More on Obama’s Crowd Numbers: A Conversation with the Berlin Police

My previous post on Obama’s Berlin crowd numbers has been discussed on many blogs and internet forums.In such discussions,the most common response of those defending the widely-cited 200,000 number is that it comes, after all, from the Berlin police department and the latter can hardly be suspected of colluding with the Obama campaign. (See, for instance, the lengthy discussion on Michelle Malkin’s blog here and the numerous comments of one “chapoutier.”) In German, this sort of attitude is called Autoritätsgläubigkeit — faith in authority — and in German history, it has not always led to the best consequences. Be that […]

Restoring the Non-proliferation Regime

WASHINGTON — Restoring the nuclear non-proliferation regime’s credibility requires a mix of preventative measures and increased enforcement capabilities, witnesses said during a hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on Terrorism, Non-Proliferation and Trade last Thursday. According to Harvard Professor Graham Allison, a manifestly global demand for low-cost alternative energy has propelled a “nuclear renaissance.” States are investing more resources into nuclear energy research and cooperation pacts at an unprecedented speed, albeit oftentimes to the detriment of nuclear security and safety regulations He said most of the burden to police these new deals should fall upon the IAEA. Increased […]

Zimbabwe Power-Sharing Talks Begin

After relatively quick negotiations about the terms and format of the talks, Zimbabwe’s president Robert Mugabe began official talks with MDC opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai in South Africa. Terms included that neither party talk to the press, and the time-frame is a surprisingly short two weeks. One reason for the quick turnaround could be that Mugabe’s regime is anxious to sort things out so it can make a case for the lifting of some sanctions. The London-based Guardian and SW Radio Africa both report that the government is running out of the special paper required to print cash. The banknotes […]

More Obama in Berlin: The Meliorist Bit

To follow up briefly on Judah’s post on realism vs. idealism in Obama’s policies and character, I just wanted to point out the passage from the Berlin speech that perhaps provides the most cause for worry that an Obama administration might fail to recognize that, as Judah says, now is a moment for restraint in American foreign policy: Will we lift the child in Bangladesh from poverty, shelter the refugee in Chad, and banish the scourge of AIDS in our time? Will we stand for the human rights of the dissident in Burma, the blogger in Iran, or the voter […]

Obama the Realist vs. Obama the Idealist

To follow up a bit on Barack Obama’s Berlin speech, Nikolas Gvosdev flags something that caught my eye as well: [Obama] lays out an ambitious agenda for cooperation, including on dealing with climate change, but no real sense of the burden sharing and, more importantly, on leadership questions. Is the implication that U.S. and European positions will naturally converge? Or does this presage that an Obama administration would be more comfortable accepting European initatives. . .? Here’s the passage in question from the speech (transcript here): . . .True partnership and true progress requires constant work and sustained sacrifice. They […]

200,000 . . . or 20,000? Obama’s Crowd in Berlin

“Obama Addresses 200,000 in Berlin” — thus ran the AP headline the day after Barack Obama’s much-hyped speech in front of Berlin’s Siegessäule or “Victory Column.” This 200,000 figure has quickly become the standard estimate of the crowd for Obama’s speech in both the American and the German media: so standard indeed that it is for the most part not even treated as an estimate. The estimates given by German public television ZDF actually during the event, however, were as little as one-tenth ofthat number. ZDF began its special “Obama in Berlin” coverage [German video] at 6:45 p.m. Central European […]

Diplospeak Quote of the Day

In case you hadn’t heard, that unofficial meeting between a visiting delegation of Syrian officials in Washington in a “private capacity” and a State Department “player to be named later” was abruptly cancelled yesterday. State Dept. spokesman Gonzalo Gallegos wins today’s Diplospeak Quote of the Day award with his explanation for why: My understanding at that time was that they had requested it, that we had looked at the meeting, and we were going to meet with them. Today, conditions have changed, and we’re not going to be meeting with them. Gonzalo will also be the second addition to my […]

France, Turkey and NATO Reintegration

In the midst of this article on France’s efforts to improve security and defense ties with Turkey (damaged by France’s opposition to Turkey’s EU bid, and by a law passed by the French legislature recognizing the Armenian genocide), the question arises of whether or not France’s bid to reintegrate NATO’s command structure would need approval. The article cites unconfirmed reports in the Turkish press that Ankara was using the threat of a veto for some leverage on EU accession, while the French denied both that approval would be necessary or that Turkey would be interested in opposing the reintegration. Not […]

