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Paul

True enough about Joschka. No longer the typical Green and already a fading feature of the German political landscape. Has lost his moxie and become an institution.

I like Joschka, too. He's hard not to like, even if you might not share his views. When I was living in Bad Godesberg in the 80's and 90's and jogging daily along the Rhine, I must have passed him a thousand times when he went on his own runs. And he certainly livened up parliament, which needed it desperately.

I know he was popular in the American diplomatic community, at least when Richard Burt was at the helm, and is on friendly terms with Colin Powell, among others.

Don

"Joschka Fischer running around Berlin wearing jeans and an American baseball cap--that's the symbol."

I like Joschka & he and I are coming together on opinions about a range of things, but he is no longer a typical German if he ever was. He's been out of politics and teaching at Princeton, and many Greens have read him out of the party in any case. So it's just symbolism at this point.

"The trauma of WWII and consequent Vergangenheitsbewältigung, the Cold War and an uneasy existence between two massive power blocs, revelations of American abuses of power, especially since Vietnam, the overwhelming, not always beneficent, impact of American mass culture, and last but not least a unification that has yet to fully take place and has produced many bitter, resentful losers--these are all possible reasons for German ambivalence toward America."

Yes, I've certainly heard a lot about German angst. I even have some limited sympathy for it. But I also think Germans have learned to use their sense of victimisation in place of real contributions to the alliance i.e:

"Yes we know we're not doing much in Afghanistan and we should be doing a lot more, but even doing the little we are doing costs us so much in angst that it really outweighs everyone else's contributions because we sensitive souls feel it SO much more acutely than you brutish Americans (Brits, Canucks, French, Dutch, etc) could ever do!"

Ummmm, right. Might I suggest one grow up a little and see how things really are?!!!!

Paul

Sorry, Marek, I just posted and didn't catch your comment.

You can rant, regress, do whatever you wish, as far as I'm concerned, but though I do share your skepticism about a multicultural future, why this fixation on Muslims? Isn't that something of a burden for you to be carrying this resentment around? Did you suffer something personal, a slight, or injury, or something of the kind from Muslims, that makes you launch these tirades? What do you mean exactly when you write that it's a matter of "respect"?

Just curious--don't mean to offend. And one thing I will say--you have a way with words, a lethal, dialectical wit, that makes you sui generis. But you know, the piano has a lot of keys, and if you hit only a few of them, you may be ignoring a lot of other melodic possibilities. (I say that, humbly, as someone who has been known to do that as well on occasion).

By the way, having finished an exhausting project I am now free, the sun is shining and the foliage here is in full glory, and I shall be following your advice and biking up to the Siebengebirge.

Don

Oh yes, addressing the question of WHY

"many in the German foreign relations and security establishment were favoring not Obama, the German popular choice, but McCain."

I think it's simple, really. It's two things. Some of the foreign relations and security apparatus are pro-US and see the GOP as having a more realistic view of global politics than either the Democrats or the typical German.

Secondly, McCain is predictable in ways Obama is decidedly not. McCain is essentially an old-style US politician born and bred on the Cold War. Similar to Bush, and he can be handled like Bush: i.e. give him the brush-off and give him a few table scraps and he will loyally take the abuse and maintain NATO.

Obama will be more demanding and much harder to simply dismiss as a fascist. When the german 'street' eventually dictates the government's foreign policy to it again Obama's reaction is much harder to predict and therefore a far greater risk to Germany.

Obama is cold rational. He hardly remembers the good old days when the US and Germany were the closest of allies; his memories are of steadily weakening ties mostly being weakened from the German (and European) end. He may make the coldly rational decision that if Europe invests less in NATO the US should follow suit - and invest less in NATO. Finally, Obama may decide that opportunities in the global polity mean that relationships in Latin America, Africa, and Asia have grown in importance, relatively eclipsing Europe in his view.

All these things are bad from the perspective of the German "foreign relations and security establishment".

Paul

"The breakdown of opinion might be something like 30% raging pacifists, 30% selfish nationalists, 30% pro-US/NATO, and 10% clueless."

I have no idea whether this is true. Certainly, one gets this impression when reading magazines like "Spiegel" or "Stern," but in my personal circle of German friends and acquaintances, with some exceptions it wouldn't be.

Some empirical studies--opinion polls or the like--are called for, and if you have some links that you can pass on, I'd be grateful.

I am coming more and more to the conclusion that German anti-Americanism is a misnomer, that the true attitude is one of odi et amo, except, of course, in the case of some groups on the far left and right. Joschka Fischer running around Berlin wearing jeans and an American baseball cap--that's the symbol.

