护法治和民主。

According to a “New York Times” report, Turkish officials, including the foreign minister, demanded on July 19 that America extradite Fethullah Gülen. On that day, the White House confirmed it had received electronic documents from Turkey that was meant to serve as evidence. However, it was not clear if a formal request for extradition had already been made. “The ministry of justice will examine this material in accordance with the extradition treaty between our two countries,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said. CNN said that according to the extradition treaty between America and Turkey, treason [as a reason for extradition] did not apply, but Turkey had given exactly that reason for its request. When asked if the Turkish government had any evidence for this, Turkish deputy prime minister Kurtulmus said that Turkey knew clearly that Gülen was the manipulator behind the scene, just as America knew that bin Laden had been the conspirator of “9-11”.

据美国《纽约时报》报道,包括外长在内的土耳其官员19日要求美国交出居伦。当天,白宫证实已经收到土耳其提供的作为证据的电子文档。但不清楚土方 是否已经正式提出引渡要求。“司法部和国务院将根据两国之间的引渡条约审视这些材料。”白宫发言人厄内斯特说。美国有线电视新闻网(CNN)说,根据美土 达成的引渡协议,叛国罪并不适用,但土耳其正是以此提出引渡居伦。在被问及土政府对此有何证据时,土副总理库尔图尔穆说,土耳其明确知道居伦在幕后操纵, 就像当年美国知道拉登是“9·11”主谋一样。

David Ignatius, a “Washington Post” columnist, writes that within the clamor of the coup aftermath, the US-Turkish relations, which had already been tense, could get into new difficulties, with the demand of extraditing Gülen as the most immediate test. Given the US and EU concern about the Erdogan government’s human rights record, this issue would be complicated. There were serious differences between the two sides about strategies of strikes against IS in Syria. During the past few years, the American-Turkish relations had come across as those between friends who were breaking up.

美国《华盛顿邮报》专栏作家大卫·伊格拉蒂尔斯撰文说,在政变之后的喧嚣中,华盛顿和安卡拉之间业已紧张的关系将陷入新困境,要求遣返居伦是最直接 的考验。考虑到美欧此前对埃尔多安政府人权记录的批评,此事将相当复杂。在叙利亚打击IS的战略上,双方已经分歧严重。近几年的美土关系向外界展示了一对 朋友如何一拍两散。

Could Turkey become an ally of Russia? Russia’s [online paper] Vzglyad writes in an editorial that Turkish prime minister [Yildirim] had already said, Ankara could review Turkish-US relations if America refused to extradite Gülen. Russia’s Izvestia quoted the Russian Academy of Sciences Oriental Institute’s Gadzhiev as believing that while it was premature to say that Turkey would completely turn to Russia, there could be some change. German Global News Network*) commented that a coup was now changing Turkey, and possibly the Middle East. Turkey didn’t trust America any longer, and the Middle East’s future could become more complicated.

土耳其可能因此成为俄罗斯的战略盟友吗?俄罗斯《观点报》以此为题评论说,土耳其总理已经表示,安卡拉或因美拒绝交出居伦而重新审视与美国的关系。 俄罗斯《消息报》20日援引俄东方学研究所专家加日耶夫认为,虽然说土耳其的对外政策将全面转向俄罗斯为时尚早,但会有所变化。德国全球新闻网评论说,一 场政变正在改变土耳其,也将改变中东。土耳其不再信任美国,中东的未来将更加复杂。

But Li Weijian [apparently a researcher from Shanghai International Issues Research Institute – not previously mentioned in the article] thinks that Erdogan’s intention is to broaden his presidential powers and pave the way for the implementation of domestic policies and of diplomacy, and this wouldn’t necessarily constitute fundamental regional or global change. In an interview with “Huanqiu Shibao” he said, Erdogan had always maintained [an approach of] benefitting from West and East alike, and would keep to this strategy.

但李伟建认为,埃尔多安的意图在于扩大其总统权力,为内政外交政策的实施铺平道路,这未必会对地区关系和世界格局构成彻底改变。他在接受《环球时报》记者采访时说,埃尔多安一直以来秉持在西方与中东间左右逢源,这一战略会继续。

(Huanqiu Shibao special correspondents from Turkey, Germany, Egypt – Ji Shuangcheng, Qing Mu, Wang Yunsong and Huanqiu Shibao reporter Bai Yunyi, Ren Zhong, Zhen Xiang, Liu Yupeng]

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*) Not known to me, or not under this name – JR

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Sunday, April 3, 2016

Germany: Is “The Ivan” Back?

The Russians are coming was a standard line when I was a child. Sometimes, everyone into the blockhouses would be added. it was meant to be fun, but there was an underlying fear in it.

Another term for Russians in general would be The Ivan*) (probably an echo from “Ivan the Terrible”). At least in West Germany, fear of Russia was part of collective post-war identity – much more so than in Britain or France.

There may be many possible explanations for this, and I tend to believe that it was a combination of several factors (Germany being subject to allied, including Soviet, control being one that lasted particularly long) was one of them. West Germany’s existence and raison d’être as a frontline state was another. And then, there was a widespread inclination among many Germans to see their country as a victim in the first place, rather than as an initiator of Nazism and boundless war.

By 1983, it had become evident, at least in certain quarters, that the USSR had lost most of its expansionary power. In terms of soft power, Moscows message had become about as attractive as athlete’s foot, and in military terms, the “Evil Empire” was grossly overestimated.

But there was a narrative, and as usual (when the narrative is well crafted), it prevailed over facts. On March 31, 1983, US president Ronald Reagan told a Los Angeles World Affairs Council Luncheon that

In the last 15 years or more, the Soviet Union has engaged in a relentless military buildup, overtaking and surpassing the United States in major categories of military power, acquiring what can only be considered an offensive military capability. All the moral values which this country cherishes-freedom, democracy, the right of peoples and nations to determine their own destiny, to speak and write, to live and worship as they choose—all these basic rights are fundamentally challenged by a powerful adversary which does not wish these values to survive.