Turkey’s Security Council Candidacy

Turkish FM Ali Babacan was in New York lobbying for Turkey’s candidacy for a rotating seat on the UN Security Council. There are a lot of compelling arguments in favor of it, and I think Sedat Laçiner, a Turkish foreign policy expert quoted by Today’s Zaman, sums them up pretty well: “The number of Turkey’s friends is increasing. Countries that don’t love each other love Turkey,” Laçiner said, referring to ongoing Turkish mediation between Syria and Israel as an example of how enemy countries can both have good ties with Ankara. “Turkey has a special talent in this respect. The […]

Obama’s Foreign Policy Team of 300

The New York Times has an interesting article on Barack Obama’s 300(!) foreign policy advisers. Examining the ideas of advisers in order to gain insight into the candidates’ true beliefs is a perennial campaign season past-time. Leaving aside that more obvious angle, however, what really struck me about this NYT piece is what it might say about the candidates’ management skills. I would never argue that core beliefs and ideas aren’t important, but history tells us that, perhaps especially in the realm of foreign policy, the positions of candidates often bear little relation to the policies they adopt once in […]

The Army’s Strategic Wishlist

The Army War College just released this year’s Key Strategic Issues List (.pdf) which, as a call for academic research on key strategic questions, offers a peak into what problems the Army is looking to solve. It’s 171 pages of research topics, more than a few of which reappear from last year’s version. Here are a few (either new or that I didn’t flag last year) that caught my eye: – Recognizing progress in counterinsurgency operations, and reinforcing it– What proportion of U.S. land power should be focused on counterinsurgency operations and how should it be organized, trained, equipped, and […]

The Militarization of American Foreign Policy

I’ve made a point of not bringing the subject up for a while, because it’s never good to get fixated on an idea and see everything through that lens for too long. But believe me, it hasn’t been easy. So if none other than Robert Gates himself up and goes there (via U.S. Diplomacy), then I think I’m entitled to cut myself a little slack: Overall, even outside Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. military has become more involved in a range of activities that in the past were perceived to be the exclusive province of civilian agencies and organizations. This […]

Obama & McCain Talk Defense

With all the talk recently about commander-in-chief qualifications and alleged shifts in Barack Obama’s Iraq policy, I’m surprised this Defense News interview with Barack Obama from last week didn’t get more attention. (It might be behind a free registration wall, but it’s worth the thirty second sign-up.) It’s a lengthy, in-depth, hardhitting conversation about a wide range of defense issues, and in sharp contrast with this John McCain interview from last October, you can almost feel the initial tension in the room. Almost as if the DN editors are testing Obama out. What’s great about the interview — including Obama’s […]

And the Winner is . . .

A few weeks ago, we commenced a World Politics Review reader survey, which we announced on this blog, in our email newsletters, and on banner ads on our front page. Thanks to each and every one of the hundreds of World Politics Review readers who participated. We learned a lot, and your feedback will help us improve WPR in myriad ways in the coming months. Those who took the survey might also recall that we also promised to give one lucky survey taker an Apple iPhone. Yesterday, from the hundreds of email addresses submitted, we randomly drew one. And the […]

Army Morale & COIN

Outside of the U.S., no other country has borne the brunt of the Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns more than Great Britain. So it’s noteworthy that morale in the British armed forces has plummeted, as this BBC article reports. The Guardian questions the representativeness of the sample, but the report jibes with anecdotal accounts of “alarmingly low” levels of British army morale that I encountered while researching the French Livre Blanc series. I haven’t been able to find anything on U.S. Army morale (if anyone has any links, please forward them), but what strikes me is how this kind of intensive, […]

Grow the Army?

Call me a crank, but when everyone starts agreeing on something, I start looking for flaws in the argument. I get the feeling that Steven Metz is the same way, which is probably why I get such a kick out of reading his work. In this case it’s a short op-ed (.pdf) from the Army War College’s Strategic Studies Institute questioning the gathering consensus that the U.S. Army needs to be expanded. Metz points out that the troops needed to ease the strain caused by Iraq and Afghanistan will take five years to generate, especially the officer corps. If we […]

Citizen Diplomacy

I’d seen this video mentioned a few times on several sites over the past week, but it wasn’t until Hampton emailed it to me that I actually clicked through: If you’re curious about the video’s background, the NY Times has a write-up here. I don’t know whether Matt Harding is “making a difference.” I do know I had a smile on my face about two seconds into watching him, and his friends the world over, dance. (The little added touch with the Indian dancers is pure gold.) And I have a hard time imagining anyone, anywhere not having the same […]

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