The Death of Money

April 1, 2014

by James Rickards

James Rickards is the author of the national bestseller Currency Wars. He is a portfolio manager at West Shore Group and an adviser on international economics and financial threats to the Department of Defense and the U.S. intelligence community.

The prospect of the dollar failing, and the international monetary system with it, looks increasingly inevitable. The dollar nearly ceased to function as the world’s reserve currency in 1978, and similar symptoms can be seen today.

DEATH OF MONEY

Few Americans in our time recall that the dollar nearly ceased to function as the world’s reserve currency in 1978. That year the Federal Reserve dollar index declined to a distressingly low level, and the U.S. Treasury was forced to issue government bonds denominated in Swiss francs. Foreign creditors no longer trusted the U.S. dollar as a store of value. The dollar was losing purchasing power, dropping by half from 1977 to 1981; U.S. inflation was over 50 percent during those five years. Starting in 1979, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) had little choice but to mobilize its resources to issue world money (special drawing rights, or SDRs). It flooded the market with 12.1 billion SDRs to provide liquidity as global confidence in the dollar declined.

We would do well to recall those dark days. The price of gold rose 500 percent from 1977 to 1980. What began as a managed dollar devaluation in 1971, with President Richard Nixon’s abandonment of gold convertibility, became a full-scale rout by the decade’s end.

The efforts of Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker and the newly elected Ronald Reagan would save the dollar. The dollar did not disappear as the world’s reserve currency after 1978, but it was a near run thing.

Now the world is back to the future.

A similar constellation of symptoms to those of 1978 can be seen in the world economy today. In July 2011 the Federal Reserve dollar index hit an all-time low, over 4 percent below the October 1978 panic level. In August 2009 the IMF once again acted as a monetary first responder and rode to the rescue with a new issuance of SDRs, equivalent to $310 billion, increasing the SDRs in circulation by 850 percent. In early September gold prices reached an all-time high, near $1,900 per ounce, up more than 200 percent from the average price in 2006, just before the new depression began.

The parallels between 1978 and recent events are eerie but imperfect. There was an element ravaging the world then that is not apparent today. It is the dog that didn’t bark: inflation. But the fact that we aren’t hearing the dog doesn’t mean it poses no danger. And from the Federal Reserve’s perspective, inflation is not a threat; indeed, higher inflation is both the Fed’s answer to the debt crisis and a policy objective.

This pro-inflation policy is an invitation to disaster, even as baffled Fed critics scratch their heads at the apparent absence of inflation in the face of unprecedented money printing by the Federal Reserve and other major central banks. Many ponder how it is that the Fed has increased the base money supply 400 percent since 2008 with practically no inflation. But two explanations are very much at hand — and they foretell the potential for collapse. The first is that the U.S. economy is structurally damaged, so the easy money cannot be put to good use. The second is that the inflation is coming. Both explanations are true — the economy is broken, and inflation is on its way.

The world economy is not yet in the “new normal.” Instead, the world is on a journey from old to new with no compass or chart. Turbulence is now the norm.

Danger comes from within and without. We have a misplaced confidence that central banks can save the day; in fact, they are ruining our markets. The value-at-risk models used by Wall Street and regulators to measure the dangers that derivatives pose are risible; they mask overleveraging, which is shamelessly transformed into grotesque compensation that is throwing our society out of balance. When the hidden costs come home to roost and taxpayers are once again stuck with the bill, the bankers will be comfortably ensconced inside their mansions and aboard their yachts. The titans will explain to credulous reporters and bought-off politicians that the new collapse was nothing they could have foreseen.

While we refuse to face truths about debts and deficits, dozens of countries all over the globe are putting pressure on the dollar. We think the gold standard is a historical relic, but there’s a contemporary scramble for gold around the world, and it may signify a move to return to the gold standard. We greatly underestimate the dangers from a cyberfinancial attack and the risks of a financial world war.

Regression analysis and correlations, so beloved by finance quants and economists, are ineffective for navigating the risks ahead. These analyses assume that the future resembles the past to an extent. History is a great teacher, but the quants’ suppositions contain fatal flaws. The first is that in looking back, they do not look far enough. The second flaw involves the quants’ failures to understand scaling dynamics that place certain risk measurements outside history. Since potential risk is an exponential function of system scale, and since the scale of financial systems measured by derivatives is unprecedented, it follows that the risk too is unprecedented.

While the word collapse as applied to the dollar sounds apocalyptic, it has an entirely pragmatic meaning. Collapse is simply the loss of confidence by citizens and central banks in the future purchasing power of the dollar. The result is that holders dump dollars, either through faster spending or through the purchase of hard assets. This rapid behavioral shift leads initially to higher interest rates, higher inflation, and the destruction of capital formation. The end result can be deflation (reminiscent of the 1930s) or inflation (reminiscent of the 1970s), or both.

The coming collapse of the dollar and the international monetary system is entirely foreseeable. This is not a provocative conclusion. The international monetary system has collapsed three times in the past century — in 1914, 1939, and 1971. Each collapse was followed by a tumultuous period. The coming collapse, like those before, may involve war, gold, or chaos, or it could involve all three. The most imminent threats to the dollar, likely to play out in the next few years, are financial warfare, deflation, hyperinflation, and market collapse. Only nations and individuals who make provision today will survive the maelstrom to come.

In place of fallacious, if popular, methods, complexity theory is the best lens for viewing present risks and likely outcomes. Capital markets are complex systems nonpareil. Complexity theory is relatively new in the history of science, but in its 60 years it has been extensively applied to weather, earthquakes, social networks, and other densely connected systems. The application of complexity theory to capital markets is still in its infancy, but it has already yielded insights into risk metrics and price dynamics that possess greater predictive power than conventional methods.

The next financial collapse will resemble nothing in history. But a more cleared-eyed view of opaque financial happenings in our world can help investors think through the best strategies.

This article is adapted from “The Death of Money: The Coming Collapse of the International Monetary System” by James Rickards, in agreement with Portfolio, an imprint of Penguin Random House. Copyright James Rickards, 2014.


Putin – Mensch und Macht

March 23, 2014

von Tomas Spahn

Der Autor ist ein in Hamburg lebender Publizist und Politikwissenschaftler.

Psychogramm eines Straßenjungen

Als ich in den frühen Neunzigern erstmals einen humanitären Hilfskonvoi von Hamburg nach Sankt Petersburg begleitete, gab es für mich einiges zu lernen. Zu lernen darüber, wie Russen ticken – und wie man mit ihnen auskommen kann. Neben zahlreichen anderen Episoden ist mir das folgende Geschehen gut in Erinnerung geblieben.

Herzlichen Dank an Heiko Sakurai für die Bereitstellung der Karikatur.

Eine Episode aus Sankt Petersburg

Als wir nach langer Fahrt durch den nordischen Winter von Helsinki aus in Sankt Petersburg angekommen waren, gehörte es zu den ersten Aufgaben unseres Konvoiführers, sich nach dem Chef der örtlichen Stadtteilgang zu erkundigen. Denn Sankt Petersburg, so erfuhr ich, war aufgeteilt in Claims, die jeweils von Straßengangs aus überwiegend jüngeren Männern beherrscht wurden. Meistens endeten die einzelnen Hoheitsgebiete an natürlichen Hindernissen wie den zahlreichen Kanälen. Manche der Gangs beherrschten jedoch auch größere Stadtgebiete.

Diese Gangs zeichnete ein in wenigen Worten zusammengefasster Ehrenkodex aus. Alles, was sich in ihrem Hoheitsgebiet befand, konnte dort seinen alltäglichen Geschäften nachgehen, solange der Alleinvertretungs-anspruch der Gang anerkannt und sie für ihre Dienste angemessen bezahlt wurde. Es war ein Geschäft auf Gegenseitigkeit.

In unserem spezifischen Falle war der zu bezahlende Dienst ein recht einfacher: Unser aus drei Lastzügen und einem Kleinlaster bestehender Konvoi sollte im öffentlichen Straßenland geparkt werden können und sich an den nächsten Morgenden samt wertvoller Ladung jeweils noch im dem Zustand befinden, in dem er am Vorabend abgestellt worden war. Sich dazu an die örtliche Polizei zu wenden, wäre ein sinnloses Unterfangen gewesen. Denn diese wusste aufgrund jahrelanger, vertrauensvoller Zusammenarbeit genau, wer allein in dem System des gegenseitigen Gebens und Nehmens für derartige Garantien zuständig war.

Über die Hotelrezeption war die Kontaktaufnahme schnell zu organisieren, und nach einer friedlich-freundlichen Einigung über die Höhe der für die benötigte Sicherheitsleistung aufzubringenden Summe war das Geschäft unter Dach und Fach. Und es war gut getan. Denn nicht nur wurde uns ein Stellplatz angewiesen, der, wie man uns wissen ließ, sakrosankt – und damit auch ohne Aufpasser vor jedwedem Diebstahl sicher sei, auch fanden wir an den nächsten Tagen die Fahrzeuge tatsächlich in unberührtem Zustand, mit unbeschädigter Ladung und unentleerten Tanks wieder.

Anders erging es einem offenbar etwas unerfahrenen Hotelgast, der seinen leeren Sattelschlepper ohne Agreement mit der örtlichen Gang abgestellt hatte. Zwar konnte er sich glücklich schätzen, dass sein Fahrzeug am nächsten Morgen noch im Wesentlichen dort stand, wo er es unbedarft abgestellt hatte. Zur Wiederherstellung der Fahrtüchtigkeit bedurfte es allerdings der Einschaltung eines örtlichen Kfz-Mechanikers, der rein zufällig über all die Bremskabel und Utensilien verfügte, die dem Sattelschlepper über Nacht abhanden gekommen waren. Natürlich ließ sich dieser seine Leistung ebenso angemessen honorieren wie die unvermeidbare Auffüllung des über Nacht entleerten Tanks – schließlich waren entsprechende Zubehörteile westeuropäischen Kraftfahrzeugbaus ebenso wie sauberes, reines Diesel im Russland der frühen Neunziger nicht an jeder Straßenecke aufzutreiben …

Der Straßenjunge aus Leningrad

Ich erzähle das, weil sich daraus einiges lernen lässt über den starken Mann im Kreml. Wladimir Putin ist ein Kind dieser Stadt Sankt Petersburg, die zu seiner Jugend noch Leningrad hieß. Wobei es nicht wirklich auf die Stadt ankommt. Denn diese Strukturen fanden sich landesweit. Auch wäre die Vorstellung falsch, dieses Straßengang-Modell zeitlich auf die Phase nach dem Untergang der Sowjetunion verorten zu wollen. Es funktionierte bereits zuvor – und es funktioniert bis heute.

Putin ist mit diesem System, ist in diesem System aufgewachsen. Er kennt es und hat es sich zu Eigen gemacht – musste es sich zu Eigen machen, um nach oben zu kommen. Er wuchs auf in den kleinen, engen Höfen der armen Leute. Dort lernte er, sich im wahrsten Sinne des Wortes durchzuschlagen.

Heute ist er selbst der Chef einer Straßengang. Der mächtigsten Straßengang. Zumindest in Russland – vorerst.

Putins Straßengang ist das, was zu Sowjetzeiten unter der Bezeichnung KGB organisiert war. Der KGB war maßgeblich daran beteiligt, ihn zum Chef zu machen. Wenn die Chefs von Straßengangs so etwas haben wie eine Familie, dann ist Putins Familie der Geheimdienst.

Als Putin nach Moskau ging, hatte er das in Leningrad erlernte Modell ebenso mitgenommen wie die wichtigsten Freunde aus seiner Leningrader Gang. Denn er konnte und kann sich darauf verlassen, dass diese Freunde aus frühen Tagen niemals etwas gegen den ungekrönten König der Gang unternehmen werden.

Die im Westen eine Zeit lang gehegte Hoffnung, der smarte und so westlich wirkende Medwedjew könnte sich zum ernstzunehmenden Gegner Putins aufschwingen, war insofern tatsächlich niemals etwas anderes als Wunschdenken, das an den Wirklichkeiten Russlands meilenweit vorbei ging.

Denn die Straßengangs, die ein fester Bestandteil russischer Gegenwartskultur sind, funktionieren nach simplen Regeln.

Es kann nur eine(n) geben

Die erste Regel lautet: Wer immer der Boss ist, er hat das absolute Sagen. Wer gegen ihn aufmuckt, hat jeden existentiellen Anspruch verwirkt.

Die zweite Regel lautet: Innerhalb des beanspruchten Territoriums kann es nur eine Gang geben, die alles regelt und die über alles die Kontrolle hat. Gibt es jenseits des beanspruchten Gebietes eine weitere Gang, die sich als unüberwindbar erweist, muss man sich mit dieser arrangieren. Dabei gilt: Jedwede Vereinbarung ist nur so lange als bindend zu betrachten, wie die jeweils andere Seite ihre eigene Stärke aufrecht erhalten kann. Denn gleichzeitig gilt auch: Jede mögliche Schwäche der Konkurrenz, die grundsätzlich immer auch als Gegner wahrgenommen wird, ist auszunutzen, um den eigenen Gebietsanspruch zu erweitern.

Siegen oder untergehen

Daraus folgt die dritte Regel: Wer sich mit der Gang anlegt, ist zum Sieg gezwungen. Erringt er diesen nicht, wird er vernichtet. Im Zweifel auch physisch. Nicht nur Chodorkowski und Beresowski, deren Gangs sich den Leningradern nicht unterwerfen wollten, mussten dieses leidvoll erfahren.

Denkbar ist jedoch, sich aus mehr oder minder freien Stücken als schwächere Straßengang der mächtigeren anzuschließen. Was bedeutet, dass man sich deren Boss vorbehaltlos unterwirft. Und zu keinem Zeitpunkt eigene Ambitionen der Machtübernahme erkennen lässt.

Keine unkalkulierbaren Risiken

Neben diesen drei Grundregeln existiert auch eine ebenso ungeschriebene vierte, die mit Blick auf Putin nicht unbedeutend ist. Sie lautet: Bevor Du Dich mit einer konkurrierenden Bande anlegst, musst Du sicher sein, dass Du dabei weder Deine Position oder Dein eigenes Gebiet gefährdest noch Deine Einnahmequellen verlierst. Denn so martialisch die Gangsterbosse auftreten und wirken mögen – sie wissen sehr genau einzuschätzen, worauf ihre Macht basiert und dass sie die Kühe, die sie melken, in ihrer Herde halten müssen.

Die Bosse der Straßengangs sind keine Selbstmörder. Wobei sie im äußersten Falle auch nicht vor irrationalen Handlungen zurückschrecken. Das allerdings geschieht nur dann, wenn ihr ureigenstes Territorium verloren zu gehen droht. Bis dahin aber sind sie immer auch Spieler, die ihre Karten dann ausspielen, wenn ihnen dieses einen Nutzen zu bringen scheint. Und – wie jeder Spieler – sind sie begnadete Bluffer. Mit unbewegter Miene demonstrieren sie Stärke, die das Gegenüber gefügig machen soll.

Selten wurde dieses deutlicher als bei jener Szene des Jahres 2007, als Putin in seiner Sommerresidenz die ihn besuchende Angela Merkel mit seiner Labrador-Hündin konfrontierte. Er wusste ganz genau: Seitdem Merkel von einem Hund gebissen worden war, fürchtete sie sich vor diesen, bat vor jeder Reise den künftigen Gastgeber, Hunde von ihr fern zu halten.

So verunsichert ein Leningrader Straßenjunge nach Außen ungewollt und unbefangen sein Gegenüber, demonstriert Stärke und scheinbare Überlegenheit. Und doch ist es nichts anderes als ein wohl kalkulierter Bluff. Was tatsächlich hinter diesem Bluff steht – das wird selbstverständlich niemals und niemandem verraten – auch und gerade nicht der eigenen Gang. Denn der Boss der Straßengang lebt von seinem Nimbus der Überlegenheit. Büßt er diesen ein, kann es mit ihm schnell vorbei sein.

Sein Elixier sind Anerkennung und Unterwerfung. Damit ersetzt er Freundschaft, zu der er nicht fähig ist, weil er sie in sein Sozialisation nicht erfahren konnte.

Putins Straßengang beherrscht Eurasien

Putin, der Straßenjunge aus Leningrad, lebt diese Regeln. Nur ist sein Viertel nicht begrenzt von Newa und Fontanka, sondern von Eismeer und Pazifik, Schwarzem Meer und Ostsee. An den Methoden hat das nichts geändert. Wer seinen Schutz sucht, ihn anerkennt und bezahlt, der kann getrost sein Ding machen. Die meisten Oligarchen hatten das schnell begriffen. Wer nicht, der gehörte zur falschen Gang und wurde niedergemacht.

Wer in der Nachbarschaft eine schwächere Gang führt, darf sich ihm unterwerfen. Vorausgesetzt, er akzeptiert uneingeschränkt seinen Vormachtanspruch, bereitet ihm keine Probleme und funktioniert auf Anforderung. Der Weißrusse Lukaschenko spielt nach diesen Regeln. Der Ukrainer Yanukovych wollte nach diesen Regeln spielen – und versagte. So gönnte der oberste Bandenboss im Kreml ihm, dem Versager, als nützlichem Idioten noch einen letzten Auftritt und hält ihn als möglichen Kronzeugen im goldenen Käfig. Eine bedeutende Rolle allerdings wird er in der Gang nie wieder spielen.

Wer einmal zu seiner Gang gehört oder von ihm als zugehörig gedacht wird, hat keinerlei Recht, sich einer anderen zuzuwenden. Den Herrschaftsanspruch seiner Gang hat Putin mit der von ihm 2011 offiziell ins Leben gerufenen Eurasischen Union festgeschrieben.

Es war der Fehler der Ukrainer, sich diesem Anspruch nicht zu unterwerfen. Für den Leningrader Straßenjungen, der sich mit nackten Oberkörper in der Pose eines machtvollen Siegers gefällt weil sie für ihn sein Hochkämpfen aus den sozialen Niederrungen der Mehrfamilienwohnung an die Spitze der Macht dokumentiert, war der Abfall der Ukraine in mehrfacher Hinsicht ein Desaster.

Putin, der wie alle Straßenjungs nach der Anerkennung durch die anderen Gangs fiebert, ließ sich von seinen Schutzbefohlenen mit Olympia die Arena bauen, die ihm ganz persönlich die internationale Bedeutung und Achtung schenken sollte, die ihm, dem mächtigsten Straßenjungen aller Zeiten, in seinem Selbstverständnis zusteht.

Das Versagen des Vasallen

Der Maidan und Yanukovych verhagelten ihm diese Anerkennung. Und mehr. Denn sie stellten ihn selbst als Bandenboss infrage. Boss ist nur, wer die uneingeschränkte Macht hat. Nach dessen Pfeife alle tanzen. Die Ukrainer tanzten nicht. Nicht mehr.

Es kam zu der Situation, in der europäische Diplomaten den Kontakt zu ihm aufnahmen um eine Lösung für die Krise zu finden. Es war ein Signal, das der Bandenboss zu würdigen wusste, auch wenn ihm dessen Ursache alles andere als angenehm war. So war denn auch die Lösung nicht uneingeschränkt in seinem Sinne – aber sie garantierte ihm Gesichtswahrung. Und die Chance, seinen Einfluss auf das Gebiet des kleinen Bandenunterbosses Yanukovych zu sichern. Die Nicht-Anerkennung dieser Vereinbarung durch den Maidan empfand der Bandenboss im Kreml als Verrat. Die Unfähigkeit der westlichen Verhandler, den Kompromiss durchzusetzen, als eklatantes Versagen und Schwäche. Und so tat der Bandenboss das, was Bandenbosse tun, wenn sie sich nicht nur verraten und in ihrer Ehre bedroht sehen, sondern auch die Gefahr wittern, es könnten an ihrer Macht Zweifel aufkommen: Er demonstrierte Macht. Und er demonstrierte sie nicht unkalkuliert und orientierungslos, sondern mit dem festen Ziel, das bislang nur locker angebundene Gebiet in sein Territorium aufzunehmen.

Keine adäquate Antwort

Das aber – und dieses verkennen die westeuropäischen und amerikanischen Diplomaten, Regierungschefs, Politiker und Politikberater – macht ihn berechenbar.

Putin pokert. Er pokert mit hohem Einsatz. Er kann das tun, weil er in seiner Hand das bessere Blatt wähnt. Und weil er gelernt hat, dass die Chefs der gegnerischen Gangs zwar die Klappe groß aufreißen, aber eine höllische Angst vor einem blauen Auge haben. Bevor sie es auf einen Bandenkrieg ankommen lassen, werden sie unter Absingen böser Beschimpfungen den Schwanz einklemmen. So sind sie für ihn, den großen Bandenboss Putin, letztlich alles Schwätzer ohne Eier, kläffende Hunde ohne Rückgrat, bestenfalls Angstbeißer. Sie werden ihn in seiner Einschätzung auch diesmal nicht enttäuschen.

Dabei wäre es ganz einfach, wenn sich die große Diplomatie von ihrer verwissenschaftlichten Theorie und dem französisch geprägten Florett befreien und ebenfalls wie eine Straßengang denken würde. Denn da gilt: Nur wer konsequent auftritt, wird auch akzeptiert.

Hätte die NATO auf Bitten der neuen ukrainischen Regierung beispielsweise ein paar leichte Truppenteile in Kiew und Umgebung stationiert, hätte Putin sich zwar verbal echauffieren können – doch gleichzeitig hätte er gewusst: Auch diese Gang meint es ernst. Dann hätte man auf Augenhöhe verhandeln können. Ohne Putins ureigenstes Territorium zu bedrohen. Mit dem offiziellen Mandat der neuen ukrainischen Regierung, die eigenen Sicherheitskräfte zu unterstützen und insbesondere den Schutz der Minderheiten zu garantieren, hätte die NATO die Argumente des gegnerischen Bandenbosses übernehmen und ihm damit den Wind aus den Segeln nehmen können.

