Sonntag, 31. August 2008

All Hail the Conquering Heroes

As it turns out, John McCain is as smart as I thought he is. It gives me the wonderful opportunity to mention that I said it all along. Well that would be an overstatement, I said it on August 24th. He choose Sarah Palin, Governour of Alaska, to be his running mate and nearly immediately speculations rose on what she would bring into this election and most commentators speculated on the question whether she would attract voters of Hillary Clinton. Well, I don't think she will, but she and the GOP don't need to worry, because this question misses the point: these Hillary-voters very simply might stay home on November 4th and not vote at all. Democrats had hope to carry some of the red states of the south, but with some women staying home, and a VP-candidate that has the unquestioned support of the christian right, these states will almost certainly remain in the red column. Most importantly, however, she incorporates change like no other and McCains choice is hence so much more straightforward than Obamas pick. John McCain wrapped it up last night.

Freitag, 29. August 2008

The Horn of Africa again emerges on the radar screen of the European Union

It hardly comes as a surprise to those familiar with the Horn of Africa and Somalia in particular that the European Union (EU) is now preparing for a major maritime mission off the coast of Somalia to combat widespread piracy. Piracy has been a looming threat for years at the Bab el-Mandab, one of the worlds most important chokepoints. Though the mission will be an important step in improving security at a shipping lane crucial to the security of the European Union, it will not solve the problem. The core concern should be the collapse of the Somali state in 1991. After the international community withdrew its troops from Somalia in 1995 there was no state to take over duties from the UNOSOM, let alone an effective coast guard. This opened a chance for international corporations to start fishing off the coast but within the territorial waters of Somalia. The trawlers were not observing any quotas and after a very short period of time they had managed to extinguish most fishing grounds and with it one of the most important sources of income for Somali fishing communities. And Somalis, deprived of their natural source of income and food, reverted to one of the last options they had: piracy. While the EU is preparing for the mission, fighting in Somalia continues, even escalates and another famine in the Horn of Africa is developing. Unless the world finally addresses these issues, they better prepare to stay for a very long period of time.
It was back in 2005, when I first wrote on the connection between Somali fishermen and piracy, it might be worthwhile to take a look:

Mittwoch, 27. August 2008

It ain't Kosovo, Dimitri

The Russian president, as many other observers, draws what could be seen as a compelling parallel between the de facto independence of South Ossetia and Kosovo. But he misses a central point in making comparisons, as historians will not fail to notice. The comparison is a central part of the historical sciences. But it is not being conducted to underline potential similarities, but to show how and why things differ. Its main attribute is to make a distinction. Comparing the cases of Kosovo and South Ossetia reveals a couple of important differences:
First: In Kosovo ethnic cleansing preceded the military intervention. In South Ossetia it is the other way around. The Russian intervention is followed by ethnic cleansing.
Second: The West did not want independence for Kosovo but ultimately accepted it, because there was no alternative strategy. Again its exactly the other way around in South Ossetia: The intervention of Russian forces, as by the way the Russian peacekeeping mission, was designed only to pave the way for the eventual independence of South Ossetia and Abchasia.
Third: NATO acted in Kosovo only after the international community and most notably the United Nations failed to take action. Russia never even attempted to bring the case to the United Nations before acting.

Dienstag, 26. August 2008

How to win and, well, loose both at the same time

The Russian President Medwedew today recognised the independence of South Ossetia and Abchasia in what is almost certainly the greatest strategic blunder since the end of the Cold War. In recent years Western commentators and observers have been impressed by Russian moves on the world stage in an apparent effort to reassert its strategic role, not only in the Caucasus but elsewhere as well. Russia carefully set up a trap for Georgia and by blocking any solution on the South Ossetia-question for years it ensured that Georgia would not be able to fulfill the basic requirements to join NATO, namely the solution of outstanding territorial questions. The thing is, Russia now solved this problem. Today Moscow made sure that Georgia will be able to join NATO in due course. In doing so it brought NATO closer to an internal consensus on its future role and helped Western-oriented governments not yet part of the alliance to make their case for NATO expansion. And finally Moscow broke a principle that China wants the world to adhere to: territorial integrity, simply because Beijing is facing difficulties on its own periphery. So, after alienating the West, NATO, the Eastern Europeans and China, it also lost influence in the most important regional organisation for Moscow: the Shanghai Corporation Organisation. If the Kremlin believes that is not a price too high for gaining South Ossetia, its judgment is even worse than one could possibly imagine.

Sonntag, 24. August 2008

Hillary's fall

Joshua Green has the story you shouldn't miss. On a broad collection of material he gathered from the Hillary Clinton campaign, he explains how her campaign faltered after she came in third in Iowa. Its a rare insight into the world of American politics and more so in the Clinton's:

So its Biden, right?