The trauma of WWII and consequent Vergangenheitsbewältigung, the Cold War and an uneasy existence between two massive power blocs, revelations of American abuses of power, especially since Vietnam, the overwhelming, not always beneficent, impact of American mass culture, and last but not least a unification that has yet to fully take place and has produced many bitter, resentful losers--these are all possible reasons for German ambivalence toward America.

The scars run deep in this country. For many young, conscientious, idealistic Germans growing up after WWII, the psychological weight of the past must have been enormous, and goes a long way toward explaining the excesses of the German student movement of 1968. These former protesters are now firmly implanted in the country's institutions and are setting the tone of the national political discourse.

My thesis--insufficient in some respects, I know--is that German anti-Americanism has one of its roots in a failure to achieve an adequate national identity. To me that explains a fact that has often puzzled me, namely the focus of scorn and hatred on America to the exclusion and occasional exculpation of some truly malevolent regimes.

No doubt there are many other reasons. I imagine it has been powerpointed to death in many seminar rooms. And I am not an academic. Moreover, this issue of anti-Americanism--to the extent that it exists--is also a personal issue for me, so I'll freely admit to some blind spots.

But I digress. Why should the U.S. bear the burden of European defense? Why indeed? Good question. That might be a reason why those fellows in Berlin were rooting for McCain. It is rather convenient to have a powerful friend pulling the chestnuts out of fires all over the world, especially in one's own backyard.

M. Möhling

> I would say: forgive and forget, move on, turn a new leaf...
> The U.S. can't afford to isolate itself further
Paul, los Estados Unidos de América in all likelihood will have excellent relations with the الإمارات الأوروبة المتحدة.

Sorry--but if Don is allowed to rant, I may indulge in some sweet dour regression, too, don't I?

Don

"Incidentally, Don, this may surprise you as it surprised me, but according to an insider I know, at least in the pre-Palin days many in the German foreign relations and security establishment were favoring not Obama, the German popular choice, but McCain."

I've seen this myself so it doesn't surprise at all.

I used to buy the anti-American line abotu Germany, and there is quite a lot of it - but not nearly the entire explanation.

I see Germany as terminally conflicted. The breakdown of opinion might be something like 30% raging pacifists, 30% selfish nationalists, 30% pro-US/NATO, and 10% clueless.

The pacifists are anti-US because 90% of their propaganda says the US is the sole font of human evil. The selfish nationalists are divided into two groups - the ones who think that Russia can replace the US and increase German profit and freedom of action. The second group are the ones who dream of European economic empire; and the US has to be trodden into the mire to achieve that.

Add the pacifists to the selfish nationalists and that leaves a 60-30 split against the US, but it's nto quite that simple. Many Germans also recognize that if they cannot completely slag off their NATO allies or risk the alliance splitting like a cheap pair of pants.

So we arrive at the German concensus, which is to do a lot less than necessary - but not quite nothing. Cut defense spending to 1% of GDP (it's up to 1.3% last I'd heard) and leave the burden on others. Even the defense of Germany is left to others!

My question is - why should thje US shoulder this burden. Let's say Russia invades Estonia on some pretext. The US goes in, Germany debates it in the Bundestag for 4 months and reluctantly decides to intervene. But whith what? That 1% of GDP doesn't buy much in force structure. So the US/UK and the Eastern Europeans have to bear the entire burden until Germany CAN build up, eh?

Look at the map. The US is a long way from the Russian border. So is the UK. Germany - is close. So why do the former have to bear the risk for the latter?


Paul

I would say: forgive and forget, move on, turn a new leaf.

Some of my remarks in this pages may give another impression, but I have deep ties of respect and affection to Germany as I do to my native country, and so it follows that I am a committed transatlanticist and a supporter of NATO.

It is true that some Europeans have a one-sided interpretation of Article 5, and it may be realistic not to expect reliability from them in future conflicts, particularly with oil-producing countries, for economic reasons.

They have been masters of equivocation, among others, in the matter of genocide in the former Yugoslavia, as even Joschka Fischer, to his credit, recognized.

But, beyond all cynicism, this "alliance of convenience" has helped strengthen free and democratic institutions on both sides of the Atlantic.

The attitude of "let 'em hang" isn't in the American interest. The U.S. can't afford to isolate itself further. That's not just a question of security but of economics.

I was just reading this weekend in the IHT that the EU and Canada are wrapping up a sweeping trade pact that could substantially increase exports to Europe to the detriment of the U.S. Surely, the U.S. should make efforts to become a party to the agreement. There's a lot of oil in Canada.

Incidentally, Don, this may surprise you as it surprised me, but according to an insider I know, at least in the pre-Palin days many in the German foreign relations and security establishment were favoring not Obama, the German popular choice, but McCain.