Kein Bandenboss zieht in den unkalkulierbaren Krieg

Putin wären die Hände gebunden gewesen – und er hätte sich jeden weiteren Schritt fein säuberlich überlegt. Denn ein Bandenchef mag gut im Bluffen und gut im Drohen sein. Er weiß, wann er welche Karte zu spielen hat. Er ist auch bereit, kräftig zuzuschlagen, wenn er es für unumgänglich erachtet. Er wird aber niemals so weit gehen, mit seinem Handeln sein mühevoll in Besitz genommenes Territorium – und damit sich selbst – zu riskieren. Er wird sein Imperium, wird seine großen und kleinen Gangs und jene Freunde, die ihm die finanzielle Basis seiner Macht garantieren, niemals zur Disposition stellen oder stellen lassen. Als Leningrader Straßenjunge weiß er: Solange der Kanal nicht überschritten wird, ist Friede. Und solange seine Anhänger in ihrem wirtschaftlichen Wirken nicht über Gebühr beeinträchtigt werden, wird keiner seine Position gefährden. Kein Bandenboss darf die Entlohungsbereitschaft seiner Schutzbefohlenen unbegrenzt überdehnen. Genau dieses aber hat Putin gerade getan, indem er seine Oligarchen zur Finanzierung seiner olympischen Putin-Spiele heranzog. Hier droht ihm am ehesten Widerstand, wenn die Kosten für Bluffen und Drohen zu hoch werden sollten.

Auch deshalb wird ein Bandenboss einen finalen Krieg grundsätzlich nur dann führen, wenn er entweder keinen wirkungsvollen Gegenschlag zu befürchten hat oder er sich in seiner Existenz bedroht sieht. Ein Bandenboss zieht nur dann in den Bandenkrieg, wenn seine Bande unzweifelhaft stärker ist. Das aber ist die Bande Putins nicht – zumindest noch nicht. Und nicht, wenn die NATO als für ihn gegnerische Straßengang geschlossen auftritt. Solange man sich ihm jedoch nur mit Worthülsen und wirkungslosen Drohungen in den Weg zu stellen sucht, wird er sein Territorium ungerührt vergrößern. Denn Bandenbosse sind auch in dieser Frage berechenbar wie die Führer von Wolfsrudeln. Eine unbewachte Schafherde ist ein willkommenes Opfer. Stehen dort aber gut gefütterte, kräftige Schäferhunde, sucht man sich lieber ein anderes Ziel. Das Risiko, sich bei einem Angriff unheilbare Verletzungen zuzuziehen, ist viel zu groß und lohnt nicht.

Ein Wolf – kein Bär

Putin ist Russe. Aber er ist kein unberechenbarer Bär. Er ist ein Bandenboss mit dem Instinkt eines Wolfes. Dennoch lässt sich die westliche Politik von diesem Bild des Bären, der im vermeintlichen Abwehrkampf zu allem bereit ist, leiten. Und zieht aus der irrationalen Angst vor einem atomaren Krieg knurrend den Schwanz ein vor einem Wolf, der sich wohl kalkuliert mit erhobenen Vorderläufen aufrichtet, um als unberechenbarer Bär wahrgenommen zu werden.

Dabei wäre es so einfach. Nicht denken wie ein französischer Diplomat des achtzehnten Jahrhunderts. Sondern denken wie ein Bandenboss. Und handeln wie ein Bandenboss. Dabei das Kernterritorium des Gegners nicht bedrohen, nicht in Frage stellen.

Der Westen braucht einen Selfmademan

Was der Westen heute bräuchte, wäre ein Selfmademan aus der Bronx mit dem Instinkt der Straße. Jemanden, der Putins Sprache spricht. Stattdessen hat er einen Rechtsanwalt aus Chicago, der nicht einmal weiß, ob man einem Bandenboss die Hand geben darf.

Doch – man darf. Man muss sogar. Aber man muss bei der Begrüßung kräftig zudrücken können, um ernst genommen zu werden.

Weil die Politiker im Westen und ihre zahllosen, verkopften Berater dieses nicht begreifen, haben sie diesen Konflikt bereits eskalieren lassen, als sie Putins Raid Over Georgia hinnahmen. Sie werden auch den Konflikt um die Krim verlieren. Und ebenso all jene, die noch kommen werden.

Denn auch das ist eine Grundregel russischer Straßenjungs: Ein Bandenboss gibt sich nie zufrieden, solange er die Chance sieht, lohnenden Gewinn zu machen.

Warum sollte er auch.

Die in HIRAM7 REVIEW veröffentlichten Essays und Kommentare geben nicht grundsätzlich den Standpunkt der Redaktion wieder.


Aftermaths of the Ukraine Coup d’État: The new cold war between Russia and the U.S.

February 23, 2014

An Op-Ed by Narcisse Caméléon, deputy editor-in-chief

“The main foundations of every state, new states as well as ancient or composite ones, are good laws and good arms. You cannot have good laws without good arms, and where there are good arms, good laws inevitably follow.” Niccolò Machiavelli

NATO EXPANSION

Putin will probably address the U.S. missile shield, saying Russia would have to respond militarily if the United States continues to deploy elements of the shield to Eastern European countries (especially Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, and now Ukraine).

In the past, Russia also accused NATO of building up naval forces in the Black Sea, though the United States cancelled plans to send a ship to the region.

The Black Sea is critical to Russian defense – the NATO does not have the ability to project power through land forces against Russia but has naval capacity to potentially limit Russian operations in the area. The best way to deal with Russia isn’t to attempt to isolate it, but to cooperate with it.

Anyway: the European people will likely pay the biggest price for the Coup d’État in Ukraine, as this conflict could lead to a civil war and to further instability in the continent.

Never touch a running system.

Let’s see what happens next.


China loses its allure

January 27, 2014

This week’s print edition of The Economist brings a worth reading story on China: life is getting harder for foreign companies there.

“According to the late Roberto Goizueta, a former boss of The Coca-Cola Company, April 15th 1981 was “one of the most important days…in the history of the world.” That date marked the opening of the first Coke bottling plant to be built in China since the Communist revolution.

The claim was over the top, but not absurd. Mao Zedong’s disastrous policies had left the economy in tatters. The height of popular aspiration was the “four things that go round”: bicycles, sewing machines, fans and watches. The welcome that Deng Xiaoping, China’s then leader, gave to foreign firms was part of a series of changes that turned China into one of the biggest and fastest-growing markets in the world.

For the past three decades, multinationals have poured in. After the financial crisis, many companies looked to China for salvation. Now it looks as though the gold rush may be over.”

Read full story.


Trade Deals Take Global Commerce Back to the Future

January 17, 2014

Edward Alden argues in an article for World Politics Review that the United States and European Union are reasserting their control over global trade rules after two decades of stalemate with developing countries.

After the negotiations that led to the creation of the WTO in 1995, developing country officials were determined to never again allow the U.S. and EU dictate the final terms of a global trade agreement. For the past two decades, until this month’s modest agreement in Bali, they have made good on that threat. But through ambitious regional deals, the U.S. and EU are reasserting control over global trade rules.

“Never again. That was the sentiment I remember hearing over and over from developing country officials following the tumultuous completion of the Uruguay Round negotiations in 1993 that led to the creation of the World Trade Organization (WTO) two years later. Once again, most of them believed, the United States and the European Union had dictated the final terms of a global trade agreement and forced it down the throats of the rest of the world. These countries were determined to have far more say in the shape of any future deals.

For the past two decades, until this month’s modest agreement in Bali to adopt new “trade facilitation” measures, the developing countries have made good on that threat. They have insisted that any new global trade agreement, such as that pursued unsuccessfully over the past decade through the Doha Round, pay special attention to their needs and priorities in areas like agriculture, manufacturing and intellectual property rules. Their united opposition has made it impossible to conclude another big global trade round on terms acceptable to the U.S. and EU.”

Read full story.


The Meaning of Israel: A Personal View

January 15, 2014

In light of the obsessive, hypocritical focus by several scholarly groups taking aim at Israel, not to mention the permanent chorus of Israel’s detractors both here and abroad, David Harris wants to offer a totally different view of the Jewish state. This is a time to stand up and speak out.

An op-ed by David Harris
Executive Director of the American Jewish Committee
The Jerusalem Post, January 15, 2014

Against the backdrop of recent efforts in some academic circles to vilify and isolate Israel, let me put my cards on the table right up front. I’m not dispassionate when it comes to Israel. Quite the contrary.

The establishment of the state in 1948; the fulfillment of its envisioned role as home and haven for Jews from around the world; its wholehearted embrace of democracy and the rule of law; and its impressive scientific, cultural, and economic achievements are accomplishments beyond my wildest imagination.

For centuries, Jews around the world prayed for a return to Zion. We are the lucky ones who have seen those prayers answered. I am grateful to witness this most extraordinary period in Jewish history and Jewish sovereignty.

And when one adds the key element, namely, that all this took place not in the Middle West but in the Middle East, where Israel’s neighbors determined from day one to destroy it through any means available to them—from full-scale wars to wars of attrition; from diplomatic isolation to international delegitimation; from primary to secondary to even tertiary economic boycotts; from terrorism to the spread of anti-Semitism, often thinly veiled as anti-Zionism—the story of Israel’s first 65 years becomes all the more remarkable.

No other country has faced such a constant challenge to its very right to exist, even though the age-old biblical, spiritual, and physical connection between the Jewish people and the Land of Israel is unique in the annals of history.

Indeed,  that connection is of a totally different character from the basis on which, say, the United States, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, or the bulk of Latin American countries were established, that is, by Europeans with no legitimate claim to those lands who decimated indigenous populations and proclaimed their own authority. Or, for that matter, North African countries that were conquered and occupied by Arab-Islamic invaders and totally redefined in their national character.

No other country has faced such overwhelming odds against its very survival, or experienced the same degree of never-ending international demonization by too many nations that throw integrity and morality to the wind, and slavishly follow the will of the energy-rich and more numerous Arab states.

Yet Israelis have never succumbed to a fortress mentality, never abandoned their deep yearning for peace with their neighbors or willingness to take unprecedented risks to achieve that peace, never lost their zest for life, and never flinched from their determination to build a vibrant, democratic state.

This story of nation-building is entirely without precedent.

 Here was a people brought to the brink of utter destruction by the genocidal policies of Nazi Germany and its allies. Here was a people shown to be utterly powerless to influence a largely indifferent world to stop, or even slow down, the Final Solution. And here was a people, numbering barely 600,000, living cheek-by-jowl with often hostile Arab neighbors, under unsympathetic British occupation, on a harsh soil with no significant natural resources other than human capital in then Mandatory Palestine.

That the blue-and-white flag of an independent Israel could be planted on this land, to which the Jewish people had been intimately linked since the time of Abraham, just three years after the Second World War’s end—and with the support of a decisive majority of UN members at the time—truly boggles the mind.

And what’s more, that this tiny community of Jews, including survivors of the Holocaust who had somehow made their way to Mandatory Palestine despite the British blockade, could successfully defend themselves against the onslaught of five Arab standing armies that launched their attack on Israel’s first day of existence, is almost beyond imagination.

To understand the essence of Israel’s meaning, it is enough to ask how the history of the Jewish people might have been different had there been a Jewish state in 1933, in 1938, or even in 1941. If Israel had controlled its borders and the right of entry instead of Britain, if Israel had had embassies and consulates throughout Europe, how many more Jews might have escaped and found sanctuary?

Instead, Jews had to rely on the goodwill of embassies and consulates of other countries and, with woefully few exceptions, they found there neither the “good” nor the “will” to assist.

I witnessed firsthand what Israeli embassies and consulates meant to Jews drawn by the pull of Zion or the push of hatred. I stood in the courtyard of the Israeli embassy in Moscow and saw thousands of Jews seeking a quick exit from a Soviet Union in the throes of cataclysmic change, fearful that the change might be in the direction of renewed chauvinism and anti-Semitism.

Awestruck, I watched up-close as Israel never faltered, not even for a moment, in transporting Soviet Jews to the Jewish homeland, even as Scud missiles launched from Iraq traumatized the nation in 1991. It says a lot about the conditions they were leaving behind that these Jews continued to board planes for Tel Aviv while missiles were exploding in Israeli population centers. In fact, on two occasions I sat in sealed rooms with Soviet Jewish families who had just arrived in Israel during these missile attacks. Not once did any of them question their decision to establish new lives in the Jewish state. And equally, it says a lot about Israel that, amid all the pressing security concerns, it managed to continue to welcome these new immigrants without missing a beat.

And how can I ever forget the surge of pride—Jewish  pride—that  completely enveloped me in July 1976 on hearing the astonishing news of Israel’s daring rescue of the 106 Jewish hostages held by Arab and German terrorists in Entebbe, Uganda, over 2,000 miles from Israel’s borders? The unmistakable message: Jews in danger will never again be alone, without hope, and totally dependent on others for their safety.

Not least, I can still remember, as if it were yesterday, my very first visit to Israel. It was in 1970, and I was not quite 21 years old.

I didn’t know what to expect, but I recall being quite emotional from the moment I boarded the El Al plane to the very first glimpse of the Israeli coastline from the plane’s window. As I disembarked, I surprised myself by wanting to kiss the ground. In the ensuing weeks, I marveled at everything I saw. To me, it was as if every apartment building, factory, school, orange grove, and Egged bus was nothing less than a miracle. A state, a Jewish state, was unfolding before my very eyes.

After centuries of persecutions, pogroms, exiles, ghettos, pales of settlement, inquisitions, blood libels, forced conversions, discriminatory legislation, and immigration restrictions—and, no less, after centuries of prayers, dreams, and yearning—the Jews had come back home and were  the masters of their own fate.

I was overwhelmed by the mix of people, backgrounds, languages, and lifestyles, and by the intensity of life itself. Everyone, it seemed, had a compelling story to tell. There were Holocaust survivors with harrowing tales of their years in the camps. There were Jews from Arab countries, whose stories of persecution in such countries as Iraq, Libya, and Syria were little known at the time. There were the first Jews arriving from the USSR seeking repatriation in the Jewish homeland. There were the sabras—native-born Israelis—many of whose families had lived in Palestine for generations. There were local Arabs, both Christian and Muslim. There were Druze, whose religious practices are kept secret from the outside world. The list goes on and on.

I was moved beyond words by the sight of Jerusalem and the fervor with which Jews of all backgrounds prayed at the Western Wall. Coming from a nation that was at the time deeply divided and demoralized, I found my Israeli peers to be unabashedly proud of their country, eager to serve in the military, and, in many cases, determined to volunteer for the most elite combat units. They felt personally involved in the enterprise of building a Jewish state, more than 1,800 years after the  Romans defeated the Bar Kochba revolt,  the last Jewish attempt at sovereignty on this very land.

To be sure, nation-building is an infinitely complex process. In Israel’s case,  it began against a backdrop of tensions with a local Arab population that laid claim to the very same land, and tragically refused a UN proposal to divide the land into Arab and Jewish states; as the Arab world sought to isolate, demoralize, and ultimately destroy the state; as Israel’s population doubled in the first three years of the country’s existence, putting an unimaginable strain on severely limited resources; as the nation was forced to devote a vast portion of its limited national budget to defense expenditures; and as the country coped with forging a national identity and social consensus among a population that could not have been more geographically, linguistically, socially, and culturally heterogeneous.

Moreover, there is the tricky and underappreciated issue of the potential clash between the messy realities of statehood and, in this case, the ideals and faith of a people. It is one thing for a people to live their religion as a minority; it is quite another to exercise sovereignty as the majority population while remaining true to one’s ethical standards. Inevitably, tension will arise between a people’s spiritual or moral self-definition and the exigencies of statecraft, between our highest concepts of human nature and the daily realities of individuals in decision-making positions wielding power and balancing a variety of competing interests.

Even so, shall we raise the bar so high as to ensure that Israel—forced to function in the often gritty, morally ambiguous world of international relations and politics, especially as a small, still endangered state—will always fall short?

Yet, the notion that Israel would ever become ethically indistinguishable from any other country, reflexively seeking cover behind the convenient justification of realpolitik to explain its behavior, is equally unacceptable.

Israelis, with only 65 years of statehood under their belts, are among the newer practitioners of statecraft. With all its remarkable success, consider the daunting political, social, and economic challenges in the United States 65 or even 165 years after independence, or, for that matter, the challenges it faces today, including stubborn social inequalities. And let’s not forget that the United States, unlike Israel, is a vast country blessed with abundant natural resources, oceans on two-and-a half sides, a gentle neighbor to the north, and a weaker neighbor to the south.

Like any vibrant democracy, America is a permanent work in progress. The same holds true for Israel. Loving Israel as I do, though, doesn’t mean overlooking its shortcomings, including the excessive and unholy intrusion of religion into politics, the marginalization of non-Orthodox Jewish religious streams, the dangers posed by political and religious zealots, and the unfinished, if undeniably complex, task of integrating Israeli Arabs into the mainstream.

But it also doesn’t mean allowing such issues to overshadow Israel’s remarkable achievements, accomplished, as I’ve said, under the most difficult of circumstances.

In just 65 years, Israel has built a thriving democracy, unique in the region, including a Supreme Court prepared, when it deems appropriate, to overrule the prime minister or the military establishment, a feisty parliament that includes every imaginable viewpoint along the political spectrum, a robust civil society, and a vigorous press.

It has built an economy whose per capita GNP exceeds the combined total of its four contiguous sovereign neighbors—Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria.

It has built universities and research centers that have contributed to advancing the world’s frontiers of knowledge in countless ways, and won a slew of Nobel Prizes in the process.

It has built one of the world’s most powerful militaries—always under civilian control, I might add—to ensure its survival in a rough-and-tumble neighborhood. It has shown the world how a tiny nation, no larger than New Jersey or Wales, can, by sheer ingenuity, will, courage, and commitment, defend itself against those who would destroy it through conventional armies or armies of suicide bombers. And it has done all this while striving to adhere to a strict code of military conduct that has few rivals in the democratic world, much less elsewhere—in the face of an enemy prepared to send children to the front lines and seek cover in mosques, schools, and hospitals.

It has built a quality of life that ranks it among the world’s healthiest nations and with a particularly high life expectancy, indeed higher than that of the U.S.

It has built a thriving culture, whose musicians, writers, and artists are admired far beyond Israel’s borders. In doing so, it has lovingly taken an ancient language, Hebrew, the language of the prophets, and rendered it modern to accommodate the vocabulary of the contemporary world.

It has built a climate of respect for other faith groups, including Baha’i, Christianity and Islam, and their places of worship. Can any other nation in the area make the same claim?

It has built an agricultural sector that has had much to teach developing nations about turning an arid soil into fields of fruits, vegetables, cotton, and flowers.

Step back from the twists and turns of the daily information overload coming from the Middle East and consider the sweep of the last 65 years. Look at the light-years traveled since the darkness of the Holocaust, and marvel at the miracle of a decimated people returning to a tiny sliver of land—the land of our ancestors, the land of Zion and Jerusalem—and successfully building a modern, vibrant state against all the odds, on that ancient foundation.

In the final analysis, then, the story of Israel is the wondrous realization of a 3,500-year link among a land, a faith, a language, a people, and a vision. It is an unparalleled story of tenacity and determination, of courage and renewal.

And it is ultimately a metaphor for the triumph of enduring hope over the temptation of despair.


Von Winnetou zu Obama – Die Deutschen und der edle Wilde

January 11, 2014

von Tomas Spahn

Der Autor ist ein in Hamburg lebender Publizist und Politikwissenschaftler.

Ein roter Held

Winnetou ist ein Idol meiner Kindheit. Er stand für all das, was wir als Kinder sein wollten. Und vielleicht auch sein sollten.

Winnetou war ein Held. Nicht so einer von diesen Deppen, die laut schreiend in der ersten Reihe der Kriegsmaschinerie auf den Feind losrennen, um dann aufgebahrt und mit Orden versehen zwecks Beerdigung zu den Angehörigen zurück geschickt zu werden. Nein, ein echter Held. Obgleich – ganz zum Schluss … nein. Auch da bleibt Winnetou ein wahrer Held. Nicht einer, der sich mit Hurra für irgendeine imaginäre Idee wie Volk und Vaterland opfert, sondern einer, der mit Bedacht sein eigenes Leben für andere einsetzt, wohl ahnend, dass er es verlieren wird.

Dieser Tod eines wahren Helden aber ist es nicht allein.

Winnetou ist zuverlässig und pünktlich. Er verpasst keine Verabredung, und ist er doch  dazu gezwungen, so lässt er seinen Partner die alternativlosen Gründe wissen und gibt ihm Mitteilung, wann und wo das Treffen nachgeholt werden kann.

Winnetou ist uneingeschränkt ehrlich. Niemals würde er jemanden betrügen. Das ist einfach unter seiner Würde.

Winnetou ist gerecht. Niemals würde er gegen jemanden etwas unternehmen, der nichts gegen ihn unternommen hat.

Winnetou ist edelmütig. Er vergibt seinem Feind, selbst wenn dieser ihm das Leben nehmen wollte.

Winnetou ist altruistisch. Er opfert am Ende alles, was er hat, für andere. Ungerechtfertigt Böses tun – das kann Winnetou  nicht.

Winnetou ist nicht rassistisch. Er hilft jedem, der der Hilfe bedarf, unabhängig von dessen Rasse. Sogar dem Neger, der doch, wie Winnetous Erfinder Karl May nicht müde wird zu erwähnen, aus Sicht der Rasse des Winnetou weit unter diesem steht.

Und damit kommen wir zu dem, was Winnetou nicht ist.

Winnetou ist kein Weißer. Er ist ein Roter. Oder besser: Mitglied der indianischen Rasse, die, wie May betont, gleichsam gottgewollt zum Aussterben verdammt ist. Seine indianische Abstammung macht Winnetou unterscheidbar und es liefert eine Grundlage dafür, Menschen aufgrund ihrer Rasse in Schubladen zu stecken. May topft ihn zur Tarnung um, als Winnetou mit ihm Nordafrika bereist. Aus dem Athapasken, dem Apachen, wird ein Somali. Wohl bemerkt: Ein Somali – kein Neger. Denn offenbar sind Somali für May keine Schwarzen. Zumindest sind sie für ihn keine „Neger“.