Presidential hopeful Barack Obama finally chose Senator Joe Biden to be his running mate. Biden certainly is a good choice for all his foreign policy credentials. But the question remains whether this is the best pick he could have made and moreover whether it contradicts one of Obama's major themes: change. Well, it does. While Obama made it very clear that the wants to break with what he calls the old Washington he has invited a Senator to be his running mate, who represents the old Washington even more than John McCain does. Obama's entire foreign policy agenda is built on the promise of change and here in Europe people hope that they can expect a new and visionary foreign policy from a potential President Barack Obama. But this is a grave misperception: His VP-choice underlines what his foreign policy will look like: A return to the Clinton days, when foreign policy was trade-oriented and all but comprehensive or cohesive.

A better choice could have been made by picking a Washington-outsider, someone who is strong on the economy and foreign policy and whos foreign policy credentials cannot be doubted. That someone would have been Bill Richardson. Richardson was not choosen, but it doesn't need much imagination as to why he hasn't been: He represents the Hispanic vote. Two minorities on one ticket? It would have been difficult but it would have been something. Time for John McCain to make his choice, if he is as smart as I thing he is, its going to be Sarah Palin.

Freitag, 15. August 2008

A Taste of What is to Come

In 2007 I was in Brussels for a briefing by the US-NATO Ambassador Nuland at the Manfred-Woerner Seminar. She made an interesting remark when saying that it was interesting to note how much we (NATO) speak about Russia rather than with Russia. It was clear that Russia's aggressive posture wasn't merely rhetoric. So it was hardly a surprise, when Russia made its move: the Russian invasion of Georgia, in clear violation of international laws and more importantly conventions shades a shadow over the international relations and especially over this years' Olympic Games in China. It was, however, in the making for a long time: For years now Russia handed passports to anyone in South Ossetia, who could not hide, massed troops across the border and prevented a long-term solution of the conflicts in South Ossetia and Abchasia. In the long-run both regions were the wild card in Russian foreign policy, they displayed Moscow's ability to sabotage Tiflis' aspirations to join NATO. When Russia began to hand out Russian passports it was clear that its ultimate goal was to annex the regions and while preparing for that moment it developed a pretext for confrontation with Georgia and the international community. It is telling that Russia dismisses any call for the integrity of Georgia as an illusion. At the same time it is one of the windfall for Russia that it interfered with the oil-supply of the West by targeting the Baku-Tiblisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline that undermined the Russian monopoly on transport of the Central Asian oil. Now, that Georgia has been invaded the West hopes for the best, a Russian pull out and withdrawal to position held prior to the recent war. But we should prepare for what is to come. Russia already announced that Ukraine will not be able to join NATO and if it does its territorial integrity would be gone. It also stated that it will not accept a termination of the contract that allows for the Russian Black Sea Fleet to be stationed at Sevastopol on the Krim. Russia's apparent violation and disrespect for the right of self-determination of sovereign states must end. The Russian bear will only respond to pressure and his actions must have severe consequences: Russia should be excluded from the G8 immediately and only be invited again once it withdrew form Georgia entirely. Should Russia deliver any threat to the territorial integrity of another state, NATO should terminate cooperation with Russia.

Donnerstag, 7. August 2008

Kurt Beck ist: "nah am Menschen"

Das da, das ist der Kurt Beck. Kennt Ihr ja. Der ist Vorsitzender der SPD. Und hier erklärt der Kurt Beck den Umgang mit der Linkspartei, der ist nämlich "mal so" (linke Hand) und "mal anders" (rechte Hand).

Und weil das so viele Menschen so richtig gut verstehen und nachvollziehen können, ist der Kurt Beck im Sommer unterwegs und erklärt das denen, die es einfach nicht verstehen wollen. Das heißt dann "nah beim Menschen"

"Nah am Menschen" sind übrigens außer Kurt Beck auch: Die Stadt Regensburg, die Firma Vorwerk ( und der Oberbürgermeister der Stadt Hamm:

Was er aber leider nicht fragt ist, ob die Menschen dem Kurt Beck denn auch "nah" sein wollen. Fragt dafür aber der Manfred Güllner, der fragt nämlich immer ganz viele Leute, was die eigentlich wollen. Das ist nämlich dessen Beruf, der Güllner ist Chef eines Meinungsforschungsinstituts. Und dem Güllner sagen die Menschen: Nee, wollen sie nicht. Fragt sich nur, wann der Kurt Beck mal den Manfred Güllner fragt.