Der Spiegel, back then a center-left and liberal German newsmagazine, took issue with Reagan. While the USSR was certainly no paper tiger, and while it was true that Soviet military had seen a huge push during two decades under Leonid Brezhnev (with American military budgets being  reduced by some 2.5 percent per year during the Nixon, Ford, and Carter presidencies), the USSR’s military power wasn’t as strong as first reported.

Shortly before a paper was published by US secretary of defense, Caspar Weinberger (also in March 1983, and supportive of Reagan’s March-31 remarks), the CIA had retracted all its US statements concerning Moscow’s military budget:

military expenditures had been overestimated by fifty percent. Rather than by three, four, or more percent, there had been growth by a maximum of two percent since 1976.

Such subtleties, however, didn’t put Ronald Reagan off-message. His story remained the same; the Soviet Union was about to put an end to [a]ll the moral values which this country cherishes.

Fourty-year-old statistics like those debted in the early 1980s are hard to verify (or falsify). But in at least one respect, the Spiegel authors, in 1983, were wrong: contrary to what they believed (quoting “experts”), America proved able to finish the USSR off in a gargantuan arms race, and the factors that lead to the Soviet Union’s demise in 1991 were pretty much the weaknesses that the Spiegel authors themselves had pointed out less than a decade earlier.

The rest, as they say, is history. The world, from Alaska to Siberia (the long way round, of course), and from Pole to Pole, happily awaited huge peace dividends. After all, we had reached the end of history.

But Russia felt squeezed by NATO – understandably, the Baltic nations and Poland had felt rather urgently that they needed a strong reassurance against potential future Russian expansionism. (Not everyone appeared to trust the story about the end of history, and besides, a democratic society doesn’t necessarily live in a peaceful, unaggressive state.

Germans have viewed Russia – and the Soviet Union – differently since the mid-1980s. By 1987, Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev had overtaken Ronald Reagan, in terms of popularity here. That didn’t change after the USSR’s demise: while Gorbachev was seen as a failure, or even a “sellout” of sourts, among many Russians, Germans considered him “the” man who had made German unification possible. And Boris Yeltsin‘s Russia, even if not looking terribly respectable at the time, certainly didn’t look like something to fear either.

In an article in Germany’s weekly Die Zeit, a Moscow correspondent stated in May 1994 that once again, a majority of Russians considered the end of the USSR a greater calamity than its beginnings, and that Russian reformers had not been successful in “learning from the West”, as stipulated by Yeltsin two and a half years earlier.

Yeltsin had to accept that the safeguarding of authority, which had for centuries been based on expansion rather than on enlightenment, could not be redesigned with a new constitution alone.

Jelzin hat einsehen müssen, daß Herrschaftssicherung, die seit Jahrhunderten durch Ausdehnung statt durch Aufklärung erfolgte, mit einer neuen Verfassung alleine nicht umgestaltet werden kann.

Only pacts and compromises with conservative forces could save the “autumn” of Yeltsin’s presidency, the correspondent wrote.

In economic terms, a Stratfor paper dating from November 1999 suggested that veterans of perestroika, such as Prime Minister Vladimir Putin or former Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov, could strip the oligarchs of their wealth and influence, and enact more centrist policies.

To quite an extent, this seems to be what Vladimir Putin‘s presidency has done. In its early years, it continued the ideological consolidation started by Yeltsin himself, and his administration began to implement a policy that the “Zeit” Moscow correspondent described as west-oriented as a matter of principle, but moving away from America in particular. […] In America, however, the “Zeit” article quoted Yeltsin, forces were concentrating that would like to keep Russia in a state of controllable paralysis. That said, Putin  – in the eyes of investors – may have arrived at a point similar to Yeltsin’s, by now. Too little appears to move, economically.

When reading the press these days – certainly the German press -, you might be forgiven if you think that Russian policies had fundamentally changed since the 1990s. But they haven’t. There has been a remarkable Russian continuity – and a tendency in the West to disregard realities in Russia, and in its remaining sphere of influence.

When late German foreign minister Guido Westerwelle told Moscow in December 2013 that it was “not appropriate” for the EU “to ask third parties for permission before inviting the Ukraine to develop into Europe’s direction”, this represented widespread western- and central European illusions.

Russia, too, is a European country – most Russians live on the European continent, and Moscow, Saint Petersburg, and Volgograd not least, are European cities. The discriminatory – and self-centred – approach of equating Europe with the EU has done much to its recent crises, be it on its eastern, be it on its northwestern boundaries.

There is an important difference to make: it would have been unethical if NATO had refused Polish or a Baltic country’s accessions, and it would have been particularly unethical if Germany a main author of Polish partition and loss of the Baltic states’ sovereignty,- had demanded such a refusal.

But in Ukraine, there had been no consensus to join an alliance with the West. In a row, administrations closer to Moscow or closer to the West had been elected, but there had been no continuity. There was Russian intervention, but there had been unwarranted Western interference prior to that. I have no doubt that any Russian leader, be it Putin, Yeltsin, or Gorbachev, would have reacted just the way Putin did. That was no matter of conviction; it was a matter of geopolitics.

Now, Germany’s federal government intends to counter Russian espionage, propaganda, and disinformation in Germany, writes German daily Die Welt. What they mean is, that Russian and pro-Putin publications have blown several issues in the news – issues that have recently troubled many Germans – out of proportions, or given them a slant that favored narratives from the fringes, rather than the much-conjured “center” of German society.

If the German public can be persuaded by domestic propaganda to swing back from a rather “russophile” (since the 1980s) to a rather anti-Russian attitude again (as from the 1940s to the 1970s) remains to be seen. But if the political class have their way, it is going to work that way.

That said, there are surprises, once in a while. In May 2015, Joachim Gauck, not particularly famous for being a friend of the Russian people, gave a speech in the Westphalian town of Schloß Holte-Stukenbrock, a prisoner-of-war campsite during World War 1 and, more notoriously, World War 2. What Gauck said, was this:

We have gathered here today in Schloß Holte-Stukenbrock to recall one of the worst crimes of the war – the deaths of millions of Red Army soldiers in German prisoner-of-war camps. They died in agony without medical care, starved to death or were murdered. Millions of prisoners of war for whose care the German Wehrmacht was responsible under the law of war and international agreements.