Winnetou ist nicht zivilisiert. Er ist das, was man in der zweiten Hälfte des neunzehnten Jahrhunderts – und darüber hinaus – unter einem Wilden verstand. Oder besser: Winnetou war als Wilder geboren worden. Und als Indianer blieb er es bis zu seinem Tode. Nicht aber als Mensch.

Winnetou wohnt nicht in Städten. Obgleich der Pueblo-Bau, den May irrtümlich als seinen Heimatort vorstellt – denn die Apachen waren keine Pueblo-Indianer – eine städtische Struktur bereits erahnen lässt.

Winnetou geht keiner geregelten Arbeit nach. Er ist der Häuptling seines spezifischen Apachenstammes der Mescalero – und er wird von fast allen Stämmen der Apachen als ihr ideelles Oberhaupt anerkannt, was ebenfalls an der Wirklichkeit vorbei geht, da die südlichen Athapasken durchaus einander feindlich gesinnte Gruppen bildeten. Betrachtet man im Sinne Mays die Apachen als eine Nation, so ist Winnetou ein indianischer Kaiser. Entsprechend edel und rein ist sein Charakter – obgleich Karl May damit an der Wirklichkeit europäischer Kaiser meilenweit vorbeiläuft. Aber das steht auf einem anderen Blatt.

Winnetou zieht durch seine Welt, um Gutes zu tun. Da ist er ein wenig wie Jesus. Auch wenn er keine Wunder tut, so ist er doch alles in allem wunder-voll. In einem Satz:

Winnetou ist genau das, als was er in die Literatur eingehen sollte und eingegangen ist: Das Idealbild des Edlen Wilden. Oder?

Zwischen Romantik und Gründerzeit

Werfen wir einen Blick auf Winnetous Schöpfer, den Sachsen Karl May. Nur selten hat Deutschland einen derart phantasiebegabten Schriftsteller wie ihn hervorgebracht. Und jemanden, der so wie er selbst zu einer der Figuren wurde, die er in seinen Romanen beschrieb.

May war ein Kind seiner Zeit. Er war ein Romantiker, dessen kleine Biedermeierwelt über Nacht in das globale Weltgeschehen geschubst worden war. Seine gedankliche Reise in die scheinbare Realität fremder Länder ist dabei eher Schein als Sein. Er verarbeitete die neue Welt in seinen Romanen, immer auf der Suche nach dem Weg aus dem Biedermeier in eine neue Zeit, ohne dabei die Ideale seiner romantischen Introvertiertheit aufgeben zu wollen, aufgeben zu können.

May war obrigkeitsgläubig – und doch war er es nur so lange, wie die Obrigkeit das Richtige tat. Richtig war für May das, was aus seiner Interpretation des Christentums heraus Gottes Willen entsprach. Die Überzeugung, dass ein höheres Wesen die Geschicke der Welt lenke, ist unverrückbar mit May verknüpft. Aus diesem Glauben heraus muss das Gute immer siegen und das Böse immer verlieren, denn wäre es anders, hätte Mays Gott versagt. Das aber kann ein Gott nicht. Doch Mays Gott gibt dem Menschen Spielraum. Mays Gottesglaube ist nicht der an ein unverrückbares Schicksal. Der Mensch hat es selbst in der Hand, seine persönliche Nähe zu dem einen Gott zu gestalten. An dessen endgültigen Sieg über das Böse aber lässt May nie auch nur den Hauch eines Zweifels aufkommen.

Was für die mystische Welt des Glaubens gilt, gilt für May auch für die Politik. May war kaisertreu und undemokratisch. May macht dieses nicht an den Großen der Welt fest. Es ist sein Old Shatterhand oder sein Kara ben Nemsi, der undemokratisch agiert. Demokratie behindert seine Hauptakteure, behindert ihn in der Entscheidungsfindung. In den wenigen Fällen, in denen demokratische Mehrheitsentscheide die Position des Romanhelden überstimmen, endet dieses regelmäßig in einer Katastrophe. Dennoch war May nicht im eigentlichen Sinne totalitär, eher patriarchalisch. Er zwang niemanden, sich seinem Urteil zu unterwerfen, stellte allerdings gleichzeitig fest, dass er mit jenen, die dieses nicht taten, nichts mehr zu tun haben wolle, weil sie das Richtige nicht erkennten. Es ist in gewisser Weise ein alttestamentarischer Ansatz, den May vertritt. Die von der Natur – und damit von Gott – eingesetzte Führungsperson tut allein schon deshalb das Richtige, weil sie auf Gottes Wegen schreitet. Und weil dieses so ist, ist es selbstverständlich, dass alle anderen Vernünftigen dieser Führungsperson folgen. Auf die Unvernünftigen kann man dann gern verzichten.

May war nicht nur ein Großdeutscher – er war ein Gesamtdeutscher. Das war nicht selbstverständlich zu seiner Zeit, als das Zusammenbringen der Deutschen Kleinstaaten unter dem Preußischen König als Kaiser keine zwanzig Jahre zurück lag. Es war noch weniger selbstverständlich für einen Sachsen, dessen lebenslustiges Kleinreich immer wieder Opfer der asketischen Nachbarn im Norden geworden war. Doch May stand hier fest und unverrückbar in der Tradition der pangermanistischen Burschenschaften: „Von der Maaß bis an die Memel, von der Etsch bis an den Belt …”

May war auch Europäer. Trotz des noch nicht lange zurückliegenden Französisch-Preußischen Krieges, aus dem ein Kleindeutsch-Französischer wurde, stehen ihm von allen Europäern die Franzosen am nächsten. Dänen und Holländer gehören dagegen fast schon automatisch zur germanischen Familie. Und die Österreicher sowieso.

Insofern wird man May vielleicht am ehesten gerecht, wenn man ihn als Gemanopäer bezeichnet. Geschichtlich bewandert ging er davon aus, dass zumindest die westeuropäischen Völker sämtlichst germanischen Ursprungs waren, auch wenn bei den Südeuropäern der römische Einfluss unverkennbar blieb. Das einte.

May war kein Rassist. Zumindest nicht in dem Sinne, wie wir diesen Begriff heute verstehen. Und dennoch war er alles andere als frei von Rassevorurteilen. Wenn er das Bild des Negers aus der Sicht des Indianers zeichnet, dann zeichnet er damit auch sein eigenes. Für May ist der Bewohner Afrikas in gewisser Weise eine Art des menschlichen Urtypus. Ungebildet, unzivilisiert. Aber unzweifelhaft ein Mensch – keine Sache, die man zum Sklaven machen darf. Mays Neger kann mit Hilfe des zivilisierten Weißen in die Lage versetzt werden, zumindest Anschluss zu finden. Wenn er auch nie in der Lage sein wird, intellektuell an die Fähigkeiten des Weißen heranzureichen. Deswegen sprechen die Schwarzen, die bei Karl May auftreten, grundsätzlich ein Art Stammeldeutsch. Es hat etwas von Babysprache – und es charakterisiert damit gleichzeitig den May’schen Genotyp des Negers: Ausgestattet mit einen hohen Maß an emotionaler Wärme, aber unselbstständig und der permanenten Anleitung bedürftig. Gleichwohl anerkennt er – fast schon ungläubig – den militärischen Erfolg der südostafrikanischen Zulu.

Das ist bei dem Indianer anders. Als Leser spürt man den Unterschied zwischen roter und schwarzer Rasse ständig. Auch Mays Indianer bedürfen der lenkenden Führung durch den weißen Mann. Auch Mays Indianer sprechen eine Art Stammeldeutsch – aber es ist ein literarisches Stammeldeutsch. Anders als der Schwarze hat der Indianer das Potential, dem Weißen ebenbürtig zu werden. May erkennt, ohne dieses jemals explizit zuzugeben, dass der vorgebliche Wilde Amerikas eigentlich genau dieses nicht ist: Ein Wilder.

May anerkennt eine eigenständige, indianische Kultur, die nur des deutschen Einflusses bedarf, um sich auf die gleiche Stufe mit dem Deutschen zu erheben. Unterschwellig schwingt dabei immer das Bedauern mit, dass Deutschland viel zu spät seine weltrettende Mission entdeckt habe. Wären es Deutsche gewesen und nicht Angelsachsen, die den Norden Amerikas besiedelten – was hätte aus den Wilden werden können. Denn anders als Mays Neger sind seine Indianer eben nicht zivilisationslos.

Vom Romantiker zum Zivilisationskritiker

May selbst wird von Roman zu Roman mehr zum Zivilisationskritiker. Er, dessen Geschichten zwischen 1870 und 1910 entstanden, erkennt den brutalen Gegensatz zwischen den kommerziellen Interessen der angelsächsisch geprägten Yankees und den naturverbundenen, akapitalistischen Indianern, die für ihn immer weniger Wilde sind, sondern eine von unehrenhaften Interessen weißer Raubritter in ihrer Existenz bedrohte, eigene Zivilisation.

Den Wandel, den May in seinem Verhältnis zum Wilden Nordamerikas – und ausschließlich zu diesem – durchlebt, durchlebt auch seine Romanfigur. Zwei Deutsche sind es, die aus dem Naturkind Winnetou einen edlen Wilden formen – der 1848-Altrevolutionär Klekih-Petra und Mays romantisches Ich selbst. Bald schon ist Winnetou nur noch pro forma ein Wilder. Tatsächlich ist sein Verhalten in vielem deutlich zivilisierter als das der mit ihm konkurrierenden Weißen – zumindest soweit diese angelsächsischen Ursprungs sind. Und eigentlich ist Winnetou am Ende nicht einmal mehr ein Vertreter seiner „roten” Rasse. Er stirbt bei dem erfolgreichen Versuch, seine deutschen Freunde zu retten. Im Todeskampf singt ihm ein deutscher Chor ein letztes Lied, geleitet ihn in die Ewigkeit, die er, der einstmals Wilde, nun wie ein guter Deutscher als Christ betritt. „Schar-lih, ich glaube an den Heiland. Winnetou ist ein Christ.“ So lautet der letzte Satz, den der Sterbende spricht. May rettet seinen erdachten Blutsbruder so nicht nur für die Deutschen, er rettet ihn auch für das göttliche Himmelsreich. Winnetou, so diese letzte Botschaft seines Schöpfers, ist einer von uns. Er ist ein Deutscher. Ein guter Deutscher, denn er ist ein Christ. Ein edler Deutscher, denn er ist ein wahrer Christ. Er ist ein solcher Deutscher, wie ein Deutscher in Mays Idealbild eigentlich sein sollte.

Insofern ist jeder, der May dumpfen Rassismus vorwirft, auf dem Holzwege. Mag er in seinem Bild des Afrikaners von der zeitgenössisch vorherrschenden Auffassung des Negers als unterrichtungsbedürftigem Kind geprägt sein, mag seine konfessionell begründete Abneigung gegen Vertreter der Ostkirchen mehr noch als gegen Vertreter des Islam unverkennbar sein und mag er der Vorstellung seiner Zeit folgen, wonach die weiße Rasse von der Natur – und damit von Gott – dazu ausersehen sei, die Welt zu führen – mit der Figur des Winnetou öffnet er dem Wilden den Weg, zu einem Zivilisierten, zu einem Deutschen, zu werden. Vielleicht sogar etwas zu sein, das besser ist als ein Deutscher.

Trotzdem und gerade weil er in seinem inneren Kern nun ein Deutscher ist, bleibt Winnetou, diese wunderbare und idealisierte Schöpfung eines Übermenschen, im Bewusstsein seiner Leser die Inkarnation des edlen Wilden. Und sie verändert den Leser dabei selbst. Denn in dem zivilisierten Kind, dem angepassten Erwachsenen, entfaltet dieser edle Wilde eine eigene Wirkung. Wer in sich Gutes spürt, der wird den Versuch unternehmen, immer auch ein wenig wie Winnetou zu sein. Es ist diese gedachte Mischung aus unangepasster Ursprünglichkeit und geistig-kultureller Überlegenheit, aus instinktivem Gerechtigkeitsgefühl und dem charakterlichen Edelmut der gebildeten Stände, die ihre Faszination entfaltet. Sie machen den eigentlichen Kern des Winnetou aus.

Der wilde Deutsche und der deutsche Wilde

Indem May ab 1890 diese enge Verbundenheit zwischen dem Wilden aus dem Westen der USA nicht mit den Weißen, sondern mit den Deutschen herauskristallisiert und im wahrsten Sinne des Wortes romantisiert, stellt er unterschwellig fest: Wir sind uns ähnlicher, als wir glauben. Ohne explizit England-feindlich zu sein, verdammt May so auch die imperialistische Landnahme aus kommerziellen Interessen, verurteilt den englischen Expansionismus, indem er ihn zu einer Grundeigenschaft der europäischen Nordamerikaner macht.

In gewisser Weise wird so auch der Einstieg des den jungen May darstellenden Old Shatterhand zu einer Allegorie. Als Kind der europäischen Zivilisation hat er kein Problem damit, im Auftrag der Landdiebe tätig zu werden, die eine transkontinentale Bahnverbindung durch das Apachenland führen wollen. Das historische Vorbild wird May in der ab 1880 geplanten Southern Pacific Verbindung gefunden haben. Erst Stück für Stück wird dem Romanhelden das Verbrecherische seiner Tat bewusst – in der Konfrontation mit jenen Wilden, deren Land geraubt werden soll und geraubt werden wird und die sich dennoch schon hier als die edleren Menschen erweisen, indem sie ihrem dann weißen Bruder die Genehmigung geben, die Ergebnisse seiner Arbeit, die ausschließlich dem Ziel dienen, sie, die rechtlosen Wilden, zu bedrängen, an die Landdiebe zu verkaufen und damit seinen Vertrag zu erfüllen.

Um wie viel einfacher wäre es gewesen, Scharlih, wie sich May von seinen erdachten Brüdern nennen lässt, das Gold zu geben, das den Ausfall der Entlohnung hätte ersetzen können. Doch auch hier bleibt der Hochstapler May ein guter Deutscher: pacta sunt servanda.

Gleichwohl manifestiert sich hier der Bruch des Schriftstellers zwischen der deutschen Kultur und der angelsächsischen. Wir, die Deutschen, sind keine Imperialisten. Wir, die Deutschen, sind nicht die Räuber. Wir sind vielmehr jene, die den Wilden dabei helfen, so zu werden wie wir bereits sind. Das ist in einer Zeit, die geprägt war vom Bewusstsein der absoluten Überlegenheit der weißen Rasse, fast schon revolutionär. Und es war gleichzeitig reaktionär, weil es dennoch die Unterlegenheit der Kulturen der Wilden als selbstverständlich voraussetzte. Darüber hinaus liefert May eine perfekte Begründung des einsetzenden deutschen Kolonialismus.

Nicht Gewinnstreben ist des Deutschen Ziel in der Welt der Landräuber, sondern Zivilisationsvermittlung. Wir, diese Deutschen, gehen nicht in die Welt, um Land zu stehlen oder Menschen zu unterwerfen – unsere Ziele sind hehr, und wenn wir auf andere Völker treffen, dann ist es unser Ziel, sie auf die gleiche Ebene der Kultur zu heben, über die wir selbst verfügen. In gewisser Weise entspricht dieses dem Weltbild, das Mays Kaiser am 2. Juli 1900 seinem Expeditionsheer mit auf den Weg nach China gibt: „Ihr habt gute Kameradschaft zu halten mit allen Truppen, mit denen ihr dort zusammenkommt. … wer es auch sei, sie fechten alle für die eine Sache, für die Zivilisation.“ Wilhelm II. war bereit, für diese Zivilisation auch den Massenmord zu befehlen. Das unterschied ihn vom gereiften May.

Den Umgang des belgischen Königs Leopold 2 mit „seinem” Kongo muss May – sollte er um ihn gewusst haben – ebenso zutiefst verurteilt haben, wie ihm die Versklavung der „armen Neger” durch die Araber und die Türken ein Gräuel war. Spätestens der Völkermord an den Herero im deutschen Südwestafrika, der eine erschreckende Ähnlichkeit mit dem einzigen Massenmord des Winnetou im zweiten Teil der Winnetou-Trilogie aufweist, widersprach diesem Ideal eklatant. May selbst äußerte sich dazu nicht mehr  – vielleicht auch deshalb, weil er selbst dieser Welt schon zu entrückt war. Seine einzige Geschichte, die im Süden Afrikas spielt, fällt als Ich-Erzählung des 1842 in Radebeul geborenen Schriftstellers in die späten 1830er Jahre. Seinen letzten Roman hatte May 1910 veröffentlicht – seit 1900 waren seine Erzählungen nicht mehr wirklich von dieser Welt.

Doch das Bild des Edlen Wilden sollte sich dank May unverrückbar im kollektiven deutschen Unterbewusstsein verankern. Es war seitdem immer fest mit dem nordamerikanischen „Wilden“ verknüpft und bot einer Verklärung Vorschub, die manchmal fast schon pseudoreligiösen Charakter annahm. Winnetou blieb unserem Bewusstsein erhalten. Sollte er jemals in die Gefahr geraten sein, vergessen zu werden, so holten ihn die zahllosen B-Movies, die mit einer Titelfigur seines Namens in Annäherung an manchen Inhalt des Karl May in den sechziger Jahren des zwanzigsten Jahrhunderts produziert wurden, zurück in seine rund achtzig Jahre zuvor gedachte Rolle. Zwanzig Jahre nach Kriegsende, nach dieser vernichtenden Niederlage der Deutschen gegen das Angelsächsische, gab dieser Winnetou den moralisch zerstörten Deutschen erneut das Bild einer moralischen Instanz – und auch hier wieder ist der Edle Wilde am Ende mehr der edle Deutsche als der Amerikaner. Was Karl May nicht einmal erahnen konnte – nach der Fast-Vernichtung des Deutschen wurde sein Romanheld derjenige, der unverfänglich weil eben in seiner Herkunft nicht Deutsch die deutschen Tugenden aufgreifen und repräsentieren konnte. Die Tatsache, dass die Filmfigur von einem Franzosen gespielt wurde, unterstrich die Unangreifbarkeit des Deutschen in dieser Figur des Edlen Wilden.

Das Bild vom guten Amerikaner

Winnetou und mit ihm May prägte erneut das Bild einer Generation von dem edlen Uramerikaner, indem er diesen zum eigentlichen Träger deutscher Primärtugenden verklärte. War auch der Yankee in den sechziger Jahren noch derjenige, der, je nach Sichtweise, Deutschland von Hitler befreit oder entscheidend zur Niederlage Deutschlands beigetragen hatte – wobei das eine wie das andere nicht voneinander zu trennen war  – so war der von den Yankees bedrängte Wilde doch das eigentliche Opfer eben dieses Yankee, der immer weniger das Wohl des anderen als vielmehr das eigene im Auge hatte. Unbewusst schlich sich so in die Winnetou-Filme auch eine unterschwellige Kritik am Yankee-Kapitalismus ein, ohne dass man sie deswegen als anti-amerikanisch hätte bezeichnen können. Ob in den Romanen oder in den nachempfundenen Filmen gilt: Die wirklich Bösen, die moralisch Verwerflichen sind niemals Deutsche. Sind es nicht ohnehin schon durch und durch verderbte Kreaturen, deren konkrete Nationalität keine Rolle spielt, so sind es skrupellose Geschäftsleute mit unzweifelhaftem Yankee-Charakter. Vielleicht war dieses auch ein ausschlaggebender Grund, weshalb die DDR-Führung, die mit dem kaisertreuen Sachsen wenig anzufangen wusste, darauf verzichtete, seine Bücher aus den Regalen zu verbannen.

Im Westen Deutschlands verklärte der Blick auf die vor der Tür stehende imperialistische Sowjetarmee das Bild des Amerikaners. War die Deutsch-Sowjetische Freundschaft in den mitteldeutschen Ländern eine staatliche Order, die kaum gelebt wurde, so wurde die deutsch-amerikanische Freundschaft im Westen zu einer gelebten Wirklichkeit. Ähnlich wie schon zu Mays Zeiten zeichnete sich der Deutsche einmal mehr durch ein gerüttelt Maß an Naivität aus. Er verwechselte Interessengemeinschaft zwischen Staaten mit Freundschaft zwischen Völkern.

Uncle Sam, der schon auf seinem Rekrutierungsplakat aus dem Ersten Weltkrieg Menschen fing, um sie für ihr Land in den Tod zu schicken, wurde im Bewusstsein der Nachkriegsdeutschen/West nicht zuletzt dank Marshall-Plan zum altruistischen Onkel Sam aus Amerika.

Das verklärte Bild des US-Amerikaners Winnetou, dieses Edlen Wilden, der so viele erwünschte deutsche Eigenschaften in sich trug, mag dieser Idealisierung Vorschub geleistet haben. Die Tatsache, dass bei der US-amerikanischen Nachkriegspolitik selbstverständlich immer US-Interessen den entscheidenden Ausschlag gaben, wurde von den Deutschen/West gezielt verdrängt. In der ihnen eigenen Gemütlichkeit, für das die angelsächsische Sprache kein Pendant kennt, verklärten sie den früheren Kriegsgegner erst zum Retter und dann zum Freund. Doch die Verklärung sollte Risse bekommen. Und der Entscheidende entstand in jenen sechziger Jahren, die auch die Wiederauferstehung des Winnetou feierten.

Mochte die deutsche Volksseele den US-amerikanischen Kampf in Vietnam anfangs noch als Rettungsaktion vor feindlicher Diktatur gesehen haben – die unmittelbare Position an einer der zu erwartenden Hauptkampflinien zwischen den Systemen vermochte diese Auffassung ebenso zu befördern wie der immer noch im Hinterkopf steckende zivilisatorische Anspruch an Kolonisierung – so wurde, je länger der Krieg dauerte, desto deutlicher, dass es nicht nur hehre Ziele waren, die die USA bewegten, sich in Vietnam zu engagieren. Das Bild vom lieben Onkel Sam aus Amerika bekam Flecken. Mehr und mehr erinnerte das US-amerikanische Vorgehen gegen die unterbewaffneten Dschungelkämpfer der Vietkong und Massaker wie das von MyLai an die Einsätze der US-Kavallerie gegen zahlenmäßig und waffentechnisch unterlegene Stämme der indigenen Amerikaner. Die indianischen Aktionen, die 1973 das Massaker von Wounded Knee in Erinnerung brachten, taten ein weiteres, um die unrühmliche Geschichte der Kolonisierung des Westens der USA in Erinnerung zu rufen.