It is, of course, expedient for the Europeans to have the U.S. continue to play the "bad cop" role, but these people, knowing how precarious international security is, had other, good reasons for supporting McCain.

Don

I had noted a certain willinginess on the part of the Germans to 'forgive' the US. Generous of them.

I think there is another question however, that of whether the people of the US are willing to forgive Germany? And the remainder of continental europe for that matter.

I think it's a matter of nuance. I think what this decade has shown pretty decisively is that NATO is an alliance of convenience for central europeans & no more. That is it's convenient to have US help in defending our lands but don't expect anything in return.

That attitude has spread to the US, I think there is an unwillingness to engage in 'foreign wars' any more. The difference between the 90's and today is that a war in Europe would be defined as a 'foreign war'. If it happens - don't expect the US to come at all willingly. Actual participation in NATO activity has been shown to be optional; expect the US to follow that precedent in future....

Paul

"EOC." Makes me wonder what channels of money and influence are at work. Enormous amounts of prestige and commercial prospects are involved here.

It is my impression from my vantage point in Hennef-Westerhausen that anti-Americanism isn't as rabid as it was previously.

My daughters report that at school America and Americans, if anything, are admired and copied--of course, Bush is regarded as a villain, but then even moderate U.S. Republicans are distancing themselves from him.

I had thought that the financial crisis would result in much finger pointing across the Atlantic, and there has been some, notably from Peer Steinbrück, but not as much as I expected.

In a country where nearly a quarter of the population believes the CIA was involved in 9/11 and most school children in the former GDR don't know that they grew up in a former dictatorship, because that is glossed over in history classes [source: Die Zeit], I had expected a hysterical reaction to the financial crisis, but I haven't seen it. Not even from the usual anti-Semites who see a Jewish banker under every rock plotting the world's downfall.

Perhaps Germans are just tired of it. The German MSM--Stern, Spiegel, etc.--have squeezed as much out of anti-Americanism as they could during the Iraq invasion in order to sell newsprint. Time to go on to something else in order to raise circulation.

If Obama's elected, the pendulum may even swing in the other direction. But I may be too optimistic.

Don

Perhaps it is passing, Paul, but if so it's certainly not visible to me yet.

Another little corner of predjudice is none other than the IOC. Or should it be called the EOC, given the composition of the executive board and particularly the executive slots on the board? Also note which country doesn't hold a single seat.

Also note that the sites for the Summer Games have excluded North America since 1996, and nobody expects Chicago to win in 2016, either Madrid or (mostly likely) Tokyo will get it. Toronto might be the site in 2020 unless Capetown gets it. If Toronto wins then we probably won't see a Summer Olympics sited in the US until the 2030's - if then. I think we can mark down Paris for 2024, and after that Capetown or another Asian site will be in line again. Not to mention Rio.

Paul

By the way, by calling this a "tiring matter," I meant, of course, not that you are tiring, but that the Horace Engdahls of the world tire me.

Prejudice runs deep. I have no illusions about that. My impression, though, is that the European anti-American caravan is passing on, because the Europeans themselves are tiring of it, and is leaving only a few barking dogs in its wake.

Don

"The prejudice revealed here is directed against American culture itself, as if it were some sort of lethal bacillus that could infect the healthy, sound, and vital literary organism of the rest of the world and, above all, of Europe."

Just so. The past few years we've been hearing a lot from Europeans about 'good' Americans and 'bad' Americans; that is now officially passe.

Horace Engdahl has show the way; Europe is the light of the world; others need not apply. Except for the occasional token Asian, Latino, or South African.


Paul

I admire Dick--who, by the way, has just become part of the "Library of America" canon, along with Twain and James and other notables--as well as many other SF writers, such as Stanislav Lem or Ursula K. le Guin.

Just one final comment about Horace Engdahl. This is a tiring matter. His foolish comments have revealed what has long been known about the Nobel Prize for Literature, namely that it is misused as a political bludgeon wielded primarily against the United States.

Not just political, come to think of it. The prejudice revealed here is directed against American culture itself, as if it were some sort of lethal bacillus that could infect the healthy, sound, and vital literary organism of the rest of the world and, above all, of Europe.

Where I see a worldwide spiritual crisis, for which no one country can be held to account, Horace Engdahl knows where the root of all evil is.

Don

Thanks for the link, Paul. I like that list. It's staggering the list of authors and playwrites they could have honored but did not (Tolstoy, Chekov, Ibsen, Conrad, Proust)?!!!!

I loved some of the alternate choices, like Verne, Phillip Dick, and above all Bob Dylan and Lennon-McCartney, who can be considered great poets.

One critique I could make is that the alternate universe list is relatively laden with english-language writers, and the Nobel Committee does have something of a duty to be more universal than that.