Saying that was laudable, especially as most Germans I know aren’t even aware of this chapter in their history. But there is a catch: to say something only once hardly changes anything. Only regular repetition – as anyone with just a faint idea of how propaganda works can tell you – will make sink inconvenient truths like these sink in. Most Germans I know aren’t actually aware of the scale of German warcrimes against Soviet war prisoners. And to make the warprisoner story sink in isn’t deemed desirable: neither by most of Germany’s media, nor by the German population in general, many of whom would like to see a Schlußstrich, a “final stroke” underneath the complete chapter of Nazism.

Some time in the early 1980s – prior to Gorbachev’s tenure as Soviet party secretary -, the West German foreign office published a booklet for use in school classes. Our school was a rather conservative environment, but the booklet made it into our classroom anyway. Titled “Aufrüsten-Abrüsten” (Armament-Disarmament), it was a try to educate us in foreign politics, and I don’t remember much of it. But there was a remarkable line in it which basically said that, no matter to which conclusions we, as school students, might come concerning the Soviet Union’s role in Europe, we should develop some sympathy – even if not necessarily acquiescence – in the light of the past.

I guess that this booklet had much to do with the man at the helm of the foreign office at the time – Hans-Dietrich Genscher, German foreign minister from 1974 to 1992, who died on Thursday. As phobic as West German feelings against the “East” might have been back then, there seemed to be an understanding, at least in some substantial quarters of the political class, that you can’t have peace without trying to understand those who may (or may not) become your foes, and that your own decisions may matter in the process.

This understanding may no longer be here, and I’m wondering how much misery it may take before we will regain some common sense.

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Notes

*) Max Frisch, in his novel “Homo Faber”, raised a modest monument for German anti-Russian sentiment, in the shape of an, as it turns out later, otherwise/actually/mostly quite likeable German philistine:

No German desired re-armament, but the Russian forced America into it, tragically, which I, as a Swissman […], couldn’t judge, because I hadn’t been to the Caucasus, he [the German] had been in the Caucasus, he knew the Ivan, who could only be taught a lesson with weapons. He knew the Ivan! He said that several times. Only possible lesson through weapons!, he said, because nothing else would impress him, the Ivan —

I peeled my apple.

Distinction between Herrenmenschen and Untermenschen, as advocated by the good Hitler, was, of course, nonsense; but Asians remained Asians —

I ate my apple.

Kein  Deutscher  wünsche  Wiederbewaffnung,  aber  der  Russe zwinge  Amerika  dazu,  Tragik,  ich  als  Schweizer   (Schwyzzer, wie  er mit Vorliebe sagte)  könne  alldies  nicht   beurteilen,  weil  nie im Kaukasus gewesen,  er sei  im  Kaukasus gewesen,  er  kenne den Iwan, der nur durch Waffen zu belehren sei. Er kenne den Iwan!
Das  sagte  er mehrmals. Nur durch Waffen zu  belehren!  sagte  er, denn alles andere  mache  ihm keinen Eindruck,  dem  Iwan   –

Ich  schälte meinen Apfel.

Unterscheidung   nach  Herrenmenschen   und   Untermenschen, wie’s  der  gute  Hitler  meinte, sei  natürlich  Unsinn;  aber  Asiaten bleiben Asiaten –
Ich  aß meinen Apfel.

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Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Korean Peninsula: no Pain, no Denuclearization

North Korea’s “Historical Moment”

On February 7, North Korea launched a missile. Pyongyang referred ot it as a satellite launch, and that’s how they had registered it with the International Maritime Office in London, a few days earlier.

But the world appeared to be in disbelief. One month earlier, on January 6, North Korea had conducted a nuclear test, and given that space rockets’ and ballistic missiles’ technological platforms are quite similar to each other, it is believed that Pyongyang chose the space option (a three-stufen rocket) rather than a (two-stufen) missile so as to circumvent UN Security Council restrictions on its missile program.

Beijing, too, expressed disbelief and “regretted” the satellite launch which, as the foreign ministry spokesperson emphasized, had been based on ballistic-missile technology.

Pyongyang’s claim that it had tested a hydrogen bomb was met with skepticism in the West, in Japan, and South Korea, and at least semi-officially – via the world of Chinese science, as usual – Beijing expressed doubt, too.

He wouldn’t rule out that North Korea mastered a bit of hydrogen-bomb technology already, PLA Academy of Military Science researcher Du Wenlong told CCTV, but the available data “didn’t support a ‘hydrogen-bomb test’”.

There were no such doubts about North Korean television’s wonderweapon: “Heaven and earth are shaking because of the historical moment”, announced Ri Chun-hee, a veteran presenter, re-emerged from retirement for the festive occasion.

South Korea’s Reaction

And South Korea’s leadership was steaming with anger. If it was up to the South’s foreign minister, Yun Byung-he, the North Korean leadership would be entering a world of pain:

“I believe it is time for the international community to show zero tolerance to North Korea’s uncontrolled provocations”, he told the Munich Security Conference in Munich on Thursday, and: “it is time now to inflict unbearable pain on Pyongyang, to make them take the right strategic decision, as Iran has done.”

South Korea sees itself affected by Pyongyang’s nuclear test more immediately as other neighbors or opponents taking part in the six-party talks on the Korean peninsula’s denuclearization. Different from the world outside the peninsula, reunification of the two Koreas is on the agenda, even if outside the South Korean government, considerable doubts are expressed concerning the use and feasibility of such unification.

There was a special relationship between South Korea and Germany, because of the painful experience of division, South Korean president Park Geun-hye said during a visit to Berlin, in March 2014.

Her demand that “meticulous preparations” should be made for making Korean unity happen was probably meant seriously then, and still is. Basically, the situation on the Korean peninsula isn’t that different after the North’s fourth nuclear test, anyway: America and China can agree to a common denominator concerning sanctions against Pyongyang, but no sanctions that would call the continuation of the North Korean regime into question.