Sahen sich die deutschen Konservativen fest an der Seite ihrer transatlantischen Freunde im globalen Kampf des Guten gegen das Böse, so verklärte die Linke den Dschungelkämpfer zu edlen Wilden, die sich mit dem Mut der Verzweiflung gegen die Kolonialismuskrake des Weltkapitalismus zur Wehr setzte. Idealbildern, die mit der Wirklichkeit wenig zu tun hatten, folgten beide.

Zu einem tiefen Graben sollte dieser in Vietnam entstandene Riss werden, als mit Bush 2 die Marionette des Yankee-Kapitalismus in einen Krieg ums Öl zog. Hier nun war es wieder, das Bild des ausschließlich auf seinen Profit bedachten Yankee – das Bild des hässlichen Amerikaners, der den Idealen des guten Deutschen so fern stand, dass in den Augen der Deutschen der von ihm bedrängte Wilde allemal der wertvollere Mensch war. In diese Situation, die ein fast schon klassisches Karl-May-Bild zeichnete, platzte 2009 die Wahl des Barack Obama als 44. Präsident der Vereinigten Staaten.

Vom Mulatten zum Messias

Dieser im traditionellen Sinne als Mulatte zu bezeichnende Mann, dessen schwarzafrikanischer Vater aus Kenia und dessen Mutter als klassisch amerikanische Nachkommin von Iren, Engländern und Deutschen aus dem kleinstbürgerlich geprägten Kernland der USA stammte, entfachte bei den Deutschen etwas, das ich als positivistischen Rassismus bezeichnen möchte. Allen voran der Anchorman der wichtigsten öffentlich-rechtlichen Newsshow wurde nicht müde, diesen „ersten farbigen Präsidenten der USA” in den höchsten Tönen zu feiern. Wie sehr er und mit ihm alle, die in das gleiche Horn stießen, ihren tief in ihnen verankerten Rassismus auslebten, wurde ihnen nie bewusst. Denn tatsächlich ist die Reduzierung des Mulatten, der ebenso weiß wie schwarz ist, auf seinen schwarzen Teil nichts anderes als eine gedankliche Fortsetzung nationalsozialistischer Rassegesetze. Der Deutsche, dessen Eltern zur Hälfte arisch und zur anderen Hälfte semitisch – oder eben zur einen Hälfte deutsch und zur anderen Hälfte jüdisch – waren, wurde auf seinen jüdischen Erbteil reduziert. Als vorgeblicher Mischling zweier Menschenrassen  – als „Bastard” – durfte er eines nicht mehr sein: Weißer, Arier, Europäer, Deutscher. Wenn der Nachrichtenmoderator den Mulatten Obama auf seine schwarzafrikanischen Gene reduzierte, mag man dieses vielleicht noch damit zu begründen versuchen, dass die äußere Anmutung des US-Präsidenten eher der eines schwarzen als der eines weißen Amerikaners entspricht. Aber auch dieses offenbart bereits den unterschwelligen Rassismus, der sich bei der deutschen Berichterstattung über Obama Bahn gebrochen hatte.

Ich sprach von einem positivistischen Rassismus – was angesichts der innerdeutschen Rassismusdebatte, die zwangsläufig aus dem Negerkuss einen Schaumkuss und aus dem „schwarzen Mann” des Kinderspiels einen Neger macht, fast schon wie ein Oxymoron wirkt. Doch der Umgang mit dem noch nicht und dem frisch gewählten Obama offenbarte genau diesen positivistischen Rassismus. Indem er den weißen Anteil ausblendete, schob er das möglicherweise Negative im Charakter dieses Mannes ausschließlich auf dessen „weiße“ Gene – und aus dem kollektiven Bewusstsein. Als Schwarzer – denn ein Neger durfte er nicht mehr sein – löste Obama sich von all dem, was die Deutschen an Yankeeismus an ihren transatlantischen „Freunden” kritisierten. Als aus dem schwarzen US-Amerikaner der erste farbige US-Präsident wurde, konnte das immer noch in deutschen Hinterköpfen herumspukende Idealbild des im Norden Amerikas anzutreffenden Edlen Wilden seinen direkten Weg finden zur Verknüpfung des eigentlich schon deutschen Winnetou mit dem nicht-weißen Nordamerikaner Obama. Der Mulatte wurde zur lebenden Inkarnation der May’schen Romanfigur. Den Schritt vom unzivilisierten zum zivilisierten Wilden hatte er bereits hinter sich. Zumindest der nordamerikanische Neger saß nicht mehr als Sklave in einer Hütte an den Baumwollfeldern, um tumb und ungebildet sein Dasein zu fristen. Er war in der weißen Zivilisation angekommen. Aber er war kein Yankee – und er war auch nicht der „Uncle Sam“, der den Deutschen vorschwebte, wenn er an „den Ami“ dachte.

Mit seinem eloquenten Auftreten, mit seiner so unverkennbar anderen Attitüde als der der Yankee-Inkarnation Georg Walker Bush, wurde dieser Barack Obama im Bewusstsein seiner deutschen Fans zu einem würdigen Nachfolger Winnetous. Die Deutschen liebten diesen Obama so, wie sie – vielleicht unbewusst – immer Winnetou, den Edlen Wilden, der eigentlich ein Deutscher ist, geliebt hatten. Sie liebten ihn nicht zuletzt deshalb über alle politischen Lager hinweg – von grün über rot bis schwarz. Sie liebten ihn aber auch, weil er den in ihnen wohnenden Rassismus so perfekt in eine positive Bahn lenken konnte, in der aus der unterschwelligen Angst vor dem Fremden, etwas Positives, die andere Rasse überhöhendes, werden konnte.

Obama als der Edle Wilde, als der Winnetou der Herzen, wurde automatisch auch zu einem von uns. Denn wenn der Edle Wilde Winnetou als Deutscher stirbt, weil er eigentlich schon immer einer gewesen ist – dann musste auch Obama in seinem Charakter ein Deutscher und kein Yankee sein. Mit seinem spektakulären Auftritt an der Berliner Siegessäule hatte er diese Botschaft unbewusst aber erfolgreich in die Herzen der Deutschen gelegt.

Die Deutschen stellten sich damit selbst die Falle auf, in der sie sich spätestens 2013 unrettbar verfangen sollten. Denn sie hatten verkannt, dass dieser Heilsbringer, dieser Edle Wilde aus dem Norden Amerikas, in erster Linie nichts anderes war als ein US-amerikanischer Politiker wie tausende vor ihm. Und eben ein US-amerikanischer Präsident wie dreiundvierzig vor ihm. Auch ein Obama kochte nur mit Wasser. Auch ein Obama unterlag den Zwängen des tagtäglichen Politikgeschehens. Auch ein Obama stand unter dem Druck, den die Plutokraten der USA ausüben konnten.

Denkt man in historischen Kategorien, dann war es Obamas größter Fehler, nicht in dem ersten Jahr seiner Amtszeit von einem fanatischen weißen Amerikaner ermordet worden zu sein. Wäre ihm dieses zugestoßen – nicht nur die Deutschen, aber diese ganz besonders, hätten den Mulatten Obama zu einer gottesähnlichen Heilsfigur stilisiert, gegen die die Ikone Kennedy derart in den Hintergrund hätte treten müssen, dass man sie ob ihrer Blässe bald nicht mehr wahrgenommen hätte. Dieser Obama hätte das Format gehabt, zu einem neuen Messias zu werden.

Es sei dem Menschen Obama und seiner Familie selbstverständlich gegönnt, nicht Opfer eines geisteskranken Fanatikers geworden zu sein. Sein idealisiertes Bild des Edlen Wilden, des farbigen Messias, der angetreten war, die Welt vor sich selbst zu retten, ging darüber jedoch in die Brüche.

Spätestens, als die NSA-Veröffentlichungen des Edward Snowden auch dem letzten Deutschen klar machten, dass die deutsche Freundschaft zu Amerika eine sehr einseitige, der deutschen Gemütlichkeit geschuldete Angelegenheit gewesen war, zerbrach das edle Bild des Winnetou Obama in Tausende von Scherben.

Es war mehr als nur Enttäuschung, die die Reaktionen auf die Erkenntnis erklären hilft, dass der Edle Wilde Winnetou niemals mehr war als das im Kopf eines Spätromantikers herumspukende Idealbild des besseren Deutschen – und auch nie mehr sein konnte. Diese Erkenntnis traf die Deutschen wie ein Schlag mit dem Tomahawk.

Die wahre Welt, so wurde den romantischen Deutschen schlagartig bewusst, kann sich Winnetous nicht leisten.

Und so ist Winnetou nun wieder das Idealbild eines Edlen Wilden, der eigentlich ein Deutscher ist, und der doch niemals Wirklichkeit werden kann. Und Obama ist ein US-amerikanischer Präsident, der ebenso wenig ein Messias ist, wie dieses seine zahlreichen Vorgänger waren und seine Nachfolger sein werden.

Die in HIRAM7 REVIEW veröffentlichten Essays und Kommentare geben nicht grundsätzlich den Standpunkt der Redaktion wieder.


100th Anniversary of Current History

January 1, 2014

Current History, the journal of contemporary international affairs, marks its 100th anniversary with a special January issue: “Global Trends, 2014.” The issue features essays by Michael Mandelbaum, Larry Diamond, Sheila Jasanoff, G. John Ikenberry, Joseph S. Nye Jr., Scott D. Sagan, Bruce Russett, Martha Crenshaw, and more.

Perils and Progress

by Alan Sorensen
Editor of Current History

After Current History began publication a hundred years ago, the world suffered a succession of horrors: world wars, depression, totalitarian tyranny, genocide, nuclear terror, environmental threats. These sorely tested the modern belief in progress. Yet over this same century, knowledge and innovations accumulated, liberal values and open markets spread, and nations laid the foundations for collective security and global governance.

For our centennial issue, we asked a dozen scholars to consider major trends that emerged in the past century and how these might influence events moving forward. A fair reading of their essays gives cause to hope for a bright, if complicated, future.

Not that progress will be automatic. All the essays, on the contrary, emphasize the importance of politics.

The world still depends on America to safeguard security and promote globalization, according to Michael Mandelbaum. Sheila Jasanoff warns that global warming could threaten the human species with ruin, absent concerted effort. The challenges posed by globalization, says G. John Ikenberry, increase the demand for international coordination. Will supply follow? Amrita Narlikar argues that burden sharing will require greater understanding of rising powers’ interests, world views, and negotiating strategies. Still, as Ikenberry suggests, China and other emerging powers have little interest in overturning the US-built international order that has facilitated their progress.

A recent wave of democratic regressions, governing failures in advanced nations, autocratic resistance, and turmoil following the Arab Spring raise concerns about the health of democracy within nations, concedes Larry Diamond.

However, as he points out in his essay, “it is worth considering the intrinsic political dilemmas of authoritarian regimes, and the tenacity of popular aspirations for government that is open and accountable.”

The swelling ranks of a global middle class ought to boost democratic prospects. Nicholas Eberstadt notes that “the greatest population explosion in history” over the past hundred years did not prevent the “greatest jump in per capita income levels ever recorded.” The rapid expansion of global markets has lifted millions from poverty. And the international economy, observes Uri Dadush, is no zero-sum game in which countries prosper only at others’ expense.

In another demonstration that politics matters, the rich nations’ current stagnation has resulted, Dadush says, not from “the rise of the rest,” but from “errors in macroeconomic policy and regulation.”

The security realm, too, is a positive-sum game in which mutual interests multiply. Increasing economic interdependence and advances in liberal norms and institutions account for a demonstrable decline in warfare, writes Bruce Russett.

The ongoing information revolution, according to Joseph S. Nye Jr., is helping to disperse power to more actors, including groups that seek to influence others via example and persuasion, rather than coercion. Martha Crenshaw observes that threats nowadays arise less from rivalry among great powers than from extremist groups operating in frail states. But keeping the nuclear peace, Scott D. Sagan warns, will depend on sustained cooperation to discourage proliferation and uphold the taboo against using atomic arms.

Moral progress, meanwhile, continues apace— evidenced, for example, in evolving attitudes about torture, the treatment of women and minorities, and human rights generally. The struggle for gay rights, highlighted by Omar Encarnación, also underscores the importance of politics. Human rights, too, are not a zero-sum contest (gay rights do not threaten heterosexual rights). And here again, there is cause for optimism.

As Encarnación notes: “International norms, once established, tend to spread to even the most recalcitrant corners of the world as part of the international ‘socialization’ of states.”!

To subscribe, visit currenthistory.com. Or call 1-800-293-3755 in the US, or 856-931-6681 outside the US.


Stanley Fischer To Become Next Federal Reserve Vice Chairman

December 12, 2013

Stanley Fischer, the former Bank of Israel governor and International Monetary Fund (IMF) official, is alleged to be the successor of Janet Yellen as vice chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve.

STANLEY FISCHER

As a professor of economics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), he taught Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke, whose term ends in January 2014, and European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi.

Washington Post columnist Neil Irwin, and author of The Alchemists: Three Central Bankers and a World on Fire, explains why Stanley Fischer is the most qualified candidate for the job.

“A crisis-management veteran. Fischer has faced trial by fire, most dramatically as the deputy managing director at the IMF from 1994 to 2001. He was on the front lines dealing with of a series of emerging market crises, including in Mexico, East Asia and Russia.

In other words, if there were to be a crisis in one or more of the emerging powers like China, India or Brazil, it would be the sort of thing that Fischer has spent his career preparing for. That is doubly important right now, as money has been gushing out of emerging economies in the past few months, driving their currencies down and their borrowing costs up.”

Read full story.


Nelson Mandela (1918-2013) or The Making Of A Myth

December 6, 2013

Politicians and people around the globe pay tribute to Nelson Mandela, who died on December 5, 2013. Nelson Mandela guided South Africa from apartheid to multiracial democracy after spending almost three decades in prison.

President Bill Clinton with Nelson Mandela at the Independence Hall in Philadelphia, PA, July 4, 1993. Photo: Executive Office of the President of the United States

President Bill Clinton with Nelson Mandela at the Independence Hall in Philadelphia, PA, July 4, 1993. Photo: Executive Office of the President of the United States

“Now that he’s dead, and can cause no more trouble, Nelson Mandela is being mourned across the ideological spectrum as a saint. But not long ago, in Washington’s highest circles, he was considered an enemy of the United States. Unless we remember why, we won’t truly honor his legacy,” argues foreign policy analyst Peter Beinart in The Daily Beast.

“In the 1980s, Ronald Reagan placed Mandela’s African National Congress on America’s official list of terrorist groups. In 1985, then-Congressman Dick Cheney voted against a resolution urging that he be released from jail. In 2004, after Mandela criticized the Iraq War, an article in National Review said his ‘vicious anti-Americanism and support for Saddam Hussein should come as no surprise, given his longstanding dedication to communism and praise for terrorists.’ As late as 2008, the ANC remained on America’s terrorism watch list, thus requiring the 89-year-old Mandela to receive a special waiver from the secretary of State to visit the U.S.”

Read full story.


American Jewish Committee begrüßt Stellenwert Israels im Koalitionsvertrag: „Sicherheit Israels für uns nicht verhandelbar“.

December 2, 2013

Pressemitteilung

Berlin, den 02.12.2013

Das American Jewish Committee (AJC) begrüßt das deutliche Bekenntnis zu Deutschlands Verantwortung für die Sicherheit Israels im Koalitionsvertrag und wertet die Aussagen als wichtiges Fundament für den Ausbau der deutsch-israelischen Beziehungen. Zugleich mahnt das AJC vor dem Hintergrund der jüngsten EU-Antisemitismusstudie die zügige Umsetzung des Bundestags-Maßnahmenbeschlusses an.

„Dass in diesem Koalitionsvertrag noch stärker als in der vergangenen Vereinbarung von 2009 die besondere Verpflichtung Deutschlands für den Schutz der Sicherheit Israels betont wird, zeigt den besonderen Stellenwert der deutsch-israelischen Beziehungen auf. Wir begrüßen zudem, dass die Feierlichkeiten zum 50-jährigen Jubiläum der Aufnahme diplomatischer Beziehungen zwischen Deutschland und Israel für das Jahr 2015 im Koalitionsvertrag hervorgehoben werden und das deutsch-israelische Verhältnis dadurch eine besondere Würdigung erhält“, so Deidre Berger, Direktorin des AJC Berlin Ramer Institute for German-Jewish Relations.

Im Koalitionsvertrag heißt es: „Wir bekennen uns zu der besonderen Verantwortung Deutschlands gegenüber Israel als jüdischem und demokratischem Staat und dessen Sicherheit. Das Existenzrecht und die Sicherheit Israels sind für uns nicht verhandelbar. 2015 feiern wir das 50-jährige Jubiläum der Aufnahme diplomatischer Beziehungen zum Staat Israel. Dieses Jubiläum wird die Bundesregierung angemessen würdigen.“

Auch die transatlantischen Beziehungen werden im Vertrag besonders betont.

„Ein wichtiges Signal angesichts der jüngsten Spionage-Diskussionen“, sagte Berger weiter.

Beim Thema Antisemitismus und Rechtsextremismus wollen CDU/CSU und SPD zivilgesellschaftliche Initiativen und Programme verstetigen. Weitergehende Umsetzungsstrategien zum Thema Antisemitismus finden sich im Koalitionsvertrag jedoch nicht. Erst am 13. Juni beschloss der Deutsche Bundestag einen fraktionsübergreifenden Antrag zum Thema Antisemitismus. Die Resolution forderte die Bundesregierung dazu auf, den Maßnahmen-Katalog zur Bekämpfung des Antisemitismus umzusetzen.

„Die Ergebnisse der jüngsten EU-Studie, wonach mehr als 63% der deutschen Juden angaben, das Tragen jüdischer Symbole aus Angst vor Antisemitismus zu vermeiden, erhöhen den Handlungsdruck. Es braucht nun einen Umsetzungsplan der beschlossenen Maßnahmen, auch damit die Bekämpfung des Antisemitismus verbindlicher und kontinuierlicher erfolgen kann“, sagte Berger weiter.

Der Bundestags-Beschluss vom 13. Juni sieht unter anderem Förderprogramme zum deutsch-israelischen Austausch, Maßnahmen zur Unterstützung von Holocaust-Überlebenden durch deutsche Jugendliche und eine bessere Darstellung jüdischen Lebens im deutschen Schulunterricht vor.

Zum Thema Ghettorente vereinbarten CDU/CSU und SPD, dass „den berechtigten Interessen der Holocaust-Überlebenden nach einer angemessenen Entschädigung für die in einem Ghetto geleistete Arbeit Rechnung getragen wird“.

„Es ist wichtig, dass die zukünftigen Koalitionsparteien endlich eine Lösung beim Thema Ghettorenten erzielen wollen. Nun kommt es darauf an, dass CDU/CSU und SPD in den nächsten drei Monaten einen Umsetzungsplan für das Thema Ghettorenten vorlegen. Die noch wenigen Überlebenden können nicht noch länger warten, um verspätete Entschädigungszahlungen zu bekommen“, so Berger abschließend.

Pressekontakt

Deidre Berger, Director

Email: berlin@ajc.org

American Jewish Committee (AJC) Berlin Office

Leipziger Platz 15, Mosse Palais

10117 Berlin

Tel.: +49 (0)30 22 65 94-0

Fax: +49 (0)30 22 65 94-14


Anti-Semitism, A Warning Sign for Europe

November 29, 2013

An op-ed by David Harris
Executive Director of the American Jewish Committee
El Pais, November 29, 2013

davidharris

The European Union has had its share of daunting challenges.

From sluggish growth to punishing austerity, from high levels of unemployment to fears of brain drain, and from volatile political environments to relentless migration, there are more than enough issues to keep EU and national leaders focused 24/7. And while some countries are more at risk than others, the ties that bind the 28 member states mean that no one is entirely immune from the gusty winds and storm clouds.

Now, there is another issue to add to the list. Earlier this month, the EU’s Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) issued a comprehensive study on the experiences of Jews in eight of the 28 nations – Belgium, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Sweden, and the United Kingdom—whose Jews comprise 90% of the EU’s total Jewish population. Nearly 6,000 respondents took part.

Confirming the findings of earlier surveys done by outside groups and local Jewish communities, it raises serious concern. That concern should not be limited to Jews, since when Europe’s Jews feel at risk, the EU as a whole is endangered in two ways.

First, the EU’s laudable commitment to protecting the human dignity of each of its citizens is jeopardized.

And second, the history of anti-Semitism demonstrates that, ultimately, those who target Jews usually have democracy itself, including the rights of minority groups, in their crosshairs. In other words, bigotry may begin with Jews, but it rarely ends with them.

Here are some of the disturbing findings from the just-published FRA report:

Two-thirds of Jewish respondents consider anti-Semitism to be a problem today in their countries.

Three-fourths believe the problem has gotten worse in the past five years.

One-third fears a physical attack against themselves, as Jews, within the next 12 months.

More than one-half claim they personally witnessed an incident where the Holocaust was denied, trivialized, or exaggerated.

Twenty-three percent say they at least occasionally avoid attending Jewish events or visiting Jewish sites because of safety concerns.

And more than 40 percent of those surveyed in Belgium, France, and Hungary indicate they have considered emigrating because of the situation.

Equally troubling, to quote the study, is the following result: “A majority of the victims of anti-Semitic harassment (76%), physical violence or threats (64%), or vandalism of personal property (53%) did not report the most serious incident, namely the one that most affected the respondent, in the past five years to the police or to any other organization.”

In other words, if the majority of victims of anti-Semitic incidents are not even reporting them to the authorities, then they do not have confidence in the system, fear retribution from the perpetrators, are unaware of where to go for help, or have somehow come to accept the bigoted behavior as part of the “price” of being Jewish.

Whatever the explanation, it is unacceptable. Going forward, EU governments should strive mightily to ensure not only a dramatic decline in the number of anti-Semitic incidents, but also that those that do occur are reported to the proper authorities. Citizens of a democratic society should never have to feel helpless or abandoned.

