At G20, Obama Tastes ‘Bitter Reality’ of America’s Decline: Financial Times Deutschland, Germany

November 13, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

This is a challenging moment in history, and according to columnist Peter Ehrlich of Germany’s Financial Times Deutschland, President Obama is a victim of it: The United States, relative to other nations, is growing comparatively weaker. And with economics rather than military prowess the modern measure of true influence, Ehrlich contends that presidents of the United States, starting with Barack Obama, will have to adjust.

I’d like to insert a personal note on this narrative to say, that what is happening today in terms of the relative drop in U.S. dominance reflects the unalloyed success of American policy since the end of World War II. We encouraged the rest of the world to embrace free markets and personal choice for their own good - and ours. Now that they have, we are relatively weaker - but by no means weak. And as Peter Ehrlich emphasizes, it is a world more characterized by economic competition than military.

For Germany’s Financial Times Deutschland, Peter Ehrlich writes in part:

SEOUL: In times of peace, thankfully, there’s no need for historic battles like those of Trafalgar or Waterloo to change the balance of power in the world. These days, change happens little by little, day by day - only becoming noticeable at meetings like the G20 Summit in Seoul. What we witnessed was the end of American global dominance. The “American Century” is over.

At least since the First World War, the United States has been the most significant power both militarily and economically. Twenty years ago after the collapse of the Soviet bloc, it became the only remaining “superpower.” When then U.S. President George H.W. Bush spoke of a “new world order,” he was thinking of a Pax Americana. But from then on, it was all downhill.

Militarily, the U.S. still dominates, but today, even America can no longer afford to go it alone as it did in Iraq. Economically, it is still by far the most significant nation, but the fate of the global economy now lies in Europe and China. Barack Obama, who in contrast to Bush Jr. advocated a multilateral world order, now must bitterly experience what that means in practice. Once staunch allies like Germany now openly criticize the monetary policy of the U.S. Federal Reserve.

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The Moderate Voice

A Nobel Peace Prize About More than Good Intentions: Financial Times Deutschland, Germany

October 11, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

When President Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize last year, there was a lot of criticism. While Barack Obama’s intentions seemed great - many said he hadn’t actually done anything. Not so for this year’s winner. Financial Times Deutschland columnist David Bocking writes that this time around, the Nobel Committee awarded a man that has risked everything - including his life - to promote freedom and democracy in China.

From the Financial Times Deutschland, columnist David Bocking writes in part:

In selecting Liu Xiabao, the Committee honors a man who has long confronted China’s communist leadership. This honor is a political signal, as it was last year when the award went to Barack Obama. But while the U.S. president was honored almost exclusively for intentions, Liu has paid a high personal price for his beliefs and actions for many years. In 1989 he was one of the leaders of the student protests at Tienanmen Square. Just five months before the fall of the Berlin Wall, Chinese citizens dared to criticize the lack of freedom in their country.

In contrast to the peaceful revolution in the German Democratic Republic [East Germany], protesters in China were literally mowed down by tanks. An unknown number of people died that day and there followed a wave of arrests in which Liu also fell victim. While East and West Germans were embracing each other, China’s political opposition feared for their lives. Of course, Oslo could also have honored the successful German revolution, in which case an East German civil rights activist would have deserved the prize at least as much as Helmut Kohl. But especially now, remembering the Chinese revolution sends a stronger signal.

In regard to whether the award shows ‘Western arrogance,’ Bocking writes:

Awarding Liu the Nobel Prize has nothing to do with Western arrogance. Politically, China remains a developing nation, a fact that was demonstrated most recently by Liu’s re-imprisonment at the end of last year. If Beijing - at events like the recent summit with E.U. nations, for example - seeks more recognition as an industrialized nation, then it must also submit to criticism of its domestic polices.


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The Moderate Voice

Obama Falls Victim to Merciless Fate of Most ‘Hope Carriers’: Financial Times Deutschland, Germany

September 28, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Is President Obama, like so many political shooting stars of hope from the past, destined to fade from the scene as quickly as he emerged? According to <em>Financial Times Deutschland columnist Ines Zottl, “Obama is through - completely finished.”

Citing some seldom-heard in English Germany prose, for the Financial Times Deutschland, Ines Zottl writes in part:

“A star burns out, and the world keeps on turning; nothing in life stays as it is. The march of time will dry your tears, too, even if you’ll never quite forget.” (Bergfeuer, A Star Burns Out)

Obama is through - completely finished. The unmitigated joy with which millions of people embraced the first Black president of the United States is gone. Shortly before the impending elections on his second anniversary in office, not even half of Americans think he’s doing a good job. The Arab world has turned away disappointed. Europeans are still standing - but the Obama sticker on the bathroom mirror is peeling and the little flag from election night has long been disposed of. The “world president” has lost his magic.