Besides, flashes of official Korean anger – northern or southern – might be considered a ritual. As German sinologist Oskar Weggel observed decades ago, student protests in [South] Korean cities always took the same shape and followed the same script, while life continued as normal just next to where young people were battling it out with the police. 1)

But for some South Korean companies, life may be anything but normal now. An industrial park jointly run in Kaesong, by North and South Korea, has ceased operation last week. On Thursday, Pyongyang deported all the South Korean employees to the South, after South Korea had stopped production. The South Koreans’ apparent attempt to take their assets and stock across the border to the South reportedly didn’t succeed: according to Radio Japn news on Friday, the North Korean committee for reunification announced that South Korean assets in Kaesong would be frozen, and also on Friday, China Radio International’s Mandarin service reported that the South Koreans had only been allowed to take personal belongings with them. The industrial park had been sealed off as a military zone – chances are that this halt will last longer than a previous one in 2013.

Valued more than 500 million USD in 2015, inter-Korean production in Kaesong may be considered less than decisive, in macro-economic terms. However, according to South Korean broadcaster KBS’ German service, South Korean opposition criticized the production halt in Kaesong as the governing party’s “strategy” for the upcoming parliamentary elections in April. Also according to KBS, Seoul feels compelled to take relief measures for companies invested in Kaesong. All companies residing in the industrial park are granted a moratorium on loan repayments, and companies who took loans from an inter-Korean cooperation fund may also suspend interest payment.

Chinese-North Korean Relations

China had “total control” of North Korea, Donald Trump claimed in a CNN interview – there would be nothing to eat in North Korea without China. If you go by statistics, Trump appears to have a point.

From 2009 to 2011, North Korean exports (imports) to (from) China rose from 348 mn (1.47 bn) USD to 2.5 bn (3.7 bn) USD. In total, North Korea’s exports (imports) reached a value of 3.7 bn (4.3 bn) USD.2) Even after a contraction of North Koran-Chinese trade in 2014 and 2015 to 2.3 bn (2.6 bn) USD by 2015, there’s hardly a way to reject the notion of North Korean dependence on China.

North Korea also depends on China in military terms. An American-led attack on Pyongyang – be it to occupy the North, be it for the sake of “regime change”, is hardly conceivable – directly or indirectly, Beijing’s nuclear umbrella protects the regime.

All the same, it is wrong to believe that Beijing wielded substantial influence over Pyongyang’s behavior. Neither economic nor military support from Beijing has been able to satisfy Pyongyang. Given Chinese reform and opening up “to the West”, or to international markets, since 1978, China’s leaders are considered weaklings by North Korean peers, despite some private-economy tries of their own. To consider oneself an economic or military dwarf, but a giant of ideological purity vis-à-vis China has some tradition in Korea.

That China has joined several initiatives – resolutions and sanctions – against North Korea hasn’t been a confidence-building measure for the neighbor and ally either.

That Pyongyang, under these circumstances, keeps striving for nuclear arms, come what may, is only logical – at least by the regime’s own interest –, and not negotiable, unless the regime falls. There are no conceivable guarantees – be it from Beijing, be it from Washington – that could make the North Korean political class abandon their nuclear goal.

American-Chinese Relations

No matter if there ever was or wasn’t a Western “guarantee” to the former USSR not to expand NATO eastward: a precondition for any feasible arrangement of that kind – in east or west – would be a situation where all parties involved would see themselves in a position to enter a non-aligned status, or to maintain one. There is no way that this could currently be done in East Asia. Even as there is no structure comparable to NATO in East Asia – and South-East Asia, for that matter -, none of China’s neighbors will discard the option to play America and China off against one another, thus increasing its own leeway – neither North Korea as China’s current “ally”, nor any other state within the former Chinese imperial state’s range of influence. And neither America nor China – strategic rivals of one another – would abandon the option to establish or to maintain alliances in Asia, based on partnership or on hegemony.

If the North Korean regime collapsed, there would be no guarantees for China that a North Korean power vacuum wouldn’t be filled by South Korea and the United States. And if China invaded Korea’s north preemptively, it wouldn’t only violate its own attitude of non-interference, but it would risk war, or at least a crash in its economic relations with America and many other countries. Not least, a Chinese invasion would harden an antagonism against China that already exists among former tributary states.

From China’s perspective, there is therefore no convincing alternative to the incumbent North Korean regime. The status quo costs less than any conceivable alternative scenario.

America knows that, too, and a newly lected president Trump would get real very quickly, or America would lose a great deal of influence in the region.

Frustrations

Last week’s developments will be most frustrating for the South Korean government, particularly for president Park. Her public-support rate will hardly depend on national reunification drawing closer, but it will depend on a reasonably relaxed co-existence with the North, including at least a few fields of cooperation, as has been the case in the Kaesong Industrial Park. The South Korean opposition’s accusations against the government to have stopped production carelessly or intentionally, it’s exactly because levelling such accusations can damage the government’s reputation with the electorate.

A phone call between Park and Chinese party and state leader Xi Jinping didn’t provide Park with good news either, let alone progress in her efforts to influence the North through international channels. China was still “not prepared” to change its …. Toward North Korea, an editorialist for South Korea’s Yonhap newsagency stated cautiously, adding a quote from Jonathan Pollack who had emphasized how Park had made efforts for good relations with Beijing, even by attending the Chinese military parade in September, commemorating the end of World War 2.

Pyongyang is hardly at risk to suffer from unbearable pains, as demanded by South Korea’s foreign minister in Munich.

But Beijing, too, can’t be happy with the situation. It offends face-conscious Chinese people to be fooled, on the world stage, by a gang – that’s how many Chinese view North Korea’s “elites”. The effects of North Korea’s behavior also strengthen the hand of the US in the region. Just as Pyongyang helps itself to a Chinese military umbrella without much cost (if any), most other neighbors afford themselves, to varying degrees, an American umbrella. Even Japan and South Korea, facing North Korean nuclear armament, might work to defuse mutual antagonism, as feared by Chinese military professor Zhang Zhaozhong, in 2010. Preparedness to improve Japanese-South Korean relations appears to be on the increase.

Besides the – aggressive indeed – role played by China in the South China sea, North Korea’s attitude remains another strong anchor point for America’s military and political presence in the Far East.