And it should make no difference if the anti-Semitic act comes from extreme-right, extreme-left, radical Islamic, or other sources. Targeting an individual because of his or her specific group identity – in this case, as a Jew – is a potential hate crime, and should be treated as such.

AJC has devoted many years to developing response strategies to bias incidents, whether against Jews, Christians, Muslims, homosexuals, Africans, or others, and certain things are clear.

First, attitudes of tolerance or intolerance, respect or lack of respect, are formed primarily at home and at a young age.

Second, political leadership counts. Either governments act against bigotry, both symbolically and substantively, or, too often, they end up countenancing or rationalizing it. Neutrality is not an option.

Third, education, if utilized properly, can help teach respect and appreciation for difference. Otherwise, it is a lost opportunity.

Fourth, religious leaders can promote interfaith dialogue and friendship or, conversely, religious obscurantism and triumphalism. Which will it be?

And finally, the police and judiciary must understand the specific nature of hate crimes, collect proper data, and treat cases with the seriousness they merit.

The EU’s FRA report is a wake-up call. Sleeping through it, or pretending not to hear it, is not an option.


President Bill Clinton receives Presidential Medal of Freedom

November 19, 2013

U.S. President Barack Obama awards the Presidential Medal of Freedom to former U.S. President Bill Clinton in the East Room at the White House on November 19, 2013 in Washington, DC.

Bill Clinton


Earl Shugerman’s Corner: Passover and Freedom in the Middle East

April 1, 2011

Earl Shugerman brings every week a serie of stories about Anglo-Saxon immigrants to Israel. This project is aimed to promote a more realistic view of life in Israel.

Passover is a predominantly Jewish holiday and festival. It commemorates the story of the flight for freedom of the Jewish people from the days of Moses. I feel that Passover of 2011 is especially significant due to the struggle for freedom of both Israel and many of Israel’s neighbours.

Festive Seder table with wine, matza and Seder plate.

Festive Seder table with wine, matza and Seder plate.

Many of our neighbours are struggling to replace monarchies and dictatorships with democracy. It commemorates the story of the Exodus, in which the ancient Israelites were freed from slavery in Egypt. Passover begins on the 15th day of the month of Nisan, which is spring in the Northern Hemisphere, and is celebrated for seven or eight days. It is one of the most widely observed Jewish holidays.

In the narrative of the Exodus, the Bible tells that God helped the Children of Israel escape slavery in Egypt by inflicting ten plagues upon the Egyptians before Pharaoh would release his Israelite slaves; the tenth and worst of the plagues was the slaughter of the first-born. The Israelites were instructed to mark the doorposts of their homes with the blood of a spring lamb and, upon seeing this, the spirit of the Lord passed over these homes, hence the term “Passover”. When Pharaoh freed the Israelites, it is said that they left in such a hurry that they could not wait for bread to rise. In commemoration, for the duration of Passover no leavened bread is eaten, for which reason it is called “The Festival of the Unleavened Bread”(flat unleavened bread) is the primary symbol of the holiday.

The Jewish people experienced a second historical Exodus following the horrors of the Holocaust.  The survivors of history’s greatest injustice and Jews throughout the world claimed the right to return to “Eretz Israel”. History has taught the people of the book that a national homeland is a necessity for survival.

Palestine was a British colony. The Jews, Christians, and Muslims were refused freedom and justice by the leaders of Great Britain. The United Nations Partition for Palestine in 1947 established both a Jewish and a Palestinian homeland. The members of the Arab League refused to accept the plan and invaded both Israel and Palestine in 1948. Many of those nations- which included: Syria, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia- led the Arab invasion.  These were nations whose citizens never enjoyed democracy and true freedom and refused to give that right to their neighbours.

Sixty two years later these same nations refuse to grant their citizens with freedom and equality. Today, the citizens of these countries are fighting to obtain a democratic lifestyle that they have only learned about from observing Western Nations. They have chosen to fight for the unknown- a life of democracy- even though they know that their life could be lost in the battle.

Most of us cannot imagine what it is like to be a citizen in many of these countries. Marshal Law has ruled the regime in Syria for thirty years? Saudi Arabia is feudal monarchy where people lose their limbs for stealing a loaf of bread. Egypt was ruled by a dictatorship for the past forty years. Egypt’s citizens were not granted civil rights and most in live extreme poverty.

This year in Israel we are celebrating the sixty second Passover in the modern Jewish state. Many of us celebrating here place emphasis on the fact that Moses and the ancient Israelites wondered the dessert for forty years before they entered the land of Canaan. Yahu wanted our people to think as free people- not as slaves- before they were given their own nation.

Seeing as we are a considerably new country, we do our best to maintain that state of mind. Let us hope that the people in Syria, Libya, Egypt and Yemen obtain and enjoy freedom now.

About the author: Earl Shugerman is a retired American Government public relations specialist,  currently spokesman in Haifa for The Jewish Agency and a writer specializing in interfaith relations. He has worked together with the Catholic and Southern Baptist Movements, the Reformed Jewish Movement and Muslim groups in interfaith activities.


Crime Wars: Gangs, Drugs, and U.S. National Security

March 4, 2011
CNAS Report: U.S. and Mexico Should Embrace Regional Cooperation to Combat Drug Cartels

CNAS Report: U.S. and Mexico Should Embrace Regional Cooperation to Combat Drug Cartels

Press Release

Washington, D.C., March 4, 2011 – As Presidents Obama and Calderón continue to discuss the United States and Mexico’s efforts to combat growing drug-related violence, the leaders should look to embrace regional cooperation to combat the cartels, according to a recent report authored by Center for a New American Security (CNAS) Senior Fellow Bob Killebrew
 
In Crime Wars: Gangs, Drugs, and U.S. National Security, Killebrew surveys organized crime throughout the Western Hemisphere and analyzes the challenges it poses to individual countries and regional security. He argues that Mexico will remain a key state in the struggle against violent organized crime in the region, and that the United States should continue to support Mexico’s efforts while examining its own role in the ongoing conflict. In addition, the report notes, the United States and Mexico should:  

  • Increase U.S.-Mexico law enforcement and intelligence cooperation.
  • Increase bilateral training and assistance.
  • Embrace regional cooperation to attack cartels.
  • Attack the cartels’ financial networks and money-laundering capabilities.
“Whether Calderón and his successors can or will sustain a long-term, bloody fight to root out corruption in the Mexican state and reassert the rule of law is a matter of grave concern for the United States,” said Killebrew. Read full story.
 
Press Contact:
Shannon O’Reilly
Director of External Relations
Email: soreilly@cnas.org
Ph: (202) 457-9408

President of the World: The Bill Clinton Phenomenon

February 21, 2011

In a documentary airing today at 10:00 PM EST on MSNBC, political commentator Chris Matthews calls President Bill Clinton a one-man Peace Corps.


From his life-changing work with the Clinton Foundation and his disaster relief efforts for the Indian Ocean Tsunami, Hurricane Katrina and the Haiti earthquake, to his humanitarian actions to free two journalists from North Korea and the convening power of the Clinton Global Initiative that brings together businesses, governments, nonprofits, and individuals to implement real solutions to the world’s most urgent challenges – his work today is directly improving hundreds of millions of lives. It is not a stretch to say what he has accomplished with friends and supporters is truly changing the world.

Chris Matthews tags along with the 42nd president of the United States for "President of the World: The Bill Clinton Phenomenon," airing today.

Chris Matthews tags along with the 42nd president of the United States for “President of the World: The Bill Clinton Phenomenon,” airing today.

This President’s Day, there will be a special documentary: The President of the World: The Bill Clinton Phenomenon, February 21, 2011, 10:00 PM EST on MSNBC, about the 10 years since President Bill Clinton left office.

Read full story.


Guest Editorial: The Currency War

February 21, 2011

What’s Behind the Currency War?

By Professor Dr. Antony P. Mueller

In September 2010, a short time before the international financial summit of the Group of Twenty (G20) took place in South Korea, Brazilian finance minister Guido Mantega declared that the world is experiencing a “currency war” where “devaluing currencies artificially is a global strategy.”

Dr. Antony P. Mueller is a professor of economics at the graduate business school of the University of Caxias-do-Sul (UCS) in Brazil. He is an adjunct scholar of the Ludwig von Mises Institute and president and founder of The Continental Economics Institute.

Dr. Antony P. Mueller is a professor of economics at the graduate business school of the University of Caxias-do-Sul (UCS) in Brazil. He is an adjunct scholar of the Ludwig von Mises Institute and president and founder of The Continental Economics Institute.

By announcing the outbreak of a “currency war,” Mantega wanted to draw attention to the problems caused by the ongoing exchange-rate manipulations that governments put in place in order to gain economic advantages. In this sense, “currency war” denotes the conflict among nations that arises from the deliberate manipulation of the exchange rate in order to gain international competitiveness by way of currency devaluation.

Competitive Devaluation

Calling competitive devaluation a “war” may seem like a gross exaggeration. Yet in terms of its potential of destruction, the current global financial conflict may well rank at a level similar to that of a real war.

In a wider historical perspective, the current currency war is the latest conflict in a series of acute crises of the modern international monetary system. In a world of national monetary regimes based on fiat money without physical anchors, domestic monetary instability automatically transforms into exchange-rate instability. As before, the current crisis of the international economic order is mainly the result of monetary fragilities coming from the unsound national monetary systems and reckless domestic monetary and fiscal policies.

The immediate cause of the currency war entering an acute stage is the policy of massive quantitative easing practiced by the US central bank. Whatever the original intention of this policy may have been, the consequences of the Fed’s measures include monetary expansion, low interest rates, and a weaker US dollar. With dollar interest rates approaching the “zero bound,” the United States is joining Japan in the effort to stimulate a sluggish economy with massive monetary impulses.

Until recently, the currency war was contained as a kind of financial cold war. The conflict entered its hot phase as a result of the expansive monetary policies that were put in place in the wake of the financial-market crisis that began in 2007. In defiance of the fact that the financial crisis itself was the result of the extremely expansive monetary policies in the years before, many central banks have now accelerated monetary expansion in the vain attempt to cure the disease with the same measures that had caused it in the first place.

Easy Money and International Financial Flows

What has emerged in the global financial arena over the past couple of years is the interplay among easy money, low interest rates, international trade imbalances, financial flows, and exchange-rate manipulations. The failure of attempts to cure overindebtedness with more debt, and to stimulate weak economies by giving them interest rates as low as possible, provokes a repetitive pattern of bubble and crash where each phase ends in a higher level of government debt.

A global search for higher yields has been going on not unlike what happened in the late 1960s and 1970s, when the United States inflated and the countries that had linked their exchange rates to the US dollar suffered from imported inflation. Nowadays, the formal dollar-based fixed-exchange-rate system no longer exists. It has been replaced by a system that sometimes is called “Bretton Woods II”: a series of countries, particularly in Asia this time, have pegged their exchange rates (albeit without a formal agreement) to the US dollar.

If a country wants to slow down the appreciation of its exchange rate that comes as a consequence of the financial inflows from abroad, it must intervene in the foreign-exchange markets and monetize at least a part of the foreign exchange. This way, the monetary authorities will automatically increase the domestic money stock. Additionally, under this system relatively poor countries feel forced not only to buy the debt issued by the relatively wealthy countries like the United States but also to buy these bonds at their current extremely low yields.

Under current conditions, the monetary expansion gets globalized and invades even those countries that wish to practice restrictive monetary policy. Relatively high levels of the interest rate improve the restrictive currency’s attractiveness. Thus, more and more monetary expansion happens on a global scale, which in turn provides the fuel for the next great wave of international financial flows.

The weaker countries, which compete with each other on the basis of low prices, are getting pushed to the side; it was just a matter of time until more and more governments would begin to intervene in the foreign-exchange markets by buying up foreign currencies in order to try to prevent their exchange rates from appreciating too much, too fast.

Yet using the exchange rate as a tool in order to gain economic advantage or avert damage for the domestic economy is inherently at variance with a sound global monetary order, because one country’s devaluation automatically implies the revaluation of another country’s currency and thus the advantage that one tries to obtain will be achieved by putting a burden on other countries.

Escalation

By recycling the monetary equivalent of the trade surplus into the financial markets around the globe, monetary authorities in surplus countries form a symbiosis with trade-deficit countries in fabricating a worldwide monetary expansion of extreme proportions.

The paradoxical, or rather perverse, features of the current state of affairs were highlighted a short time ago when in January 2011 the monetary authorities of Turkey decided to lower the policy interest rates so as to make the inflow of foreign funds less attractive, despite a booming Turkish economy that shows plenty characteristics of a bubble.

Exchange-rate policies produce the usual spiral of interventionism: the de facto consequences tend to diverge from the original intentions, prompting further rounds of doomed interventions. This interventionist escalation is not only limited to an incessant repetition of the same failed policies, but the errors committed in one policy area also affect other parts of the economy. Thus, it is only a matter of time until errors of monetary policy lead to fiscal fiascos, and exchange-rate interventions lead to trade conflicts.

At first sight, exchange-rate intervention may appear tolerable as the legitimate pursuit of national self-interest. But exchange-rate policies are intrinsically matters that tend to stir transnational controversies. When a country’s exchange rate policy collides with the interests of the trading partners, the tit-for-tat of mutual retaliation automatically tends to lead to an escalation of the conflict. Once the process of competitive devaluation has started, a devaluation by one country invites other countries to devaluate their exchange rates as well. As a consequence, the international monetary order will eventually disintegrate, and sooner or later the conflict will go beyond currency issues and affect a wide spectrum of economic and political relations.

Therefore, because of the unsound monetary system, a peaceful international political system also is constantly at risk. Monetary conflicts provoke political confrontations. Besides the immediate costs of exchange-rate conflicts that come from the damage to international trade and investment, and thereby to the international division of labor, harm will also be done to confidence and trust in the international political arena.

The dispute about exchange rates is the consequence of contradictory tensions that are innate to the modern monetary system. In this respect the currency war is an expression of the defects that characterize an unsound and destructive financial system. The outbreak of the currency war is a symptom of a deeply flawed international monetary order.

Brazil

When Brazil’s finance minister repeated his warnings in January 2011 and said that “the currency war is turning into a trade war,” Mantega sent a signal to the world that the escalation of the trade war had started. Because of the massive inflow of money from abroad, the Brazilian currency had sharply appreciated and the Brazilian economy was losing competitiveness.

In order to reduce the impact on is domestic economy, Brazil had been intervening in the foreign-exchange markets, diminishing the degree of currency appreciation. In doing so, the monetary authorities had to buy foreign currencies, mainly US dollars, in exchange for its domestic money.

By pursuing such a policy over the past couple of years, Brazil has increased its foreign-exchange reserves from around 50 billion to 300 billion US dollars. Yet even despite these foreign-exchange interventions, the Brazilian currency appreciated drastically against the US dollar and other currencies.

By various estimates, Brazilian foreign trade suffers from an exchange-rate overvaluation of around 40 percent. As a consequence, Brazil’s current account balance, which was still at surplus in 2007, has plunged into a deficit of 47.5 billion US dollars in 2010. At the same time when an artificial boom is taking place as the result of massive monetary expansion, the Brazilian economy suffers from creeping deindustrialization.

Part of the explosion of Brazil’s current-account deficit can be explained by weak demand from its trading partners, which have plunged into a prolonged recession. Yet beyond this circumstance, there has been another causal chain at work: the inflow of funds from abroad that boosts the exchange rate provides the grounds for an exorbitant increase of the country’s monetary base.

The combination of ample liquidity at home, weak demand from some trading partners abroad, and a strong exchange-rate appreciation provides the basis for an extreme import expansion that vastly exceeds exports. Unlike a country such as Germany, for example, whose industry is pretty resilient against currency appreciation, Brazil resembles in this respect the countries of the Southern periphery of the eurozone in its incapacity to cope effectively with an overvalued currency.

When, in January 2011, a new government took power in Brazil, the newly-elected president, Dilma Rousseff, declared in her inauguration speech that she will protect Brazil “from unfair competition and from the indiscriminate flow of speculative capital.” Guido Mantega, the former and new Brazilian finance minister, did not hesitate to join in when he asserted that the government has an “infinite” number of interventionist tools at its disposal with which to protect national interests. Mantega said that the government is ready to use taxation and trade measures in order to stop the deterioration of Brazil’s trade balance.

China

The countries that form the favored group that gets targeted by international financial flows in search of higher yields compete among themselves in order to prevent their currencies from appreciating too much, and as a group these countries compete against China in their efforts to maintain a competitive exchange rate.

China’s position forms part of a long causal chain, which includes low interest rates and monetary expansion in the United States, that fuels higher import demand. Given that China drastically devalued its exchange rate as early as in the 1980s, this country was at the forefront of gaining advantage of America’s import surge; China grabbed the golden opportunity to turn itself into the major exporter to the United States.

In order to maintain its currency at its undervalued level, the Chinese monetary authorities must buy up the excess of foreign exchange that accumulates from its trade surplus, preferably by buying US treasury notes and bonds. In this way, China became America’s main creditor. Over the past decade, China increased its foreign exchange position from a meager $165 billion in 2000 to an amount that was approaching $3 trillion at the end of 2010.

From the 1980s up to the early 1990s, China devalued its currency from less than 2 Yuan to the US dollar to an exchange rate of 9 Yuan against the US dollar. And despite its huge trade surpluses, China has only slightly revalued the Yuan ever since, establishing the current exchange rate at 6.56 Yuan per US dollar.

Over the past decade, China has become the major financier of the US budget deficit. Together with other monies flowing in from abroad, the US government was relieved from the need to cut spending. The inflow of foreign capital also allowed the US government to pay lower interest rates for its debt than it would have if only domestic supply of savings were available. Foreign imports put pressure on the price level, and the US central bank could continue monetary expansion without an immediate effect on the price-inflation rate.

If China wants to hold its competitive position through an undervalued currency, the Chinese monetary authorities must continue their policy of intervention in the foreign-exchange markets. As a consequence of buying dollars from its exporters, the domestic money supply in China continues to rise, throwing additional fuel on a domestic boom that is already in full swing.

Even more so than their Brazilian counterparts, China’s political-decision makers have failed to exert moderation or restraint when it comes to interventionist measures. As long as China’s leadership presumes that it gains from exchange-rate manipulation, its currency interventions will go on.

Global Financial Fragilities

Since the abandonment of the gold standard, the global financial system has been in disarray. All the international monetary arrangements that have been established since then have ended in crisis and finally collapsed. For almost a hundred years now, one interventionist scheme has been established and then soon fallen to pieces.

When the monetary and fiscal decision makers in the United States and Europe discarded all restraints against intervention in the wake of the financial market crisis, socialist and interventionist governments around the globe felt vindicated. They had long been convinced that only through state control could financial stability be obtained. Due to the policies adopted by Western countries in their futile attempt to overcome the financial-market crisis, the leaders of the so-called emerging economies have become even more unscrupulous interventionists.

Political leaders around the globe have shed the little that was left of support for free markets and set the controls for a way back on the road to serfdom. It is mainly due to ignorance that the modern monetary system gets labelled as a laissez-faire or free market system. In fact not only the basic “commodity” of this scheme, i.e., fiat money, but also its price and quantity are largely determined by political institutions such as central banks.

It is more than absurd when, in the face of crises and conflicts, more government intervention gets called upon: it was state intervention in the first place that laid the groundwork for the trouble to appear.

So-called “speculative” international capital flows already happened decades ago. What has changed since then is the amount of hot money and the speed with which it floats around the world. It would be wrong to describe these financial movements as an expression of free markets. The fact, for instance, that in 2010 daily transactions on the international currency market have reached a volume of four trillion US dollars is the result of unhampered fiat-money expansion and massive state intervention in the foreign-exchange markets.

The increase in the global money supply that has been going on for many years finds its complement in a global asset boom. The inflation of money drives up the price of precious metals, natural resources, and food. Once more, the world experiences a period of fake prosperity not much different from the real-estate bubble, and many other episodes, that led to previous financial crises.

Conclusion

The political endeavours to gain competitive advantages through exchange-rate devaluation sows mistrust among nations; and the ensuing regime uncertainties frustrate the business community. Over time the conflict over exchange rates tends to destroy the global division of labor.

Once again, the international monetary system is on the brink of a breakdown. As in the past, the main reason behind the current conflict is extreme monetary expansion. Unsound monetary systems produce turmoil not just at home but also in the international arena. Excessive monetary expansion, which is the cause of domestic malinvestment, is also the root of economic distortions at a global level.

Without a fundamental change of the monetary system itself, without a return to sound money, the international monetary system will remain in a state of permanent fragility — ever oscillating between the abyss of deflationary depression and the fake escape of hyperinflation. This is the fate of the world when nations implement fiat monetary systems and put them under political authority.

© 2011, Dr. Antony P. Mueller.


Osama Bin Laden – A New Book by Michael Scheuer

February 14, 2011

In Osama bin Laden, Michael Scheuer, former chief of the CIA’s bin Laden Unit and author of the bestseller Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing the War on Terror, provides an objective and authoritative portrait of bin Laden that shows him to be devout, talented, patient, and ruthless. Scheuer delivers a hard-headed, closely reasoned portrait of America’s most implacable enemy.

"No American knows bin Laden better than Scheuer." (Craig Whitlock, National Security Correspondent, The Washington Post)
“No American knows bin Laden better than Scheuer.” (Craig Whitlock, The Washington Post)

To purchase this book, please click here.


Barack Obama’s State of the Union Address 2011

January 26, 2011

In his State of the Union address on January 25, 2011, U.S. President Barack Obama mentioned a plan for investment in crucial areas like education, high-speed rail, and green technology, as well as reforming the tax code to help the United States meet the challenge of globalization amid relentless competition from rising economies such as China and India.

A Member of Congress reads along as President Barack Obama delivers the State of the Union address in the House Chamber at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., Jan. 25, 2011. (Photo by Pete Souza)
A Member of Congress reads along as President Barack Obama delivers the State of the Union address in the House Chamber, January 25, 2011. (Photo by Pete Souza)

“We need to out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world,” he said in his speech (see full transcript below). At the same time, Obama, who is facing massive deficits, did not call for new programs. Instead, he promised a five-year budget freeze on non-defense discretionary spending, which he said had the prospective to reduce the deficit by $400 billion over ten years.

