[The Independent, U.K.]

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Die Welt, Germany

Europe Must Step in for the 'Exhausted Empire'


"America remains the 'indispensable nation,' especially for Europe. Therefore, it is in the best interests of Europe to take on some of America's responsibilities and allow it more air to breathe. … America is overstretched - and Barack Obama must try and bring its financial resources and ambition back into a healthy balance." 


By Clemens Wergin


Translated By Carol Goetzky


June 23, 2011


Germany - Die Welt - Original Article (German)

President delivers his long-awaited address on the U.S. pullout from Afghanistan, which dissapointed hawks and doves alike. Watch video below.

C-SPAN VIDEO, U.S.: President Obama addresses Americans on his plan to withdrawal U.S. troops from Afghanistan, June 22, 00:13:40RealVideo

The Afghanistan troop reduction announced by the American President goes further than originally thought - and further than that advised by his military, particularly ISAF Commander-in-Chief David Petraeus. Ten thousand U.S. soldiers are to withdraw from the Hindu Kush by the end of the year, and no less than 33,000 by the summer of next year. 


This is a clever domestic move of political chess by Barack Obama, because it takes from Republicans a potential campaign issue. That is especially true since all the conservative presidential candidates have shown unmistakable isolationist tendencies. But what may be politically wise at home doesn’t necessarily make sense in foreign policy terms.


The crucial question is whether Obama's retreat jeopardizes progress made over the past year, because the troop surge and the associated change in strategy has worked - at least in part. The allies have managed to retake and hold insurgent-controlled areas in the south of the country. Two years ago the Taliban were on the offensive and threatened to take over other parts of the country. They already saw themselves as future victors. This momentum was halted and reversed. Today the Taliban place a priority on assassinating high-ranking members of the central government, because they’re no longer capable of controlling larger territories. On the other hand, ISAF troops have so far failed to completely defeat the Taliban and secure full sovereignty for Hamid Karzai’s government. The central government is far from being able to exist on its own. The current balance of power in the country continues to depend on the substantial commitment of international troops and donors.


So whether Obama’s withdrawal plan comes too soon or is too ambitious is something that will have to be assessed in the years to come. On the other hand, now the government in Kabul as well as the partly Taliban-friendly Pakistan military know: time is running out. One who doesn’t want to be overrun by the Taliban must take responsibility and do his homework. At the same time, Obama’s withdrawal plan plays into the hands of the Taliban, who know that they just have to hold out long enough to have another chance. 


But as Obama has said: America will no longer conduct itself based on wishful thinking; but what is feasible. And this is a credo that extends far beyond the patient in the Hindu Kush. Because Obama’s speech marked a turning point, not only in Afghanistan policy but for the ambitions of this major force for global order. The empire is exhausted from a decade of war, and it wants its foreign policy to coincide with its shrinking financial resources. “America, it is time for nation-building here at home,” was the most important sentence in Obama’s speech: Instead of building other nations, it will now devote itself to strengthen itself from within to resurrect the economic power that provides the basis for America’s role as superpower. Obama’s speech is therefore not only a reminder for the Afghan government to get its own house in order, but also to Europe. The times of security policy free-riding is over. 


American power and global influence are based largely on the capacity of its military, which secures maritime routes, protects allies and ensures a regional balance. To fulfill this role, Americans over past decades have lived with a smaller welfare state and a larger military than Europe. The Old Continent, however, developed an exuberant system of redistribution and continually reduced military spending, trusting that the Americans would pull its chestnuts from the fire - as happened in the Balkans. Both sides of the Atlantic will have to find a new balance. Because in light of America's neglected infrastructure and its enormous debt burden, Americans no longer understand why they should finance 75 percent of NATO’s military expenditures and maintain the bulk of its deployable troops, even when Europe has more inhabitants than the United States. The mission in Libya has once again demonstrated this drastic imbalance. Because here, even the European states with the most ambitious foreign policies, France and Great Britain, have reached the limits of their abilities and ammunition after only a few months against a weak opponent. Left to its own devices, this is a Europe only partly ready for defense - and that will have to change. 



Rzeczpospolita, Poland: Who Can Replace America as the World's Policeman?
Estadao, Brazil: Obama Makes His Boldest Bet
Le Figaro, France: Pakistan Has its Reasons for Acting Like a 'Double Dealer'
The Frontier Post, Pakistan: U.S. Withdrawal Plans 'Spell Doom' for Pakistan
The Frontier Post, Pakistan: Karzai Finally Awakens to American Treachery
The Daily Jang, Pakistan: The Beginning of the End of U.S. in Afghanistan?

The Nation, Pakistan: Obama's Blunt Warning to Pakistan
La Capital, Argentina: Photo of bin Laden's Killing Herald's Dangerous New World
Der Spiegel, Germany: Obama's Plan Reignites German Withdrawal Debate
Asia Times, Hong Kong: Obama 'Puts the Heat' on Pakistan
Global Times, China: Western Criticism of Pakistan is Wrongheaded and Unfair
El Pais, Spain: After bin Laden: West Must Reflect on Methods of Self-Defense
News, Switzerland: The Pope and the Terrorist: Two Misguided Beatifications
Tagesspiegel, Germany: Osama Photo Issue - Obama's Morally Superior to Bush
The Nation, Pakistan: Afghan Official Asserts: 'Osama Blew Himself Up'
Gazeta Wyborcza, Poland: Finally, It's Beginning of the End for al-Qaeda


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At the height of the transatlantic fight over the Iraq War, French President Jacques Chirac and Germany Chancellor Gerhard Schröder wished for a multipolar world with a less powerful America. As the Anglo-Saxon's say: “Be careful what you wish for,” because a world in which America’s regulatory function disappears will be a less peaceful one. And it would be one in which Europe would have to defend its interests with far greater resources or be doomed to irrelevance and a much more rapid descent. America remains the “indispensable nation,” especially for Europe, but also for many Asian and Middle Eastern allies. Therefore, it is in the best interests of Europe to take on some of America's responsibilities and allow it more air to breathe.    



In other words, it is therefore wrong for Europeans in their turn to reduce the troops in Afghanistan. The European share of the mission since the surge was already low. So those who barely participated in the surge shouldn’t be shouting “here” for a troop reduction. In regard to Germany's area of responsibility, a reduction in troop levels would immediately jeopardize the successes that have been achieved. 


America is overstretched - and Barack Obama must try and bring its financial resources and ambition back into a healthy balance. It's too early for a farewell to the world power, but only when America recovers its economic strength and confidence will it be capable of continuing to fulfill its role in the order of the world. And that is in the interest of all who want to see stable conditions on this globe. 



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[Posted by WORLDMEETS.US July 3, 3:07pm]



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