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Notes

1) Oskar Weggel: “Die Asiaten”, Munich 1989, 1994, 1997 p. 148
2) FAO/WFP Group and Security Assessment Mission to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Rome, Nov 28, 2013, p. 7

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Wednesday, February 13, 2013

German Press Review: Kim’s Sugarcubes, and the “Battle of Opinion”

The actions of the North Korean regime are not incalculable, writes the Süddeutsche Zeitung‘s (Munich) Reymer Klüver, the paper’s U.S. correspondent until summer last year, and now with the foreign-politics department at Süddeutsche Zeitung. The Kim clan’s provocations were actually quite calculable in its provocations which served only one goal: to show the world and its own people its power. The regime in North Korea doesn’t act incalculably. It acts irresponsibly.

The message is aimed at the Obama administration, believes Klüver, as the test was conducted on the day when the American president delivered the agenda for his second term in office, and at South Korean president-elect Park Geun Hye is about to take office. The reactions, too, were calculable: the US would demand stronger sanctions, China would agree after some hesitation, and basically, the response wouldn’t be different from the one to the previous nuclear test. Even if a bomb of the same explosive power as the previous one was indeed smaller than before, and therefore more suitable to be fitted to a nuclear missile, North Korea remained far from being a threat to America.

What makes the test dangerous all the same would be that Kim might gamble away, and that his provocations could spin out of control. A conflict on the South Korean border could lead to just that kind of scenario. Even worse, non-proliferation might be used to earn some badly needed foreign exchange. There was speculation about North Korean cooperation with Iran on its third test. What would keep a gambler like the dictator in Pyongyang to sell Iran or others his knowledge and even material?

China could influence North Korea, if it wanted to, writes Klüver, but it didn’t want to use it. 90 percent of North Korea’s oil imports depended on China. But China’s calculations could be shifting, Klüver adds: a Peking government paper had mentioned a “high price” that North Korea would have to pay in case of a nuclear test. The Chinese, Klüver recaps, needed to take responsibility for their irresponsible neighbor.

Der Spiegel (Hamburg) chooses the tabloid approach, as far as its choice  of stock photo material is concerned. Underneath a video link photo (from Reuters) that shows Kim Jong-un in flames, the headline is North Korean nuclear power messes with America (Atommacht Nordkorea legt sich mit Amerika an). Der Spiegel’s Andreas Lorenz points out that this could start an arms race, with the US, Japan and North Korea beefing up their missile defense. Xi Jinping acted hardly differently from his predecessor Hu Jintao, Lorenz notes, as he criticizes Pyongyang’s missile and nuclear tests, but also trying to soften international sanctions. North Korea is an important supplier of commodities to China. And the encapsulated country serves China’s military as a strategic buffer zone between China and the other East Asian states and the US.

Lorenz also quotes the English-language party mouthpiece “Global Times” as suggesting that there was no need for China to placate angry feelings about its role. And Lorenz quotes US expert Siegfried Hecker with concerns that North Korea could sell its atomic-bomb know-how, to Iran, for example.

Die Welt (Berlin) suggests that Kim had thrown the Chinese sugar cubes (i. e. sweetened the third test).

Namely, the third test was preceded by several sessions of North Korean security panels on which Kim ostensibly emphasized the leadership role of his Communist Party. For the first time in the regime’s history, these sessions were made public, writes die Welt’s Torsten Krauel. Kim thus signaled that the third test was controled by the civilian leadership and not, as it had been previously, as an – intransparent to the outside world – decision between an ailing dictator and an incalculable army. (Dem dritten Test gingen nämlich mehrere Sitzungen nordkoreanischer Sicherheitsgremien voraus, auf denen Kim demonstrativ die Führungsrolle seiner Kommunistischen Partei hervorhob. Diese Sitzungen wurden erstmals in der Geschichte des Regimes publik gemacht. Kim Jong-un signalisierte damit, dass der dritte Atomtest unter der Steuerung und Kontrolle der zivilen Führung stattfand und nicht, wie beide Male zuvor, in einer nach außen unklaren Entscheidung zwischen einem kränklichen Diktator und einer unberechenbaren Armee.)

Therefore, Xi Jinping and (theoretically) Barack Obama, too, now had a a definite contact person, believes Krauel.

Alleged North-Korean cooperation with Iran has long been a leitmotif in Die Welt’s coverage, but while more moderate papers like Süddeutsche Zeitung are discussing these allegations too, this week, Die Welt goes one step further and discusses how America could conduct a war on North Korea. However, Krauel concludes that different from Iraq during the years after the Kuwait war, the United Nations weren’t in a state of war with North Korea.

Therefore, it seems to be inevitable to talk with each other in East Asia again, even with a dictator like Kim Jong-un – as unpromising and depressing this prospect may currently look. (Wahrscheinlich führt deshalb tatsächlich kein Weg daran vorbei, in Ostasien wieder miteinander zu reden, sogar mit einem Diktator wie Kim Jong-un – so aussichtslos und bedrückend diese Aussicht derzeit auch erscheinen mag.)

The German mainstream press in general has become much more supportive of militarization of politics than in the past. That is my rough observation, and not backed by statistics. But apparently for the first time, research has been published about how leading German press people – mentioned by name – are interlinked with think tanks, national and international forums, foundations, policy planning groups, etc.. And a presentation of this research also clearly quotes leading press commentators with statements like

Politics must not shun the battle of opinion on the home front if they are convinced of what they purport. […] The battle for the “hearts and minds” must be conducted among at home, too. (Der Meinungskampf an der Heimatfront darf die Politik nicht scheuen, wenn sie von dem überzeugt ist, was sie vorgibt. […] Der Kampf um die “hearts and minds” muss auch bei uns geführt werden.)

A newsman’s words, to be clear.

This should not lead to overreaching conclusions. The research does not suggest that everyone is in the boat of an extended security concept (erweiterter Sicherheitsbegriff, including energy and financial-industry issues). But among four leading journalists of Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Süddeutsche Zeitung, Die Zeit and Die Welt, definitions of security and threat catalogs had been uncritically adopted (unkritisch übernommen).

There are papers with editorial managers not known for relevant networks – the left leaning Tageszeitung (taz) and Frankfurter Rundschau (FR). Some of their articles correspond with views among the elite, some sharply criticize the extended security concept, according to the report.