When Obama did address U.S. foreign policy, he mainly focused on his latest successes – such as ratifying the new START arms control treaty with Russia and the trade agreement with South Korea, and concealed critical issues like drug violence in Mexico, instability in Pakistan, and climate change.

In an op-ed in The New York Times Chief Washington Correspondent David E. Sanger argues that one of President Barack Obama’s “subtexts on Tuesday night was that doing big things these days may require a bit more humility, a lot more work, and some international partners that Americans rarely thought about twenty years ago but whose competition they have now grown to fear.”

Read full story.

Nota bene: for full coverage of the Union Address 2011 and more insight, check out also The Wall Street Journal.

***

Remarks by the President in State of Union Address
United States Capitol, Washington, D.C.

January 25, 2011 – 9:12 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, members of Congress, distinguished guests, and fellow Americans:

Tonight I want to begin by congratulating the men and women of the 112th Congress, as well as your new Speaker, John Boehner. (Applause.) And as we mark this occasion, we’re also mindful of the empty chair in this chamber, and we pray for the health of our colleague — and our friend -– Gabby Giffords. (Applause.)

It’s no secret that those of us here tonight have had our differences over the last two years. The debates have been contentious; we have fought fiercely for our beliefs.  And that’s a good thing. That’s what a robust democracy demands. That’s what helps set us apart as a nation.

But there’s a reason the tragedy in Tucson gave us pause. Amid all the noise and passion and rancor of our public debate, Tucson reminded us that no matter who we are or where we come from, each of us is a part of something greater -– something more consequential than party or political preference.

We are part of the American family.  We believe that in a country where every race and faith and point of view can be found, we are still bound together as one people; that we share common hopes and a common creed; that the dreams of a little girl in Tucson are not so different than those of our own children, and that they all deserve the chance to be fulfilled.

That, too, is what sets us apart as a nation.  (Applause.)

Now, by itself, this simple recognition won’t usher in a new era of cooperation.  What comes of this moment is up to us.  What comes of this moment will be determined not by whether we can sit together tonight, but whether we can work together tomorrow.  (Applause.)

I believe we can.  And I believe we must.  That’s what the people who sent us here expect of us. With their votes, they’ve determined that governing will now be a shared responsibility between parties.  New laws will only pass with support from Democrats and Republicans.  We will move forward together, or not at all -– for the challenges we face are bigger than party, and bigger than politics.

At stake right now is not who wins the next election -– after all, we just had an election. At stake is whether new jobs and industries take root in this country, or somewhere else.  It’s whether the hard work and industry of our people is rewarded.  It’s whether we sustain the leadership that has made America not just a place on a map, but the light to the world.

We are poised for progress.  Two years after the worst recession most of us have ever known, the stock market has come roaring back.  Corporate profits are up.  The economy is growing again.

But we have never measured progress by these yardsticks alone.  We measure progress by the success of our people.  By the jobs they can find and the quality of life those jobs offer.  By the prospects of a small business owner who dreams of turning a good idea into a thriving enterprise. By the opportunities for a better life that we pass on to our children.

That’s the project the American people want us to work on.Together. (Applause.)

We did that in December. Thanks to the tax cuts we passed, Americans’ paychecks are a little bigger today.  Every business can write off the full cost of new investments that they make this year. And these steps, taken by Democrats and Republicans, will grow the economy and add to the more than one million private sector jobs created last year.

But we have to do more. These steps we’ve taken over the last two years may have broken the back of this recession, but to win the future, we’ll need to take on challenges that have been decades in the making.

 Many people watching tonight can probably remember a time when finding a good job meant showing up at a nearby factory or a business downtown. You didn’t always need a degree, and your competition was pretty much limited to your neighbors.  If you worked hard, chances are you’d have a job for life, with a decent paycheck and good benefits and the occasional promotion. Maybe you’d even have the pride of seeing your kids work at the same company.

That world has changed. And for many, the change has been painful. I’ve seen it in the shuttered windows of once booming factories, and the vacant storefronts on once busy Main Streets. I’ve heard it in the frustrations of Americans who’ve seen their paychecks dwindle or their jobs disappear -– proud men and women who feel like the rules have been changed in the middle of the game.

They’re right. The rules have changed.  In a single generation, revolutions in technology have transformed the way we live, work and do business. Steel mills that once needed 1,000 workers can now do the same work with 100. Today, just about any company can set up shop, hire workers, and sell their products wherever there’s an Internet connection.

Meanwhile, nations like China and India realized that with some changes of their own, they could compete in this new world. And so they started educating their children earlier and longer, with greater emphasis on math and science. They’re investing in research and new technologies. Just recently, China became the home to the world’s largest private solar research facility, and the world’s fastest computer.

So, yes, the world has changed. The competition for jobs is real.  But this shouldn’t discourage us.  It should challenge us. Remember -– for all the hits we’ve taken these last few years, for all the naysayers predicting our decline, America still has the largest, most prosperous economy in the world.  (Applause.) No workers — no workers are more productive than ours. No country has more successful companies, or grants more patents to inventors and entrepreneurs. We’re the home to the world’s best colleges and universities, where more students come to study than any place on Earth.

What’s more, we are the first nation to be founded for the sake of an idea -– the idea that each of us deserves the chance to shape our own destiny. That’s why centuries of pioneers and immigrants have risked everything to come here. It’s why our students don’t just memorize equations, but answer questions like “What do you think of that idea?  What would you change about the world? What do you want to be when you grow up?”

The future is ours to win. But to get there, we can’t just stand still.  As Robert Kennedy told us, “The future is not a gift. It is an achievement.”  Sustaining the American Dream has never been about standing pat. It has required each generation to sacrifice, and struggle, and meet the demands of a new age.

And now it’s our turn.  We know what it takes to compete for the jobs and industries of our time.  We need to out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world.  (Applause.)  We have to make America the best place on Earth to do business.  We need to take responsibility for our deficit and reform our government.  That’s how our people will prosper.  That’s how we’ll win the future.  (Applause.)  And tonight, I’d like to talk about how we get there.

The first step in winning the future is encouraging American innovation.  None of us can predict with certainty what the next big industry will be or where the new jobs will come from.  Thirty years ago, we couldn’t know that something called the Internet would lead to an economic revolution.  What we can do — what America does better than anyone else — is spark the creativity and imagination of our people.  We’re the nation that put cars in driveways and computers in offices; the nation of Edison and the Wright brothers; of Google and Facebook.  In America, innovation doesn’t just change our lives.  It is how we make our living.  (Applause.)

Our free enterprise system is what drives innovation.  But because it’s not always profitable for companies to invest in basic research, throughout our history, our government has provided cutting-edge scientists and inventors with the support that they need.  That’s what planted the seeds for the Internet.  That’s what helped make possible things like computer chips and GPS.  Just think of all the good jobs — from manufacturing to retail — that have come from these breakthroughs.

Half a century ago, when the Soviets beat us into space with the launch of a satellite called Sputnik, we had no idea how we would beat them to the moon.  The science wasn’t even there yet.  NASA didn’t exist.  But after investing in better research and education, we didn’t just surpass the Soviets; we unleashed a wave of innovation that created new industries and millions of new jobs.

This is our generation’s Sputnik moment.  Two years ago, I said that we needed to reach a level of research and development we haven’t seen since the height of the Space Race.  And in a few weeks, I will be sending a budget to Congress that helps us meet that goal.  We’ll invest in biomedical research, information technology, and especially clean energy technology -– (applause) — an investment that will strengthen our security, protect our planet, and create countless new jobs for our people.

Already, we’re seeing the promise of renewable energy.  Robert and Gary Allen are brothers who run a small Michigan roofing company.  After September 11th, they volunteered their best roofers to help repair the Pentagon.  But half of their factory went unused, and the recession hit them hard.  Today, with the help of a government loan, that empty space is being used to manufacture solar shingles that are being sold all across the country.  In Robert’s words, “We reinvented ourselves.”

That’s what Americans have done for over 200 years: reinvented ourselves.  And to spur on more success stories like the Allen Brothers, we’ve begun to reinvent our energy policy. We’re not just handing out money.  We’re issuing a challenge.  We’re telling America’s scientists and engineers that if they assemble teams of the best minds in their fields, and focus on the hardest problems in clean energy, we’ll fund the Apollo projects of our time.

At the California Institute of Technology, they’re developing a way to turn sunlight and water into fuel for our cars.  At Oak Ridge National Laboratory, they’re using supercomputers to get a lot more power out of our nuclear facilities.  With more research and incentives, we can break our dependence on oil with biofuels, and become the first country to have a million electric vehicles on the road by 2015.  (Applause.)

We need to get behind this innovation.  And to help pay for it, I’m asking Congress to eliminate the billions in taxpayer dollars we currently give to oil companies.  (Applause.)  I don’t know if — I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but they’re doing just fine on their own.  (Laughter.)  So instead of subsidizing yesterday’s energy, let’s invest in tomorrow’s.

Now, clean energy breakthroughs will only translate into clean energy jobs if businesses know there will be a market for what they’re selling.  So tonight, I challenge you to join me in setting a new goal:  By 2035, 80 percent of America’s electricity will come from clean energy sources.  (Applause.)

Some folks want wind and solar.  Others want nuclear, clean coal and natural gas.  To meet this goal, we will need them all — and I urge Democrats and Republicans to work together to make it happen.  (Applause.)

 Maintaining our leadership in research and technology is crucial to America’s success.  But if we want to win the future -– if we want innovation to produce jobs in America and not overseas -– then we also have to win the race to educate our kids.

Think about it.  Over the next 10 years, nearly half of all new jobs will require education that goes beyond a high school education.  And yet, as many as a quarter of our students aren’t even finishing high school.  The quality of our math and science education lags behind many other nations.  America has fallen to ninth in the proportion of young people with a college degree.  And so the question is whether all of us –- as citizens, and as parents –- are willing to do what’s necessary to give every child a chance to succeed.

That responsibility begins not in our classrooms, but in our homes and communities.  It’s family that first instills the love of learning in a child.  Only parents can make sure the TV is turned off and homework gets done.  We need to teach our kids that it’s not just the winner of the Super Bowl who deserves to be celebrated, but the winner of the science fair.  (Applause.)  We need to teach them that success is not a function of fame or PR, but of hard work and discipline.

Our schools share this responsibility.  When a child walks into a classroom, it should be a place of high expectations and high performance.  But too many schools don’t meet this test. That’s why instead of just pouring money into a system that’s not working, we launched a competition called Race to the Top.  To all 50 states, we said, “If you show us the most innovative plans to improve teacher quality and student achievement, we’ll show you the money.”

Race to the Top is the most meaningful reform of our public schools in a generation.  For less than 1 percent of what we spend on education each year, it has led over 40 states to raise their standards for teaching and learning.  And these standards were developed, by the way, not by Washington, but by Republican and Democratic governors throughout the country.  And Race to the Top should be the approach we follow this year as we replace No Child Left Behind with a law that’s more flexible and focused on what’s best for our kids.  (Applause.)

You see, we know what’s possible from our children when reform isn’t just a top-down mandate, but the work of local teachers and principals, school boards and communities.  Take a school like Bruce Randolph in Denver.  Three years ago, it was rated one of the worst schools in Colorado — located on turf between two rival gangs.  But last May, 97 percent of the seniors received their diploma.  Most will be the first in their families to go to college.  And after the first year of the school’s transformation, the principal who made it possible wiped away tears when a student said, “Thank you, Ms. Waters, for showing that we are smart and we can make it.”  (Applause.)  That’s what good schools can do, and we want good schools all across the country.

Let’s also remember that after parents, the biggest impact on a child’s success comes from the man or woman at the front of the classroom.  In South Korea, teachers are known as “nation builders.”  Here in America, it’s time we treated the people who educate our children with the same level of respect.  (Applause.)  We want to reward good teachers and stop making excuses for bad ones.  (Applause.)  And over the next 10 years, with so many baby boomers retiring from our classrooms, we want to prepare 100,000 new teachers in the fields of science and technology and engineering and math.  (Applause.)

In fact, to every young person listening tonight who’s contemplating their career choice:  If you want to make a difference in the life of our nation; if you want to make a difference in the life of a child — become a teacher.  Your country needs you.  (Applause.)

Of course, the education race doesn’t end with a high school diploma.  To compete, higher education must be within the reach of every American.  (Applause.)  That’s why we’ve ended the unwarranted taxpayer subsidies that went to banks, and used the savings to make college affordable for millions of students.  (Applause.)  And this year, I ask Congress to go further, and make permanent our tuition tax credit –- worth $10,000 for four years of college.  It’s the right thing to do.  (Applause.)

Because people need to be able to train for new jobs and careers in today’s fast-changing economy, we’re also revitalizing America’s community colleges.  Last month, I saw the promise of these schools at Forsyth Tech in North Carolina.  Many of the students there used to work in the surrounding factories that have since left town.  One mother of two, a woman named Kathy Proctor, had worked in the furniture industry since she was 18 years old.  And she told me she’s earning her degree in biotechnology now, at 55 years old, not just because the furniture jobs are gone, but because she wants to inspire her children to pursue their dreams, too.  As Kathy said, “I hope it tells them to never give up.”

If we take these steps -– if we raise expectations for every child, and give them the best possible chance at an education, from the day they are born until the last job they take –- we will reach the goal that I set two years ago:  By the end of the decade, America will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.  (Applause.)

One last point about education.  Today, there are hundreds of thousands of students excelling in our schools who are not American citizens.  Some are the children of undocumented workers, who had nothing to do with the actions of their parents. They grew up as Americans and pledge allegiance to our flag, and yet they live every day with the threat of deportation.  Others come here from abroad to study in our colleges and universities.  But as soon as they obtain advanced degrees, we send them back home to compete against us.  It makes no sense.

Now, I strongly believe that we should take on, once and for all, the issue of illegal immigration.  And I am prepared to work with Republicans and Democrats to protect our borders, enforce our laws and address the millions of undocumented workers who are now living in the shadows.  (Applause.)  I know that debate will be difficult.  I know it will take time.  But tonight, let’s agree to make that effort.  And let’s stop expelling talented, responsible young people who could be staffing our research labs or starting a new business, who could be further enriching this nation.  (Applause.)

The third step in winning the future is rebuilding America.  To attract new businesses to our shores, we need the fastest, most reliable ways to move people, goods, and information — from high-speed rail to high-speed Internet.  (Applause.)

Our infrastructure used to be the best, but our lead has slipped.  South Korean homes now have greater Internet access than we do.  Countries in Europe and Russia invest more in their roads and railways than we do.  China is building faster trains and newer airports.  Meanwhile, when our own engineers graded our nation’s infrastructure, they gave us a “D.”

We have to do better.  America is the nation that built the transcontinental railroad, brought electricity to rural communities, constructed the Interstate Highway System.  The jobs created by these projects didn’t just come from laying down track or pavement.  They came from businesses that opened near a town’s new train station or the new off-ramp.

So over the last two years, we’ve begun rebuilding for the 21st century, a project that has meant thousands of good jobs for the hard-hit construction industry.  And tonight, I’m proposing that we redouble those efforts.  (Applause.)

We’ll put more Americans to work repairing crumbling roads and bridges.  We’ll make sure this is fully paid for, attract private investment, and pick projects based [on] what’s best for the economy, not politicians.

Within 25 years, our goal is to give 80 percent of Americans access to high-speed rail.  (Applause.)  This could allow you to go places in half the time it takes to travel by car.  For some trips, it will be faster than flying –- without the pat-down.  (Laughter and applause.)  As we speak, routes in California and the Midwest are already underway.

Within the next five years, we’ll make it possible for businesses to deploy the next generation of high-speed wireless coverage to 98 percent of all Americans.  This isn’t just about — (applause) — this isn’t about faster Internet or fewer dropped calls.  It’s about connecting every part of America to the digital age.  It’s about a rural community in Iowa or Alabama where farmers and small business owners will be able to sell their products all over the world.  It’s about a firefighter who can download the design of a burning building onto a handheld device; a student who can take classes with a digital textbook; or a patient who can have face-to-face video chats with her doctor.

All these investments -– in innovation, education, and infrastructure –- will make America a better place to do business and create jobs.  But to help our companies compete, we also have to knock down barriers that stand in the way of their success.

For example, over the years, a parade of lobbyists has rigged the tax code to benefit particular companies and industries.  Those with accountants or lawyers to work the system can end up paying no taxes at all.  But all the rest are hit with one of the highest corporate tax rates in the world.  It makes no sense, and it has to change.  (Applause.)

So tonight, I’m asking Democrats and Republicans to simplify the system.  Get rid of the loopholes.  Level the playing field.  And use the savings to lower the corporate tax rate for the first time in 25 years –- without adding to our deficit.  It can be done.  (Applause.)

To help businesses sell more products abroad, we set a goal of doubling our exports by 2014 -– because the more we export, the more jobs we create here at home.  Already, our exports are up.  Recently, we signed agreements with India and China that will support more than 250,000 jobs here in the United States.  And last month, we finalized a trade agreement with South Korea that will support at least 70,000 American jobs.  This agreement has unprecedented support from business and labor, Democrats and Republicans — and I ask this Congress to pass it as soon as possible.  (Applause.)

Now, before I took office, I made it clear that we would enforce our trade agreements, and that I would only sign deals that keep faith with American workers and promote American jobs.  That’s what we did with Korea, and that’s what I intend to do as we pursue agreements with Panama and Colombia and continue our Asia Pacific and global trade talks.  (Applause.)

To reduce barriers to growth and investment, I’ve ordered a review of government regulations.  When we find rules that put an unnecessary burden on businesses, we will fix them.  (Applause.)  But I will not hesitate to create or enforce common-sense safeguards to protect the American people.  (Applause.)  That’s what we’ve done in this country for more than a century.  It’s why our food is safe to eat, our water is safe to drink, and our air is safe to breathe.  It’s why we have speed limits and child labor laws.  It’s why last year, we put in place consumer protections against hidden fees and penalties by credit card companies and new rules to prevent another financial crisis.  (Applause.)  And it’s why we passed reform that finally prevents the health insurance industry from exploiting patients.  (Applause.)

Now, I have heard rumors that a few of you still have concerns about our new health care law.  (Laughter.)  So let me be the first to say that anything can be improved.  If you have ideas about how to improve this law by making care better or more affordable, I am eager to work with you.  We can start right now by correcting a flaw in the legislation that has placed an unnecessary bookkeeping burden on small businesses.  (Applause.)

What I’m not willing to do — what I’m not willing to do is go back to the days when insurance companies could deny someone coverage because of a preexisting condition.  (Applause.)

I’m not willing to tell James Howard, a brain cancer patient from Texas, that his treatment might not be covered.  I’m not willing to tell Jim Houser, a small business man from Oregon, that he has to go back to paying $5,000 more to cover his employees.  As we speak, this law is making prescription drugs cheaper for seniors and giving uninsured students a chance to stay on their patients’ — parents’ coverage.  (Applause.)

So I say to this chamber tonight, instead of re-fighting the battles of the last two years, let’s fix what needs fixing and let’s move forward.  (Applause.)

Now, the final critical step in winning the future is to make sure we aren’t buried under a mountain of debt.

We are living with a legacy of deficit spending that began almost a decade ago.  And in the wake of the financial crisis, some of that was necessary to keep credit flowing, save jobs, and put money in people’s pockets.

But now that the worst of the recession is over, we have to confront the fact that our government spends more than it takes in.  That is not sustainable.  Every day, families sacrifice to live within their means.  They deserve a government that does the same.

So tonight, I am proposing that starting this year, we freeze annual domestic spending for the next five years.  (Applause.)  Now, this would reduce the deficit by more than $400 billion over the next decade, and will bring discretionary spending to the lowest share of our economy since Dwight Eisenhower was President.

This freeze will require painful cuts.  Already, we’ve frozen the salaries of hardworking federal employees for the next two years.  I’ve proposed cuts to things I care deeply about, like community action programs.  The Secretary of Defense has also agreed to cut tens of billions of dollars in spending that he and his generals believe our military can do without.  (Applause.)

I recognize that some in this chamber have already proposed deeper cuts, and I’m willing to eliminate whatever we can honestly afford to do without.  But let’s make sure that we’re not doing it on the backs of our most vulnerable citizens.  (Applause.)  And let’s make sure that what we’re cutting is really excess weight.  Cutting the deficit by gutting our investments in innovation and education is like lightening an overloaded airplane by removing its engine.  It may make you feel like you’re flying high at first, but it won’t take long before you feel the impact.  (Laughter.)

Now, most of the cuts and savings I’ve proposed only address annual domestic spending, which represents a little more than 12 percent of our budget.  To make further progress, we have to stop pretending that cutting this kind of spending alone will be enough.  It won’t.  (Applause.)

The bipartisan fiscal commission I created last year made this crystal clear.  I don’t agree with all their proposals, but they made important progress.  And their conclusion is that the only way to tackle our deficit is to cut excessive spending wherever we find it –- in domestic spending, defense spending, health care spending, and spending through tax breaks and loopholes.  (Applause.)

This means further reducing health care costs, including programs like Medicare and Medicaid, which are the single biggest contributor to our long-term deficit.  The health insurance law we passed last year will slow these rising costs, which is part of the reason that nonpartisan economists have said that repealing the health care law would add a quarter of a trillion dollars to our deficit.  Still, I’m willing to look at other ideas to bring down costs, including one that Republicans suggested last year — medical malpractice reform to rein in frivolous lawsuits.  (Applause.)

To put us on solid ground, we should also find a bipartisan solution to strengthen Social Security for future generations.  (Applause.)  We must do it without putting at risk current retirees, the most vulnerable, or people with disabilities; without slashing benefits for future generations; and without subjecting Americans’ guaranteed retirement income to the whims of the stock market.  (Applause.)

And if we truly care about our deficit, we simply can’t afford a permanent extension of the tax cuts for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans.  (Applause.)  Before we take money away from our schools or scholarships away from our students, we should ask millionaires to give up their tax break.  It’s not a matter of punishing their success.  It’s about promoting America’s success.  (Applause.)