I took a few cheap shots in my earlier post. Pirandello is a worthy laureate, as is O'Neill, and Albee was worthy of shortlisting but probably not election.

Another point is that the alternate universe has the benefit of hindsight - there are probably great authors who were on the shortlist but died before the Swedes got around to them.

Even so that doesn't explain the staggering omission of many greats who were eligible for many years and died at a good round age. Like Williams and Miller. Pinter? He's a worthy contemporary playwrite but even in London Pinter plays are less frequently staged than Williams and Miller typically. I saw productions of "The Glass Menagerie" and "The Rose Tattoo" in 2006. Stupendous, both of them. Even "Menagerie" is counted no better than third in the Williams ouvrei while "Tattoo" (which was a revelation) is well down on his list.

Paul

As you note, it's more the case that Horace Engdahl's favorites are "consigned to cultural oblivion" than the American authors he disdains. But that might be the very reason for his rant against our "insular" culture.

True, some of the Committee's picks are, well, a little peculiar, and guided more by political than literary considerations. However, I'm grateful to them for calling my attention to the poetry of Derek Walcott (1992).

For an alternative Nobel list, see:

http://www.greatbooksguide.com/index.html

I don't entirely agree with this list, but it is an improvement.

There's also a video clip of Horace Engdahl on the Net. He speaks English (received standard pronunciation, of course) very well. I'll give him that.

He's not entirely wrong, either, at least about literary translation, which tends to flow in one direction from America to Europe. But wouldn't that be because Europeans want to read American authors more than their own? No, of course not. It's the omnipresent Yankee imperialist culture machine at work again.

Can't argue with prejudice.

Don

"Consigned to cultural oblivion."

Well that depends upon how one defines cultural oblivion, I suppose. Seems to me that Oates, Updike, Roth et al are thriving well enough in their 'backwater' while the Swedes persist in crowning the mediocre and little read as often as not. Although this year they picked a good 'un at least. The best living French novelist would seem to be a worthy laureate.

The Nobel committee honored Harold Pinter (who dat?) but missed Tennessee Williams. Eugene O'Neill but not Arthur Miller. Luigi Pirandello but not Edward Albee.

They have missed giants like Gore Vidal, Truman Capote, Franz Kafka, and god knows how many others.

It's a weird list with names of giants interspersed with those of the utterly forgettable.

Paul

Toni Morrison did get the Nobel, at least.

Paul

Thanks, Don, for your reply. Unfortunately for Americans, especially for those living abroad, Horace Engdahl is the rule, not the exception.

Someone on the Net called his remarks [American] book burning by proxy.

True enough. Thomas Pynchon, Tim O'Brien, Robert Stone, Don DeLillo, Paul Auster, Toni Morrison, Philip Roth, Cormac McCarthy, Raymond Carver, John Cheever, Joyce Carol Oates, John Updike, and many others: gone up in smoke. Dismissed. Consigned to cultural oblivion.


Don

Not sure whether a discussion of the Nobel Prize belongs here, but here goes.

Paul, that was amusing. Are you as insular as I am? I suspect not, nobody is. Except perhaps Philip Roth.

Why should they honor an American when there are still so many many worthy Europeans whose works do reflect the entire range of human experience to be honored. This year perhaps a Laureate from Andorra?

I think the other Nobel committees should follow their lead and honor the best chemists, physicists, and medical research from Europe.....

It's like the IOC, whoch is recent years has effectively become the EOC. Having the Summer Olympics in North America every 32 years? It's enough, indeed more than is deserved. After all, Paris didn't get the 2012 games; it undoubtably comes before New York, that center of global cretinism....

Paul

Psst, Andrew! Found a nice little tidbit to add to your annals of America bashing:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2008/oct/02/nobelprize.usa

We knew this all along, didn't we?

Sebastian Koppehel

Obviously the repossession of new, large houses hardly ever happens in Germany, but when overindebted Germans abandon their abodes and the Gerichtsvollzieher has to have it cleared out, things don't look very different from what you witness in California. You can see some rather unpleasant examples in this documentary. It has nothing to do with German or American "garbage customs". Those go out of the window in such extraordinary situations.

Don

This is so sad to watch. It's an excellent argument for a refrom allowing bankruptcy judges to be allowed to reduce mortgges in consultation with the bank. Unfortunately this is impossible with the current scheme of finance, with several parties to each mortgage - how does one find the mortgage holder to negociate?

In the case of these kinds of communities which are so far from Los Angeles a major writedown to market value would actully make sense for both buyer and creditor. The creditor would gain by not having to pay for garbage removal, lawn painting, or maintenance and not having the costs of selling on a horrible market, the buyer would still have a place to live, and the community would gain by having neighbors and property tax payers.

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