Here is another observation that disturbs me: My choice of press-review sources – Süddeutsche Zeitung, Spiegel, Die Welt further above in this blogpost was spontaneous. My information sources of choice when it comes to North Korea’s nuclear test were just these papers. No taz, no Frankfurter Rundschau. However, there’s an excuse:

I thought the Rundschau was no longer online, as they filed for bankruptcy on November 12, 2012.

But in fact, they are still here.

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Related

» Questions Raised, November 10, 2012

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Thursday, October 20, 2011

Obituary: Muammar Gaddafi, 1942 – 2011

Fourty-two years of rule are a very long time. No matter if historians will explore Middle Eastern or African matters, they will encounter the Gaddafi factor, time and again. When exploring European matters, they will, to some degree, happen on his traces, too. When he or his clan opened their big wallets, European institutions were happy recipients.

No room here for the ways European and other leaders celebrate the death of a bad man today. No matter on which side they stood in March this year – there are too many big mouths in Europe on both sides.

La Belle, Roxy Palast memorial plaque

Berlin Friedenau, memorial plaque: "In this house on the 5th of April, 1986, young people were murdered by a criminal bomb attack" (Wikimedia Commons, click photo for source)

There isn’t much reason to listen to those who mourn Gaddafi either.

But there are people who should be remembered – people like those who were killed by assassins from the orbit of Libya’s East Berlin embassy, or Yvonne Fletcher, who died from shots from inside the Libyan embassy in London.The victims of the Lockerbie bombing – with some likelihood, they were victims of Gaddafi’s government, too.

And that would only be those killed in Europe.

“Tunisia now lives in fear”, The Economist quoted Gaddafi in January:

Families could be raided and slaughtered in their bedrooms and the citizens in the street killed as if it was the Bolshevik or the American revolution.

That would have been too high a price to pay for Tunisian democracy, but not when it came to the defense of Gaddafi’s own rule. In February, the brother-leader reportedly vowed to kill Libyan protesters house by house.

What was, or will be, the price for Libyan democracy? Some sources put the number of deaths as a result of civil war as high as thirty-thousand, in April. If there will be democracy, remains to be seen.

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Related

» Relocating from LSE, March 3, 2011
» A Celebrity and a Politician, Tai De, Nov 27, 2009

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Thursday, September 15, 2011

Press Review: Egypt, Israel, Turkey and the “Energetic Arab Horse”

The mob attack on Israel’s embassy in Cairo in itself would have been reprehensible enough, the Pioneer (published from several locations in India) wrote on Monday:

For now, Egypt’s ruling military council, which is clearly on the defensive, has portrayed the incident to the outside world as a law and order issue, one that it intends to solve by increasing security at the Embassy and punishing the guilty. The perception that the weekend’s events were merely a security failure was also shamelessly propped up Egyptian media as well as news outlets in the region that repeatedly broadcast rioters’ interviews as they gloated about their “heroic” act, wholly indifferent to the very criminal nature of their deed that violated the most basic tenets of international law.

Egypt, the Pioneer notes, is flush with ‘freedom’ but ignorant of citizens’ responsibility.

Meantime, Kerim Balci, a columnist with Today’s Zaman, explains what he considers to be Turkey’s essential role to help the West

understand what is going on in this part of the world. With their post-colonial — yet still colonialist — perspectives, they cannot understand why the Turkish prime minister behaves as if he is the leader of the Arab revolutions that took place earlier this year.

Israel, the columnist suggests, can understand Turkey’s good intentions, but is not trying to do so. Turkey is just trying to make sure that no wrong rider (France or other outsiders) mounts this energetic Arab horse:

In fact, the Turkish prime minister called on the leaders of the Arab nations, saying that they should lead the revolutions themselves. A Turkish ride is only Plan B, to go into effect if the owners of the horse fail to do so.

Nothing unlogical, from a nationalist Turkish perspective – after all, previous Turkish leaders were only unseated by the Arabs because of colonialists interfering with Ottoman affairs.

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Related

Egypt and Turkey: “Rivalry for sure”, Al-Jazeera, Sep 14, 2011
“Genocide” in China, July 11, 2009

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Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Democratic International Relations, in Tune with the Current Era

Democratic international relations (民主的國際關係) is what Chinese state councillor and defense minister Liang Guanglie (梁光烈) reportedly called for on the annual Asia-Pacific Forum in Singapore on Sunday (aka the Shangri-La Dialogue). An excerpt from his speech, as quoted by Huanqiu Shibao, the Chinese side of the Global Times:

A new era calls for a new way of thought. Zero-sum concepts and cold-war thought is growingly out of tune with the current era. If the objective facts are not looked at, and only ideologies and differences in social systems, arbitrary conjectures and misrepresentations of other countries’ strategic intentions will be depended upon, this will lead to [the creation of] man-made enemies.

新的时代呼唤新的思维方式,安全上的零和观念和冷战思维越来越和当今时代格格不入。如果无视客观事实,仅凭意识形态和社会制度的差异,主观揣测和曲解别国的战略意图,就会人为制造敌人。

Liang had met with outgoing U.S. secretary of defense Robert Gates on Friday. Gates left the conference prior to Liang’s speech, for a farewell visit to Afghanistan, reports France 24. Liang told the conference that China would never seek hegemony or military expansion.

Meeting American reporters on the way to Singapore, Gates – as quoted by the Taipei Times – had stated that

We do have obligations under the Taiwan Relations Act [TRA] and we have this discussion in virtually every meeting that we have with the Chinese. I would say that I think under both the [former US president George W.] Bush and Obama administrations, we have tried to thread the needle pretty carefully in terms of Taiwan’s defensive capabilities, but at the same time being aware of China’s sensitivities. I think both administrations have done this very thoughtfully and very carefully. By the same token, just as the Chinese are very open with us about their concerns, we are also open with them about our obligations.

Rick Fisher, a senior fellow with the International Assessment and Strategy Center in Washington, suggested that Gates had opened a very destabilizing question. “Are US arms sales to Taiwan determined by obligations under the TRA or by China’s sensitivities? Where in the TRA does it state that the US will be mindful of China’s sensitivities regarding arms sales to Taiwan?”, a Taipei Times editorialist quotes Fisher.