In fact, the best thing we could do on taxes for all Americans is to simplify the individual tax code.  (Applause.)  This will be a tough job, but members of both parties have expressed an interest in doing this, and I am prepared to join them.  (Applause.)

So now is the time to act.  Now is the time for both sides and both houses of Congress –- Democrats and Republicans -– to forge a principled compromise that gets the job done.  If we make the hard choices now to rein in our deficits, we can make the investments we need to win the future.

Let me take this one step further.  We shouldn’t just give our people a government that’s more affordable.  We should give them a government that’s more competent and more efficient.  We can’t win the future with a government of the past.  (Applause.)

We live and do business in the Information Age, but the last major reorganization of the government happened in the age of black-and-white TV.  There are 12 different agencies that deal with exports.  There are at least five different agencies that deal with housing policy.  Then there’s my favorite example:  The Interior Department is in charge of salmon while they’re in fresh water, but the Commerce Department handles them when they’re in saltwater.  (Laughter.)  I hear it gets even more complicated once they’re smoked.  (Laughter and applause.)

Now, we’ve made great strides over the last two years in using technology and getting rid of waste.  Veterans can now download their electronic medical records with a click of the mouse.  We’re selling acres of federal office space that hasn’t been used in years, and we’ll cut through red tape to get rid of more.  But we need to think bigger.  In the coming months, my administration will develop a proposal to merge, consolidate, and reorganize the federal government in a way that best serves the goal of a more competitive America.  I will submit that proposal to Congress for a vote –- and we will push to get it passed.  (Applause.)

In the coming year, we’ll also work to rebuild people’s faith in the institution of government.  Because you deserve to know exactly how and where your tax dollars are being spent, you’ll be able to go to a website and get that information for the very first time in history.  Because you deserve to know when your elected officials are meeting with lobbyists, I ask Congress to do what the White House has already done — put that information online.  And because the American people deserve to know that special interests aren’t larding up legislation with pet projects, both parties in Congress should know this:  If a bill comes to my desk with earmarks inside, I will veto it.  I will veto it.  (Applause.)

The 21st century government that’s open and competent.  A government that lives within its means.  An economy that’s driven by new skills and new ideas.  Our success in this new and changing world will require reform, responsibility, and innovation.  It will also require us to approach that world with a new level of engagement in our foreign affairs.

Just as jobs and businesses can now race across borders, so can new threats and new challenges.  No single wall separates East and West.  No one rival superpower is aligned against us.

And so we must defeat determined enemies, wherever they are, and build coalitions that cut across lines of region and race and religion.  And America’s moral example must always shine for all who yearn for freedom and justice and dignity.  And because we’ve begun this work, tonight we can say that American leadership has been renewed and America’s standing has been restored.

Look to Iraq, where nearly 100,000 of our brave men and women have left with their heads held high.  (Applause.)  American combat patrols have ended, violence is down, and a new government has been formed.  This year, our civilians will forge a lasting partnership with the Iraqi people, while we finish the job of bringing our troops out of Iraq.  America’s commitment has been kept.  The Iraq war is coming to an end.  (Applause.)

Of course, as we speak, al Qaeda and their affiliates continue to plan attacks against us.  Thanks to our intelligence and law enforcement professionals, we’re disrupting plots and securing our cities and skies.  And as extremists try to inspire acts of violence within our borders, we are responding with the strength of our communities, with respect for the rule of law, and with the conviction that American Muslims are a part of our American family.  (Applause.) 

We’ve also taken the fight to al Qaeda and their allies abroad.  In Afghanistan, our troops have taken Taliban strongholds and trained Afghan security forces.  Our purpose is clear:  By preventing the Taliban from reestablishing a stranglehold over the Afghan people, we will deny al Qaeda the safe haven that served as a launching pad for 9/11.

Thanks to our heroic troops and civilians, fewer Afghans are under the control of the insurgency.  There will be tough fighting ahead, and the Afghan government will need to deliver better governance.  But we are strengthening the capacity of the Afghan people and building an enduring partnership with them.  This year, we will work with nearly 50 countries to begin a transition to an Afghan lead.  And this July, we will begin to bring our troops home.  (Applause.)

In Pakistan, al Qaeda’s leadership is under more pressure than at any point since 2001.  Their leaders and operatives are being removed from the battlefield.  Their safe havens are shrinking.  And we’ve sent a message from the Afghan border to the Arabian Peninsula to all parts of the globe:  We will not relent, we will not waver, and we will defeat you.  (Applause.)

American leadership can also be seen in the effort to secure the worst weapons of war.  Because Republicans and Democrats approved the New START treaty, far fewer nuclear weapons and launchers will be deployed.  Because we rallied the world, nuclear materials are being locked down on every continent so they never fall into the hands of terrorists.  (Applause.)

Because of a diplomatic effort to insist that Iran meet its obligations, the Iranian government now faces tougher sanctions, tighter sanctions than ever before.  And on the Korean Peninsula, we stand with our ally South Korea, and insist that North Korea keeps its commitment to abandon nuclear weapons.  (Applause.)

This is just a part of how we’re shaping a world that favors peace and prosperity.  With our European allies, we revitalized NATO and increased our cooperation on everything from counterterrorism to missile defense.  We’ve reset our relationship with Russia, strengthened Asian alliances, built new partnerships with nations like India.

This March, I will travel to Brazil, Chile, and El Salvador to forge new alliances across the Americas.  Around the globe, we’re standing with those who take responsibility -– helping farmers grow more food, supporting doctors who care for the sick, and combating the corruption that can rot a society and rob people of opportunity.

Recent events have shown us that what sets us apart must not just be our power -– it must also be the purpose behind it.  In south Sudan -– with our assistance -– the people were finally able to vote for independence after years of war.  (Applause.)  Thousands lined up before dawn.  People danced in the streets.  One man who lost four of his brothers at war summed up the scene around him:  “This was a battlefield for most of my life,” he said.  “Now we want to be free.”  (Applause.)

And we saw that same desire to be free in Tunisia, where the will of the people proved more powerful than the writ of a dictator.  And tonight, let us be clear:  The United States of America stands with the people of Tunisia, and supports the democratic aspirations of all people.  (Applause.)

We must never forget that the things we’ve struggled for, and fought for, live in the hearts of people everywhere.  And we must always remember that the Americans who have borne the greatest burden in this struggle are the men and women who serve our country.  (Applause.)

Tonight, let us speak with one voice in reaffirming that our nation is united in support of our troops and their families.  Let us serve them as well as they’ve served us — by giving them the equipment they need, by providing them with the care and benefits that they have earned, and by enlisting our veterans in the great task of building our own nation.

Our troops come from every corner of this country -– they’re black, white, Latino, Asian, Native American.  They are Christian and Hindu, Jewish and Muslim.  And, yes, we know that some of them are gay.  Starting this year, no American will be forbidden from serving the country they love because of who they love.  (Applause.)  And with that change, I call on all our college campuses to open their doors to our military recruiters and ROTC.  It is time to leave behind the divisive battles of the past.  It is time to move forward as one nation.  (Applause.)

We should have no illusions about the work ahead of us. Reforming our schools, changing the way we use energy, reducing our deficit –- none of this will be easy.  All of it will take time.  And it will be harder because we will argue about everything.  The costs.  The details.  The letter of every law.

Of course, some countries don’t have this problem.  If the central government wants a railroad, they build a railroad, no matter how many homes get bulldozed.  If they don’t want a bad story in the newspaper, it doesn’t get written.

And yet, as contentious and frustrating and messy as our democracy can sometimes be, I know there isn’t a person here who would trade places with any other nation on Earth.  (Applause.)

We may have differences in policy, but we all believe in the rights enshrined in our Constitution.  We may have different opinions, but we believe in the same promise that says this is a place where you can make it if you try.  We may have different backgrounds, but we believe in the same dream that says this is a country where anything is possible.  No matter who you are.  No matter where you come from.

That dream is why I can stand here before you tonight.  That dream is why a working-class kid from Scranton can sit behind me.  (Laughter and applause.)  That dream is why someone who began by sweeping the floors of his father’s Cincinnati bar can preside as Speaker of the House in the greatest nation on Earth.  (Applause.)

That dream -– that American Dream -– is what drove the Allen Brothers to reinvent their roofing company for a new era.  It’s what drove those students at Forsyth Tech to learn a new skill and work towards the future.  And that dream is the story of a small business owner named Brandon Fisher.

Brandon started a company in Berlin, Pennsylvania, that specializes in a new kind of drilling technology.  And one day last summer, he saw the news that halfway across the world, 33 men were trapped in a Chilean mine, and no one knew how to save them.

But Brandon thought his company could help.  And so he designed a rescue that would come to be known as Plan B.  His employees worked around the clock to manufacture the necessary drilling equipment.  And Brandon left for Chile.

Along with others, he began drilling a 2,000-foot hole into the ground, working three- or four-hour — three or four days at a time without any sleep.  Thirty-seven days later, Plan B succeeded, and the miners were rescued.  (Applause.)  But because he didn’t want all of the attention, Brandon wasn’t there when the miners emerged.  He’d already gone back home, back to work on his next project.

And later, one of his employees said of the rescue, “We proved that Center Rock is a little company, but we do big things.”  (Applause.)

We do big things.

From the earliest days of our founding, America has been the story of ordinary people who dare to dream.  That’s how we win the future.

We’re a nation that says, “I might not have a lot of money, but I have this great idea for a new company.”  “I might not come from a family of college graduates, but I will be the first to get my degree.”  “I might not know those people in trouble, but I think I can help them, and I need to try.”  “I’m not sure how we’ll reach that better place beyond the horizon, but I know we’ll get there.  I know we will.”

We do big things.  (Applause.)

The idea of America endures.  Our destiny remains our choice.  And tonight, more than two centuries later, it’s because of our people that our future is hopeful, our journey goes forward, and the state of our union is strong.

Thank you.  God bless you, and may God bless the United States of America.  (Applause.)

END           10:13 P.M. EST


Earl Shugerman’s Corner: Tu B’Shvat or The New Year of the Trees

January 19, 2011

Earl Shugerman brings every week a serie of stories about Anglo-Saxon immigrants to Israel. This project is aimed to promote a more realistic view of life in Israel.

The most famous tree in history is the Tree of Life (Etz Ha Haim). I am writing this story from Israel during the Jewish holiday that celebrates trees and nature- Tu B’Shvat. Trees hold a special significance to the people of Israel and to the Jewish people. Trees represent the beauty of nature, the tenacity of growth, and the yearning for roots by the Jewish people.

One of the most beautiful things about life in Israel is that ancient history and modern life are so intricately entwined. This holiday is on the fifth month of the Jewish calendar- Shvat. Modern Israel uses both the ancient Jewish calendar and the Latin one- which of course is universal. Tu B’Shvat is celebrated as a national holiday even though its’ roots date back to the ancient Mishna- a collection of ancient interpretations of the Old Testament. These interpretations have guided the daily lives of Jewish people all over the world for centuries. The Mishna states that Tu B’Shvat is the time of year when the trees begin their new cycle and soon blossom.
 
Tu B’Shvat has become a very significant holiday in modern Israeli reality, since it connects the Jewish people with Eretz Israel (the land of Israel). There is a good reason Tu B’Shvat was declared as Israel Knesset’s birthday.

In the Talmud times Tu B’Shvat represented an argument between Bait Hillel and Bait Shamai as to when should taxes on fruit be paid. Bait Shamai said it should be paid on the first of the month of Shavat, Bait Hillel said it should be paid on the 15th (T”u) of the month of Shvat.

Almond tree in blossom on Tu B’Shvat (Photo: Lourdes Cardenal)

Almond tree in blossom on Tu B’Shvat (Photo: Lourdes Cardenal)

In Middle Ages Tu B’Shvat was a day Jews remembered with yearning and longing for the fruits of Israel. During the 15th century, the Cabalistic Jews in the city of Tzafad created a Tu B’Shvat Seder, in a similar manner to the Pesach Seder. Slowly and over time, this Seder took a firm hold and in modern days have become one the main leading aspects of the holiday.

In early 20th century, at the beginning of Zionism, parents used to take their children to plant trees all over Israel and this is how Tu B’Shvat became the holiday of planting.
 
In religious practice, this a time that emphasizes Mitzvah connected to nature. In Israel, during this holiday, there is not a piece of land unworthy of the planting of a tree. From the forests in the North, to the dessert in the South- you will see students, soldiers, seniors and even tourists tilling the soil, planting trees, and irrigating the land.
 
This holiday includes a gathering of neighbours and family to celebrate the gifts of nature and the rewards that come from the earth. The Tu B’Shvat Seder, much like the Passover Seder, has an organized program. The program includes the eating of thirty different kinds of fruit, and drinking four glasses of red and white wine. The eating of the fruit has a symbolic value to it. Tradition has it, that eating fruit from the tree, and therefore taking part in the abundance of nature has a strong element of spiritual growth. The union of mankind and the rewards from the earth is the essence of spiritual fulfilment in this holiday. People drink wine at the Seder to symbolize joy and happiness. Wine is a symbol of happiness and that is why it is blessed at parties and important Jewish ceremonies such as holidays, Shabbat, weddings or circumcisions.
 
The greatest joy to the people of Israel is to celebrate the rebirth of an ancient nation blessed with prosperity and hopefully peace.

Thank you for allowing me to share some of this joy with the readers!

About the author: Earl Shugerman is a retired American Government public relations specialist,  currently spokesman in Haifa for The Jewish Agency and a writer specializing in interfaith relations. He has worked together with the Catholic and Southern Baptist Movements, the Reformed Jewish Movement and Muslim groups in interfaith activities.


“How Can You Defend Israel?” Part II

January 2, 2011

An op-ed by David A. Harris
Executive Director of the American Jewish Committee
The Jerusalem Post, Januar 2, 2011

Since writing “How can you defend Israel?” last month, I’ve been deluged by comments. Some have been supportive, others harshly critical. The latter warrant closer examination.

The harsh criticism falls into two basic categories.

One is over the top.

It ranges from denying Israel’s very right to nationhood, to ascribing to Israel responsibility for every global malady, to peddling vague, or not so vague, anti-Semitic tropes.

There’s no point in dwelling at length on card-carrying members of these schools of thought. They’re living on another planet.

Israel is a fact. That fact has been confirmed by the UN, which, in 1947, recommended the creation of a Jewish state. The UN admitted Israel to membership in 1949. The combination of ancient and modern links between Israel and the Jewish people is almost unprecedented in history. And Israel has contributed its share, and then some, to advancing humankind.

If there are those on a legitimacy kick, let them examine the credentials of some others in the region, created by Western mapmakers eager to protect their own interests and ensure friendly leaders in power.

Or let them consider the basis for legitimacy of many countries worldwide created by invasion, occupation, and conquest. Israel’s case beats them by a mile.

And if there are people out there who don’t like all Jews, frankly, it’s their problem, not mine. Are there Jewish scoundrels? You bet. Are there Christian, Muslim, atheist, and agnostic scoundrels? No shortage. But are all members of any such community by definition scoundrels? Only if you’re an out-and-out bigot.

The other group of harsh critics assails Israeli policies, but generally tries to stop short of overt anti-Zionism or anti-Semitism. But many of these relentless critics, at the slightest opportunity, robotically repeat claims about Israel that are not factually correct.

There are a couple of methodological threads that run through their analysis.

The first is called confirmation bias. This is the habit of favoring information that confirms what you believe, whether it’s true or not, and ignoring the rest.

While Israel engages in a full-throttled debate on policies and strategies, rights and wrongs, do Israel’s fiercest critics do the same? Hardly.

Can the chorus of critics admit, for example, that the UN recommended the creation of two states – one Jewish, the other Arab – and that the Jews accepted the proposal, while the Arabs did not and launched a war?

Can they acknowledge that wars inevitably create refugee populations and lead to border adjustments in favor of the (attacked) victors?

Can they recognize that, when the West Bank and Gaza were in Arab hands until 1967, there was no move whatsoever toward Palestinian statehood?

Can they explain why Arafat launched a “second intifada” just as Israel and the U.S. were proposing a path-breaking two-state solution?

Or what the Hamas Charter says about the group’s goals?

Or what armed-to-the-teeth Hezbollah thinks of Israel’s right to exist?

Or how nuclear-weapons-aspiring Iran views Israel’s future?

Or why President Abbas rejected Prime Minister Olmert’s two-state plan, when the Palestinian chief negotiator himself admitted it would have given his side the equivalent of 100 percent of the West Bank?

Or why Palestinian leaders refuse to recognize the Western Wall or Rachel’s Tomb as Jewish sites, while demanding recognition of Muslim holy sites?

Or why Israel is expected to have an Arab minority, but a state of Palestine is not expected to have any Jewish minority?

Can they admit that, when Arab leaders are prepared to pursue peace with Israel rather than wage war, the results have been treaties, as the experiences of Egypt and Jordan show?

And can they own up to the fact that when it comes to liberal and democratic values in the region, no country comes remotely close to Israel, whatever its flaws, in protecting these rights?

Apropos, how many other countries in the Middle East – or beyond – would have tried and convicted an ex-president? This was the case, just last week, with Moshe Katsav, sending the message that no one is above the law – in a process, it should be noted, presided over by an Israeli Arab justice.

And if the harsh critics can’t acknowledge any of these points, what’s the explanation? Does their antipathy for Israel – and resultant confirmation bias – blind them to anything that might puncture their airtight thinking?

Then there is the other malady. It’s called reverse causality, or switching cause and effect.

Take the case of Gaza.

These critics focus only on Israel’s alleged actions against Gaza, as if they were the cause of the problem. In reality, they are the opposite – the effect.

When Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, it gave local residents their first chance in history – I repeat, in history – to govern themselves.

Neighboring Israel had only one concern – security. It wanted to ensure that whatever emerged in Gaza would not endanger Israelis. In fact, the more prosperous, stable, and peaceful Gaza became, the better for everyone. Tragically, Israel’s worst fears were realized. Rather than focus on Gaza’s construction, its leaders – Hamas since 2007 – preferred to contemplate Israel’s destruction. Missiles and mortars came raining down on southern Israel. Israel’s critics, though, were silent. Only when Israel could no longer tolerate the terror did the critics awaken – to focus on Israel’s reaction, not Gaza’s provocative action.

Yet, what would any other nation have done in Israel’s position?

Just imagine terrorists in power in British Columbia – and Washington State’s cities and towns being the regular targets of deadly projectiles. How long would it take for the U.S. to go in and try to put a stop to the terror attacks, and what kind of force would be used?

Or consider the security barrier.

It didn’t exist for nearly 40 years. Then it was built by Israel in response to a wave of deadly attacks originating in the West Bank, with well over 1000 Israeli fatalities (more than 40,000 Americans in proportional terms). Even so, Israel made clear that such barriers cannot only be erected, but also moved and ultimately dismantled.

Yet the outcry of Israel’s critics began not when Israelis were being killed in pizzerias, at Passover Seders, and on buses, but only when the barrier went up.

Another case of reverse causality – ignoring the cause entirely and focusing only on the effect, as if it were a stand-alone issue disconnected from anything else.

So, again, in answer to the question of my erstwhile British colleague, “How can you defend Israel?” I respond: Proudly.

In doing so, I am defending a liberal, democratic, and peace-seeking nation in a rough-and-tumble neighborhood, where liberalism, democracy, and peace are in woefully short supply.

Reprinted with kind permission of The Jerusalem Post.


“How can you defend Israel?”

December 27, 2010

An op-ed by David A. Harris
Executive Director of the American Jewish Committee
The Jerusalem Post, December 27, 2010

I was sitting in a lecture hall at a British university. Bored by the speaker, I began glancing around the hall. I noticed someone who looked quite familiar from an earlier academic incarnation. When the session ended, I introduced myself and wondered if, after years that could be counted in decades, he remembered me.

He said he did, at which point I commented that the years had been good to him. His response: “But you’ve changed a lot.”

“How so?” I asked with a degree of trepidation, knowing that, self-deception aside, being 60 isn’t quite the same as 30.

Looking me straight in the eye, he proclaimed, as others standing nearby listened in, “I read the things you write about Israel. I hate them. How can you defend that country? What happened to the good liberal boy I knew 30 years ago?”

I replied: “That good liberal boy hasn’t changed his view. Israel is a liberal cause, and I am proud to speak up for it.”

Yes, I’m proud to speak up for Israel. A recent trip once again reminded me why.

Sometimes, it’s the seemingly small things, the things that many may not even notice, or just take for granted, or perhaps deliberately ignore, lest it spoil their airtight thinking.

It’s the driving lesson in Jerusalem, with the student behind the wheel a devout Muslim woman, and the teacher an Israeli with a skullcap. To judge from media reports about endless inter-communal conflict, such a scene should be impossible. Yet, it was so mundane that no one, it seemed, other than me gave it a passing glance. It goes without saying that the same woman would not have had the luxury of driving lessons, much less with an Orthodox Jewish teacher, had she been living in Saudi Arabia.

It’s the two gay men walking hand-in-hand along the Tel Aviv beachfront. No one looked at them, and no one questioned their right to display their affection. Try repeating the same scene in some neighboring countries.

It’s the Friday crowd at a mosque in Jaffa. Muslims are free to enter as they please, to pray, to affirm their faith. The scene is repeated throughout Israel. Meanwhile, Christians in Iraq are targeted for death; Copts in Egypt face daily marginalization; Saudi Arabia bans any public display of Christianity; and Jews have been largely driven out of the Arab Middle East.

It’s the central bus station in Tel Aviv. There’s a free health clinic set up for the thousands of Africans who have entered Israel, some legally, others illegally. They are from Sudan, Eritrea, and elsewhere. They are Christians, Muslims, and animists. Clearly, they know something that Israel’s detractors, who rant and rave about alleged “racism,” don’t. They know that, if they’re lucky, they can make a new start in Israel. That’s why they bypass Arab countries along the way, fearing imprisonment or persecution. And while tiny Israel wonders how many such refugees it can absorb, Israeli medical professionals volunteer their time in the clinic.