Of course, the change has a lot to do with Obama’s policies, which in many respects have failed. But it also has something to do with us, voters and citizens. A star has faded because we’ve turned on the lights. The Financial Times Deutschland archive returns 1,093 results for the phrase “hope carrier.” According to the archival software, that’s too many to display, so only the first 100 are shown. Among those is included the cancer drug Erbitux as well as the sequel to The Lord of the Rings. But above all, the results include many politicians who carried our hopes and for shorter or longer periods, sparkled on the political firmament: Tony Blair shone brightly and tenaciously before irrevocably vanishing. For a few weeks, barely detectible in the sky was Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan.

Hope is the first thing that dies. He who doesn’t deliver immediately is out - excuses don’t count. The fact that the powerful president of the United States can do little without a Senate majority is his problem.

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The Moderate Voice

Public Anger and the Post Financial Crisis: Financial Times Deutschland, Germany

September 26, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Now that, at least as far as economists are concerned, the Great Recession is over, what should Western governments do to right their economic ships of state? According to columnist Wolfgang Munchau of Germany’s Financial Times Deutschland, Europe has even less of a clue about what to do than the United States - and neither has a strategy to address well-founded public anger and suspicion.

For the Financial Times Deutschland, columnist Wolfgang Munchau writes in part:

Recently, a colleague from outside Europe wrote to me after having conducted a series of interviews with top European Union politicians. He was struck by the extremely aggressive tone toward the U.S., toward China and particularly internally, France for example. In view of how European diplomacy is much vaunted abroad, this came as a surprise. That one would endure such brusque utterances in Berlin would surprise no one, but in mild, outward-oriented Brussels?

Our financial crisis, which is now over three years old, has gone through various phases. Now we’re experiencing exactly the same thing in politics. After the shock phase and hyperactive bailout phase, we’ve now reached the anger phase. We are familiar with this phenomenon from psychology, which describes the stages of grief and other trauma. Anger comes at a late stage, when one becomes aware of one’s impotence - which is precisely what happened to Messrs. Barroso and Sarkozy and a host of other actors that are part of the Brussels power center.

Overwhelmed and underprepared, European policy is short-circuiting with increasing frequency. We threaten China with trade sanctions but have completely forgotten to develop a coherent trade and economic strategy for China in the first place.

Where is German strategy given China’s emergence?

It’s one of the most striking differences between Washington and Brussels: U.S. politicians and experts show a very strong interest in trade and monetary policy and frequently discuss the topic at conferences. Here in Europe, we rarely have such discussions - not even behind closed doors.

And now an intelligent policy must be quickly implemented: one that forces the recapitalization of the banking sector, devises a consistent approach to the exchange rate policies of the Chinese and Japanese, advances the restructuring of international organizations, offers solutions for the fight against global and regional imbalances, and coordinates policy so that economic recovery doesn’t come to a halt. And at the same time, skeptical voters must be convinced of the value of the endeavor. The combination of inactivity and anger makes this task increasingly difficult.

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The Moderate Voice

West Must Halt Downward Slide Since 9-11: Financial Times Deutschland, Germany

September 18, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

In the battle that ensued the day after September 11, 2001, did the people of the Western World lose something essential about themselves? Claus Hecking of Germany’s Financial Times Deutschland writes that due to a largely conjured-up fear of terror, ‘we are dismantling the foundations of our liberal society.’

For the Financial Times Deutschland, Claus Hecking writes in part:

In the United States and throughout the Western world, freedom has gone to ruin in the nine years since 9/11. This will delight the string-pullers behind the brutal attacks on the World Trade Center. They have managed to destabilize their enemies in the West. Yes, we are playing along in this clash of cultures they instigated. And even worse: For sheer fear of terror, we are dismantling the foundations of our liberal society.

Terrorists are terrorists because they’re too weak to seize power directly. Instead, they carry out attacks: a calculated move to frighten and provoke people to panic, setting in motion events that will bring them closer to their goal. Prime examples are the assassination in 1914 of Austria’s heir to the throne, Franz Ferdinand, by Serbian nationalist Gavrilo Princip. After it triggered World War I, this led to a sovereign, Serbian-dominated Yugoslavia. Or the murder of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin by a Jewish extremist in 1995: it was the beginning of the end of the Middle East peace process.

Osama bin Laden is an idol for tens of thousands of angry young Muslim men, especially in countries like Pakistan, Indonesia, Egypt, or Saudi Arabia - all old allies of the United States. Many people in the developing world no longer see the Western way of life as a model. And why should they, when we doubt our own basic principles?

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The Moderate Voice

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