It may take diplomatic or particular political training to assess how far the implications of Gate’s statement would reach – if there are any. I can’t see where Gates denied US obligations under the TRA, or made the subject to Chinese agreement. It would seem strange to think that US officials should refuse to discuss the TRA when Chinese officials raise the topic. Gates may have stated the obvious explicitly for the first time, but he stated nothing new.

That said, the Obama administration has an agenda of rebuilding America, rather than building nations – and this may help to explain as to why Gates chose to state the obvious. If the US can dampen an arms race with China, it should be in America’s interest to do just that. And if there should be no way to avoid an arms race with China, America has every right to expect China’s neighbors to contribute to their own defense. Taiwan itself will need to do more. Singapore, too. Think tanks and arms corporations may look at it differently, but America is treading a fine line between helping committed regional countries to defend their sovereignty on the one hand, and becoming their useful idiot on the other.

In December 2009, US president Barack Obama told an audience in West Point:

Our prosperity provides a foundation for our power. It pays for our military. It underwrites our diplomacy. It taps the potential of our people, and allows investment in new industry. And it will allow us to compete in this century as successfully as we did in the last. That’s why our troop commitment in Afghanistan cannot be open-ended — because the nation that I’m most interested in building is our own.

South China Sea: You can ring my Belle

South China Sea: You can ring my Belle

For matters of sovereignty (i. e. democracy in international relations, rather than at home), a strong American military presence in the region is welcomed by Vietnam, too. A US Navy video speaks volumes:

“This great warship is a testament to our country’s resolve and promise that we will always remain throughout all the international waters in the Pacific Rim, trying to help every country together ensuring that it stays a very stable environment”,

commanding officer David Lausman of the USS George Washington told visiting Vietnamese dignitaries last summer.

Great idea. But if America’s role in the Western Pacific is meant to be sustainable, the region will probably need something like an “Asian NATO”. The emphasis needs to be on ensuring a stable environment together.

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Related
“Liang’s ‘olive branch’ is a threat”, Taipei Times, June 7, 2011
Gates’ visit to Beijing, Communiqué, January 10, 2011
START: First Steps into a Multi-Polar World, December 23, 2010

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

A Beer in Peace: the Middle East, and German Anger

I’m no Mideast expert. I’m not a Germany expert either – I’m German, and only foreigners can be Germany experts. But given that there are views you will hardly find on the Voice of Germany, and out of a patriotic sense of mission, I’ve decided to create a new category on this blog – MyCountry. Blogposts on this particular topic will be sparse, hence no extra blog.

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It was probably Kurt Tucholsky, a journalist, and even more famously a satirist, during the Weimar era, who suggested that the most dangerous man was the one who just wanted to drink his beer in peace.

And even if Tucholsky never really wrote that (can’t find it on the internet, and I lent the book in question to someone and never got it back), it doesn’t really matter, because people will have other beef with him anyway. Stuff like Wo waren Sie im Kriege, Herr –? (This refers to world war 1.)
Another famous sentence of his, Soldiers are Murderers, is not so unpopular in Germany any longer, but that may be owing to the fact that we lost world war 2, as well. By 1945, it had become too obvious that going to war doesn’t pay, at least not for Germans.

Anyway – during the years of the Weimar Republic, Tucholsky belonged to the minority of Germans who strongly believed in free speech (his own freedom, and that of others), and who opposed the rising nazis openly, and consistently. Once the nazis had come to power, Tucholsky lived in exile. Otherwise, he might have been among the first citizens to be arrested, murdered, or put into a concentration camp after January 30, 1933. Carl von Ossietzky, one of his colleagues at the Weltbühne weekly, was arrested on February 28, 1933, and put into “protective custody”.

If his record as a journalist hadn’t been enough to get Tucholsky arrested, too, his life would have been in danger soon after, anyway – Tucholsky was Jewish.

Ever since 1945, an uncertain number of Germans has been busy with either white-washing the twelve years of nazi rule (usually a habit of those who, due to their personal record, prominent nazi membership etc stood no chance to make their contemporaries – or the allied forces’ authorities – believe that they had merely been fellow travellers or Mitläufer), or with distancing themselves both from the nazi ideology, and from any earlier German tradition that might have contributed to nazism. And of course, also to this day, an uncertain number of Germans continues to whitewash the nazi years because they believe that Germany had been attacked by Poland, in 1939.

Rudolf Augstein, a Wehrmacht lieutenant in world war 2, and founder of Germany’s news magazine Der Spiegel in 1947, liked to dive deep into history. He seemed to see a line of tradition from Friedrich II of Prussia right down to Adolf Hitler. He didn’t condemn Friedrich II, but he certainly wasn’t one of his greatest fans. Augstein was just as outspoken – rightly or wrongly – when it came to the Middle East conflict:

Ariel Sharon wants war, he has left no doubt. He brushed aside two decades of peace efforts. He accuses Yasser Arafat in the first place for the need [for Israel] to withdraw from Lebanon in 1982. He had wanted to turn Lebanon into an Israeli protectorate. And he would tinker one over Palestine if only he was allowed to.
(Ariel Scharon will den Krieg, daran hat er nun keinen Zweifel mehr gelassen. Zwei Jahrzehnte Friedensbemühungen hat er beiseite gewischt. In Jassir Arafat sieht er den Hauptschuldigen dafür, dass er 1982 aus dem Libanon zurückweichen musste. Den Libanon wollte Scharon zu einem israelischen Protektorat machen. Ein Protektorat über Palästina würde er sich auch heute zurechtzimmern, wenn man ihn nur ließe.)

If anyone who can read my post here can read Ariel Sharon‘s mind – as of 1982 -, too, please volunteer your findings now. To be clear, Augstein’s choice of the word “protectorate” would earn him a lot of critics nowadays – and maybe it did, too, back in December 2001, when he wrote the a/m article. After all, the nazis liked the concept of protectorates. Bohemia and Moravia were explicitly named protectorates, proclaimed by Adolf Hitler, from Prague Castle. Vichy France may count as another protectorate.