It’s Save a Child’s Heart, another Israeli institution that doesn’t make it into the international media all that much, although it deserves a nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize. Here, children in need of advanced cardiac care come, often below the radar. They arrive from Iraq, the West Bank, Gaza, and other Arab places. They receive world-class treatment. It’s free, offered by doctors and nurses who wish to assert their commitment to coexistence. Yet, these very same individuals know that, in many cases, their work will go unacknowledged. The families are fearful of admitting they sought help in Israel, even as, thanks to Israelis, their children have been given a new lease on life.

It’s the vibrancy of the Israeli debate on just about everything, including, centrally, the ongoing conflict with the Palestinians. The story goes that U.S. President Harry Truman met Israeli President Chaim Weizmann shortly after Israel’s establishment in 1948. They got into a discussion about who had the tougher job. Truman said: “With respect, I’m president of 140 million people.” Weizmann retorted: “True, but I’m president of one million presidents.”

Whether it’s the political parties, the Knesset, the media, civil society, or the street, Israelis are assertive, self-critical, and reflective of a wide range of viewpoints.

It’s the Israelis who are now planning the restoration of the Carmel Forest, after a deadly fire killed 44 people and destroyed 8,000 acres of exquisite nature. Israelis took an arid and barren land and, despite the unimaginably harsh conditions, lovingly planted one tree after another, so that Israel can justifiably claim today that it’s one of the few countries with more wooded land than it had a century ago.

It’s the Israelis who, with quiet resolve and courage, are determined to defend their small sliver of land against every conceivable threat – the growing Hamas arsenal in Gaza; the dangerous build-up of missiles by Hezbollah in Lebanon; nuclear-aspiring Iran’s calls for a world without Israel; Syria’s hospitality to Hamas leaders and transshipment of weapons to Hezbollah; and enemies that shamelessly use civilians as human shields. Or the global campaign to challenge Israel’s very legitimacy and right to self-defense; the bizarre anti-Zionist coalition between the radical left and Islamic extremists; the automatic numerical majority at the UN ready to endorse, at a moment’s notice, even the most far-fetched accusations against Israel; and those in the punditocracy unable – or unwilling – to grasp the immense strategic challenges facing Israel.

Yes, it’s those Israelis who, after burying 21 young people murdered by terrorists at a Tel Aviv discotheque, don the uniform of the Israeli armed forces to defend their country, and proclaim, in the next breath, that, “They won’t stop us from dancing, either.”

That’s the country I’m proud to stand up for. No, I’d never say Israel is perfect. It has its flaws and foibles. It’s made its share of mistakes. But, then again, so has every democratic, liberal and peace-seeking country I know, though few of them have faced existential challenges every day since their birth.

The perfect is the enemy of the good, it’s said. Israel is a good country. And seeing it up close, rather than through the filter of the BBC or the Guardian, never fails to remind me why.

Reprinted with kind permission of The Jerusalem Post.


U.S. Senate gives approval to new START Treaty with Russia

December 22, 2010

The U.S. Senate has voted to end debate (as we previously reported) on a new arms control treaty with Russia. Several Republican senators supported the new START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) treaty in what would be a bipartisan success for U.S. President Barack Obama.

President Barack Obama attends a New START Treaty meeting hosted by Vice President Joe Biden in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Nov. 18, 2010. Seated with them, clockwise from left, are: former Secretaries of State James A. Baker III and Dr. Henry A. Kissinger; Vice Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. James E. Cartwright; former Secretary of State Dr. Madeleine Albright; former National Security Advisor Gen. Brent Scowcroft; former Secretary of Defense Dr. William Perry; Deputy Secretary of Energy Daniel B. Poneman; Senator John F. Kerry, D-Mass; Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton; Senator Richard G. Lugar, R-Ind.; Deputy Assistant to the Vice President for National Security Affairs Brian P. McKeon. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama attends a New START Treaty meeting hosted by Vice President Joe Biden in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Nov. 18, 2010. Seated with them, clockwise from left, are: former Secretaries of State James A. Baker III and Dr. Henry A. Kissinger; Vice Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. James E. Cartwright; former Secretary of State Dr. Madeleine Albright; former National Security Advisor Gen. Brent Scowcroft; former Secretary of Defense Dr. William Perry; Deputy Secretary of Energy Daniel B. Poneman; Senator John F. Kerry, D-Mass; Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton; Senator Richard G. Lugar, R-Ind.; Deputy Assistant to the Vice President for National Security Affairs Brian P. McKeon. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

U.S. Senate approval could smooth the way for further arms reductions beyond the limits set by START, which requires both sides to decrease stockpiles to 1,550 strategic warheads.

The text of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) signed in April 2010 can be read here.

In a Brookings paper released early this month, Steven Pifer, foreign policy analyst and former ambassador to Ukraine, argues that future arms reductions talks with Russia won’t be easy to negotiate, since Russia relies on tactical nuclear weapons to balance conventional imbalances with China and NATO.

Read full story.


The Electric Don Quixote: 70th Anniversary of Frank Zappa

December 21, 2010
"Rock journalism is people who can't write, interviewing people who can't talk, in order to provide articles for people who can't read." (Frank Zappa, 1940-1993)
“Journalists are people who can’t write, interviewing people who can’t talk, in order to provide articles for people who can’t read.” (Frank Zappa, 1940-1993)
A Tribute by David Berger
 
If you want to tell people the truth, make them laugh, otherwise they’ll kill you. (Oscar Wilde)

To celebrate the 70th anniversary of Frank Zappa, one of the most iconoclastic character of American pop culture (beside Groucho Marx and Mel Brooks), an ironical critic of mainstream media (Thomas Pynchon did the same, but in a more incognito way; should I say a Trotzkist one, i.e. smashing the system from inside…), and a passionate advocate for freedom of speech, we reproduce his famous ballade Bobby Brown – which can be interpreted as a satirical view of established social and political processes, structures and movements (both conservative and progressive…).

Just an anecdote, but not a poor one: In early 1990 at the request of Czech President Václav Havel, a fan too, Frank Zappa went into politics, serving as a cultural attaché. Neither Right nor Left, Frank Zappa confirmed that an artist can make a difference in society without such a bullshit like ideology. Unfortunately, this promising political career was broken by his death in 1993.

A delightful sense of humor – not everybody’s taste. An incomparable flair for eclectic and provocative themes – not everybody’s talent. Actually, the great master of American surrealism or dadaism Frank Zappa wasn’t Everybody’s Darling.

Happy birthday, Frank!

***

Bobby Brown Lyrics

Hey there, people, I’m Bobby Brown
They say I’m the cutest boy in town
My car is fast, my teeth is shiney
I tell all the girls they can kiss my heinie
Here I am at a famous school
I’m dressing sharp n im
Acting cool
I got a cheerleader here wants to help with my paper
Let her do all the work n maybe later I’ll rape her

Oh God I am the American dream
I do not think I’m too extreme
An I’m a handsome son of a bitch
I’m gonna get a good job n be real rich

(get a good
Get a good
Get a good
Get a good job)

Women’s liberation
Came creeping across the nation
I tell you people I was not ready
When I fucked this dyke by the name of Freddie
She made a little speech then,
Aw, she tried to make me say when
She had my balls in a vice, but she left the dick
I guess it’s still hooked on, but now it shoots too quick

Oh God I am the American dream
But now I smell like Vaseline
An I’m a miserable son of a bitch
Am I a boy or a lady…I don’t know which

(I wonder wonder
Wonder wonder)

So I went out n bought me a leisure suit
I jingle my change, but I’m still kinda cute
Got a job doin radio promo
An none of the jocks can even tell I’m a homo
Eventually me n a friend
Sorta drifted along into S&M
I can take about an hour on the tower of power
Long as I gets a little golden shower

Oh God I am the American dream
With a spindle up my butt till it makes me scream
An I’ll do anything to get ahead
I lay awake nights sayin, thank you, Fred!
Oh god, oh god, I’m so fantastic!
Thanks to Freddie, I’m a sexual spastic

And my name is Bobby Brown
Watch me now, I’m goin down,
And my name is Bobby Brown
Watch me now, I’m goin down, etc.


In Memoriam: Richard Holbrooke (1941-2010)

December 15, 2010

“The controlled chaos is one way to get creativity. The intensity of it, the physical rush, the intimacy created the kind of dialogue that leads to synergy.” Richard Holbrooke

Richard Charles Albert Holbrooke (April 24, 1941 – December 13, 2010)

Richard Holbrooke (April 24, 1941 – December 13, 2010)

Richard Holbrooke was the most ubiquitous and brilliant diplomat of his generation, distinguished for his legendary toughness as a negotiator in Asia, Europe, and beyond. As a diplomat, writer, and investment banker, he has stood near the pinnacle of power, renewing the credibility of U.S. diplomacy.

To commemorate the passing of the former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, chief architect of the 1995 Dayton peace agreement, and Special Envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, we reproduce some articles and stories related to this giant of U.S. foreign policy.

United States presidential election, 2008: The Next President

Former U.S. ambassador Richard Holbrooke discusses Russia, Georgia and Kosovo

Bosnian Crisis

U.S. President Obama appoints envoys to Middle East and South Asia

Afpak: Richard Holbrooke’ U.S. Strategy for South Asia


2011 American Jewish Committee Global Forum: Join World Leaders to Shape the Future

December 7, 2010

Dear Friend of Israel,

I want to personally invite you to celebrate the 105th anniversary of the American Jewish Committee at the inaugural Global Forum in Washington, DC, from April 27-29, 2011.

Over the span of just 48 hours, you will:

Hear from world leaders:

Join Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli, who has courageously changed Panama’s foreign policy course regarding Israel, German Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, a rising German political superstar, and Bulgarian Foreign Minister Nikolay Mladenov, one of Israel and the Jewish people’s most trusted European allies. We’ll have more to announce soon!

Debate the most pressing issues:

Last year, we brought you a terrific face-off between Roger Cohen and Bret Stephens on Iran policy. This year, come watch noted journalists Yossi Klein Halevi and Peter Beinart debate the future of the American Jewish establishment. Two authoritative voices, two very different visions.

Engage with leading thinkers:

Robert Kagan, prominent leading foreign policy analyst and author of the paradigm-shifting Of Paradise and Power, and The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg will discuss the implications of a changing world order.

Enjoy an intimate dinner with dignitaries:

AJC’s trademark program is back by popular demand!

Participate in skill-building workshops:

Learn how to become a more effective advocate from AJC’s leading experts.

Network:

With like-minded professionals, intellectuals, policy experts and Jewish leaders from around the world.

Are you a young professional? If so, consider joining the ACCESS 20/20 Weekend, April 29-30, following the Global Forum.

Register now.

I look forward to seeing you in Washington!

Robert Elman
American Jewish Committee (AJC) President


WikiLeaks Bullshit: Much Ado About Nothing, False Flag, Strategia della Tensione, or Sabotage Act against U.S. Foreign Policy?

November 29, 2010
WIKILEAKS REAL AGENDA

WIKILEAKS REAL AGENDA

A Satirical Op-Ed by Narcisse Caméléon, deputy editor-in-chief

***

On Bullshit: It is impossible for someone to lie unless he thinks he knows the truth. Producing bullshit requires no such conviction. A person who lies is thereby responding to the truth, and he is to that extent respectful of it. When an honest man speaks, he says only what he believes to be true; and for the liar, it is correspondingly indispensable that he considers his statements to be false. For the bullshitter, however, all these bets are off: he is neither on the side of the true nor on the side of the false. His eye is not on the facts at all, as the eyes of the honest man and of the liar are, except insofar as they may be pertinent to his interest in getting away with what he says. He does not care whether the things he says describe reality correctly. He just picks them out, or makes them up, to suit his purpose. (Princeton University Professor Harry Frankfurt)

And if, to be sure, sometimes you need to conceal a fact with words, do it in such a way that it does not become known, or, if it does become known, that you have a ready and quick defense. (Niccolò Machiavelli)
The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. (Edward L. Bernays)

The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. (Edward L. Bernays)

WikiLeaks released yesterday a batch of about 250,000 U.S. diplomatic cables, exposing confidential information about U.S. relationships with the rest of the world and U.S. assessments of foreign leaders.

The White House denounced the disclosures as “reckless and dangerous".

The White House denounced the disclosures as “reckless and dangerous".

In light of the revelations, apparently leaked by US Army soldier Bradley Manning, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton condemned the unauthorized disclosure of classified documents and sensitive national security information (check out statement below).

The cables – a sampling of the daily traffic between the State Department and some 270 embassies and consulates – specify that Iran has obtained nineteen BM-25 missiles from North Korea with a range adequate to reach western Europe, and they also document Arab leaders calls for a military strike on Iran.

The documents also divulge U.S. diplomats were ordered to engage in spying by obtaining foreign diplomats’ personal information, such as frequent-flier and credit card numbers. The documents could abash the Obama administration and destabilize its diplomacy. In cables drafted by U.S. diplomats, French President Nicolas Sarkozy is called “Emperor without clothes”, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is described as an “alpha-dog,” Afghan President Hamid Karzai is “driven by paranoia,” and German Chancellor Angela Merkel “avoids risk and is rarely creative.” It also allegedly said that Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi never travels without a trusted Ukraninan nurse, a ‘voluptuous blond’.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs expressed concern in a statement that Wikileaks release could jeopardize private talks with foreign governments and opposition leaders. The Pentagon announced yesterday it will take action to prevent future illegal releases of classified information.

In a opinion piece for the Daily Beast, Peter Beinart, senior fellow at the New America Foundation, calls these revelations an act of sabotage. Really? Or: Better bad press than no press at all? Or Bullshit as usual…

Read full story.

***

Remarks to the Press on the Release of Confidential Documents

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Treaty Room
Washington, DC
November 29, 2010
Hillary is very angry about the disclosures...

Hillary is very angry about the disclosures...


SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, good afternoon. Do we have enough room in here? I want to take a moment to discuss the recent news reports of classified documents that were illegally provided from United States Government computers. In my conversations with counterparts from around the world over the past few days, and in my meeting earlier today with Foreign Minister Davutoglu of Turkey, I have had very productive discussions on this issue.

The United States strongly condemns the illegal disclosure of classified information. It puts people’s lives in danger, threatens our national security, and undermines our efforts to work with other countries to solve shared problems. This Administration is advancing a robust foreign policy that is focused on advancing America’s national interests and leading the world in solving the most complex challenges of our time, from fixing the global economy, to thwarting international terrorism, to stopping the spread of catastrophic weapons, to advancing human rights and universal values. In every country and in every region of the world, we are working with partners to pursue these aims.

So let’s be clear: this disclosure is not just an attack on America’s foreign policy interests. It is an attack on the international community – the alliances and partnerships, the conversations and negotiations, that safeguard global security and advance economic prosperity.

I am confident that the partnerships that the Obama Administration has worked so hard to build will withstand this challenge. The President and I have made these partnerships a priority – and we are proud of the progress that they have helped achieve – and they will remain at the center of our efforts.

I will not comment on or confirm what are alleged to be stolen State Department cables. But I can say that the United States deeply regrets the disclosure of any information that was intended to be confidential, including private discussions between counterparts or our diplomats’ personal assessments and observations. I want to make clear that our official foreign policy is not set through these messages, but here in Washington. Our policy is a matter of public record, as reflected in our statements and our actions around the world.

I would also add that to the American people and to our friends and partners, I want you to know that we are taking aggressive steps to hold responsible those who stole this information. I have directed that specific actions be taken at the State Department, in addition to new security safeguards at the Department of Defense and elsewhere to protect State Department information so that this kind of breach cannot and does not ever happen again.

Relations between governments aren’t the only concern created by the publication of this material. U.S. diplomats meet with local human rights workers, journalists, religious leaders, and others outside of governments who offer their own candid insights. These conversations also depend on trust and confidence. For example, if an anti-corruption activist shares information about official misconduct, or a social worker passes along documentation of sexual violence, revealing that person’s identity could have serious repercussions: imprisonment, torture, even death.

So whatever are the motives in disseminating these documents, it is clear that releasing them poses real risks to real people, and often to the very people who have dedicated their own lives to protecting others.

Now, I am aware that some may mistakenly applaud those responsible, so I want to set the record straight: There is nothing laudable about endangering innocent people, and there is nothing brave about sabotaging the peaceful relations between nations on which our common security depends.

There have been examples in history in which official conduct has been made public in the name of exposing wrongdoings or misdeeds. This is not one of those cases. In contrast, what is being put on display in this cache of documents is the fact that American diplomats are doing the work we expect them to do. They are helping identify and prevent conflicts before they start. They are working hard every day to solve serious practical problems – to secure dangerous materials, to fight international crime, to assist human rights defenders, to restore our alliances, to ensure global economic stability. This is the role that America plays in the world. This is the role our diplomats play in serving America. And it should make every one of us proud.

The work of our diplomats doesn’t just benefit Americans, but also billions of others around the globe. In addition to endangering particular individuals, disclosures like these tear at the fabric of the proper function of responsible government.

People of good faith understand the need for sensitive diplomatic communications, both to protect the national interest and the global common interest. Every country, including the United States, must be able to have candid conversations about the people and nations with whom they deal. And every country, including the United States, must be able to have honest, private dialogue with other countries about issues of common concern. I know that diplomats around the world share this view – but this is not unique to diplomacy. In almost every profession – whether it’s law or journalism, finance or medicine or academia or running a small business – people rely on confidential communications to do their jobs. We count on the space of trust that confidentiality provides. When someone breaches that trust, we are all worse off for it. And so despite some of the rhetoric we’ve heard these past few days, confidential communications do not run counter to the public interest. They are fundamental to our ability to serve the public interest.

In America, we welcome genuine debates about pressing questions of public policy. We have elections about them. That is one of the greatest strengths of our democracy. It is part of who we are and it is a priority for this Administration. But stealing confidential documents and then releasing them without regard for the consequences does not serve the public good, and it is not the way to engage in a healthy debate.

In the past few days, I have spoken with many of my counterparts around the world, and we have all agreed that we will continue to focus on the issues and tasks at hand. In that spirit, President Obama and I remain committed to productive cooperation with our partners as we seek to build a better, more prosperous world for all.

Thank you, and I’d be glad to take a few questions.

MR. CROWLEY: We’ll begin with Charlie Wolfson of CBS in his last week here covering the State Department.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Where are you going, Charlie?

QUESTION: I’ll (inaudible) into the sunset, but let me get to a question.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes, sir. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Madam Secretary, are you embarrassed by these leaks personally, professionally? And what harm have the leaks done to the U.S. so far that you can determine from talking to your colleagues?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Charlie, as I said in my statement, and based on the many conversations that I’ve had with my counterparts, I am confident that the partnerships and relationships that we have built in this Administration will withstand this challenge. The President and I have made these partnerships a priority, a real centerpiece of our foreign policy, and we’re proud of the progress that we have made over the last 22 months.

Every single day, U.S. Government representatives from the entire government, not just from the State Department, engage with hundreds if not thousands of government representatives and members of civil society from around the world. They carry out the goals and the interests and the values of the United States. And it is imperative that we have candid reporting from those who are in the field working with their counterparts in order to inform our decision-making back here in Washington.

I can tell you that in my conversations, at least one of my counterparts said to me, “Well, don’t worry about it. You should see what we say about you.” (Laughter.) So I think that this is well understood in the diplomatic community as part of the give-and-take. And I would hope that we will be able to move beyond this and back to the business of working together on behalf of our common goals.

MR. CROWLEY: Kim Ghattas of BBC.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Kim.

QUESTION: Madam Secretary, I was wondering whether you could tell us what you think your upcoming trip is going to look like. Presumably, a lot of the people who have been mentioned in those alleged cables are going to have conversations with you. Do you think it’s going to cause you discomfort over the coming week as you engage in conversations with those leaders?

And I know you don’t want to comment on the particulars of the cables, but one issue that has been brought up into the daylight is the debate about Iran. What do you think the impact is going to be of those documents on the debate about Iran in the coming weeks and months?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Kim, you’re right. And I don’t know if you’re going on this trip or not, but we will be seeing dozens of my counterparts in Astana, and then as I go on from Kazakhstan to Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan and then ending up in Bahrain for the Manama dialogue. And I will continue the conversations that I have started with some in person and over the phone over the last days, and I will seek out others because I want personally to impress upon them the importance that I place on the kind of open, productive discussions that we have had to date and my intention to continue working closely with them.

Obviously, this is a matter of great concern, because we don’t want anyone in any of the countries that could be affected by these alleged leaks here to have any doubts about our intentions and our about commitments. That’s why I stressed in my remarks that policy is made in Washington. The President and I have been very clear about our goals and objectives in dealing with the full range of global challenges that we face. And we will continue to be so and we will continue to look for every opportunity to work with our friends and partners and allies around the world and to deal in a very clear-eyed way with those with whom we have differences, which of course brings me to Iran.

I think that it should not be a surprise to anyone that Iran is a source of great concern not only in the United States, that what comes through in every meeting that I have anywhere in the world is a concern about Iranian actions and intentions. So if anything, any of the comments that are being reported on allegedly from the cables confirm the fact that Iran poses a very serious threat in the eyes of many of her neighbors, and a serious concern far beyond her region.

That is why the international community came together to pass the strongest possible sanctions against Iran. It did not happen because the United States went out and said, “Please do this for us.” It happened because countries, once they evaluated the evidence concerning Iran’s actions and intentions, reached the same conclusion that the United States reached – that we must do whatever we can to muster the international community to take action to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear weapons state.

So if anyone reading the stories about these alleged cables thinks carefully, what they will conclude is that the concern about Iran is well founded, widely shared, and will continue to be at the source of the policy that we pursue with likeminded nations to try to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

MR. CROWLEY: We’ve got to let the Secretary get to her airplane and get to her trip. Thank you very much.

SECRETARY CLINTON: I will leave you in P.J.’s very good hands. Thank you.

QUESTION: Madam Secretary, did you talk to anyone in Pakistan or India?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you all.

QUESTION: Thank you, Madam. (Inaudible).

MR. CROWLEY: What we’ll do is we’ll take, say, a 30-minute filing break, and then we’ll reconvene in the Briefing Room and continue our discussion.


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