The concept existed long before nazi rule – but mentioning protectorates in the context of Israeli policies was an absolute NO in Germany – unless your name was Rudolf Augstein.

All that said, I found his article refreshing when reading it back then, in Der Spiegel’s printed edition.

Almost exactly two years after Augstein’s accusation, Sharon announced his disengagement plan from Gaza. Maybe Augstein had been wrong, and Sharon wasn’t that fond of protectorates after all.

But some German critics of Israel’s occupation policies might think of this policy change as a change of mind, and attribute it to critics like Augstein – when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, they frequently overestimate our country’s role. German daily Die Welt‘s Clemens Wergin, a blogger, and one of the critics’ opposite numbers in our daily Mideast brawls, relishes in pointing out how insignificant Germany – and Europe – actually are when it comes to current affairs south and east of the Mediterranean. His point, of course, isn’t that we did nothing to help building peace in the Middle East more in general. It is that we did nothing, or too little, to protect Israel in particular.

In another blogpost, he pointed out that opinions concerning the Mideast conflict were usually stronger than (background) knowledge.

Wergin usually sticks to the political or security issues, although he may sometimes try to draw psychic profiles of the German public and its Israel– or America-related debates.

In a recent post, he suggested that  U.S. president Barack Obama‘s recent policies on the Middle East were a disaster, in that Obama had joined Europe in believing that the Israeli-Palestine conflict was the central cause for all other problems in the region. The commenter thread which followed Wergin’s post was little more than an exchange of credos – either blanketly defending or attacking Israel’s policies. And soon enough, the first critic was lablelled an anti-semite. Both sides accused each other of being uncapable of listening to actual points in an argument. Some commenters from both sides indeed seemed to be unable or unwilling to argue – especially those who accused the other side of such incapacities.

Such accusations of anti-semitism can make sense, at times. But about as frequently, they are a convenient ersatz for an actual discussions of issues. That may be the case elsewhere, too, but particularly in Germany, and given our country’s nazi past, with millions of Jewish people murdered, it will usually carry weight, no matter who is applying the label on whom, and no matter if the accusation is justified or not.

Wergin’s posts take a perspective which might be described as Western, American, and Israeli security interests. Apart from relative outsiders to the Mideast conflict, people with an immediate interest in the conflict may occasionally be commenting on his blog, too – but you can’t usually tell from the way they express their views, and once the commenter threads begin, the my-beer-in-peace mechanism kicks in, either way. To those who side with Israel, Israel is seen as the party which wants peace, but is refused a peacful arrangement by its enemies. To those who side with Palestine, Palestine is the innocent party who is refused such a peaceful arrangement. To many of both sides, plus many of those who don’t really care about the Middle East, it seems to be seen as a region that doesn’t allow Germans to drink their beer in peace.

Anyway – while you may find characteristics in this debate which may apply to discussions in your country, too, some aspects and forms of such exchanges amount to an argument with particularly German characteristics. Israel and Palestine then mainly serve as dummies in exchanges of German righteousness (“we’ve learned our lessons from ww2”), anger and frustration – all that, however, with tons of explanations, and showing off individual Mideast expertise. Both sides prove each other wrong all along the time, or claim that they are doing that, and once nothing else works anymore, each side makes referrals to Germany’s nazi past in ways which suit its case best.

What both sides – and that’s pretty German, too – seem to ignore is that in the end, an individual’s opportunities to influence his or her country’s security policies are usually limited – and there is little evidence that as many Germans, if in a situation similar to Israel’s, would be prepared to join Gush Shalom, as are Israelis. Neither too many Israelis, nor too many Palestinians, can be happy with everyday life under today’s circumstances – but just as for people elsewhere, politics is only one aspect of daily life, and people have to earn a life, and to have some fun and family life after hours.

It’s only fair to point out that some very modest welfare state reforms in Germany, not too long ago, led to an old and venerable political party being shredded in subsequent elections. But removing the Israeli settlers from the West Bank is considered to be a piece of cake, from a German perspective. Or – an argument from the other side of the German debate – the concessions the Palestinian peace negotiators reportedly put on the negotiation table  were either too little to be taken serious, or too much to be believable.

I usually prefer to discuss such issues without too many referrals to my own country, or to the nazi past. The past is a factor, but when defenders and critics of either (German) side refer to it too often, I begin to doubt that the Middle East is the actual issue, and I begin to believe that our domestic issues are actually taking control of the debate. In that light, I have started to re-think my past ideas about the Middle East. What America does for Israel in security terms may not be glorious, but it may be a necessity. I have believed that before. What Europe does for Israel – and Palestine – may not be glorious either, but Israel’s and Palestine’s connections with Europe in terms of the economy, and culture, shouldn’t be despised as “too little to count”. That’s where I have changed my mind. I used to wonder if Europe couldn’t do more.

There are sources to the fruitless German public debate which can be found in Germany itself – both in circumstances of today, and of the past. There is an incapacity to take the perspective of a common citizen in the Middle East. Every discussion seems to boil down to angry exchanges between armchair politicians or armchair generals.

But another source is the incapability of either side in the argument to think of themselves as people with an anti-semitic heritage. That heritage is generously applied to Germany as a nation, especially by pro-Israeli posters. But it never seems to dawn on them that unconditional support for Israel can be no substitute for occasional individual soul-searching. Generations of people everywhere in Europe, and in Germany in particular, have inherited prejudices against Jewish people. Neither criticizing, nor supporting either side in the Middle East can be a replacement for self-awareness.

As far as that’s concerned, I’m beginning to appreciate the EU’s Mideast policies (to the extent that common EU policies exist). These policies aren’t rushing to conclusions. They provide for the role that the immediate stakeholders – Israelis and Palestinians themselves – need to play, before relative outsiders can begin to play a helpful role. And they have – by and large – resisted the temptations that lie in heroic, but hollow, rhetoric and gestures.

Those may work for newspapers, but not usually in politics, or in daily life.

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Related
» Exorcising Hitler, Hester Vaizey / The Independent, April 29, 2011
» My fearful Country, March 19, 2011
» We Invented the Katyusha, October 30, 2009
» Mit Panzern nach Berlin, Henry Kissinger, November 8, 2002

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