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11.01.2021 – GERMAN-FOREIGN-POLICY.com

This post is also available in: German

“More Courage to Assume Global Power”

The German foreign policy establishment debates EU plans for global power. Former EU commissioner cautions against “complete overconfidence.”

BERLIN(Own report) – The German foreign policy establishment is entering the second year of the Covid-19 pandemic with new plans for EU global power. Whereas in particular western powers and their allies have been overwhelmed by new waves of the pandemic, at times being confronted with rapidly increasing numbers of casualties, “Internationale Politik” (IP), Germany’s leading foreign policy periodical, is debating the question of “what Europe lacks to assume global power.” The demand that the Union must have more courage to assume global power had already been raised in several leading German media organs last fall. According to a poll, nearly half of all Germans surveyed agree that the EU can “play a strong role in global policy,” similar to that played by the USA and China – particularly followers of the Green Party (52 percent) and those of the FDP (56 percent), along with the generation aged between 18 and 29 (70 percent). Whereas, the IP calls on “Europe” to enhance its “international impact”, former EU commissioner Günther Oettinger cautions against the “complete overconfidence” evident in many EU capitals – “a kind of hubris.”

“Setting Standards Globally”

Demands for the EU to vigorously assert itself as a “global power” had already been raised last fall in liberal and conservative wide-circulation media organs. In October, the German weekly Zeit-online called for “more courage to assume global power.” The Union “must consider itself a global power.”[1] A little later, the Minister of Development, Gerd Müller, and the former foreign policy expert at the influential Bertelsmann Foundation, Werner Weidenfeld, declared in “Die Welt”, a daily owned by Springer, that the “EU has what it takes, to be a global power.” “Its sovereign – the nearly 400 million people with their top economic potential – and solid military equipment have lifted the EU to the rank of a global power.”[2] Almost two decades ago, Weidenfeld had used similar arguments to declare that the EU was a “global power in the making” (german-foreign-policy.com reported.[3]). Together with Müller, he now argues that “by virtue of its economic power, Europe” should “set standards in a digitalized and globalized multipolar world.” To accomplish this, Brussels of course needs not only a “more operational political framework” – if possible “flanked by a European strategic council” – but, for example, also a “European” army with a “joint command structure.”

“Like the USA or China”

With the question posed in the headline, “What Europe lacks to assume global power” and the relevant thematic focus, the periodical Internationale Politik (IP) is now picking up the debate. IP is the foreign policy establishment’s leading periodical, a bi-monthly with an estimated circulation of 6,000, published by the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP), one of Germany’s most influential foreign policy think tanks. As IP notes, nearly half of the German population thinks that in the future the EU can play a role as a global power. According to a representative survey made in December, 43 percent had responded “yes,” when asked if the EU can “play a strong role in future global policy, similar to that played by the USA and China today.”[4] The survey revealed the highest approval rating to be among the younger generation: Around 70 percent of those aged between 18 and 29 consider the EU to be a future global power, whereas that opinion group is only 28 percent of those over 60. In terms of party affiliations, the approval ratings are above average among economic and eco-liberals: 56 percent of FDP and 52 percent of Green Party supporters consider the EU essentially on a par with the USA and China.

Talked a Lot, without Having Done Enough

In view of the EU’s true political status in international politics, IP concedes that “Europe” has “talked a lot about its international role, without having done enough.”[5] Thus, the objective of reaching “strategic autonomy” – a camouflaged version of the claim to global power status – was first inscribed in the European Council resolutions in December 2013, and later, in the EU’s June 2016 Global Strategy. However, the objective has yet to be achieved. Now “Europe’s task” is “to enhance its international impact under new premises and to represent its interests more firmly.” The EU will “presumably” only succeed “in increasing its power resources, if there is an increase in its internal cohesion and the willingness of the member governments to cooperate.” The IP does not rule out positive side effects of serious crises – such as the current Corona crisis: “The feeling of a ‘community of fate’ has grown.” However, only a few days following the publication of the latest IP edition – this can be put into question: Due to serious flaws in vaccine procurement, harsh criticism of the inertia of EU authorities is erupting.

Claim and Reality

Whereas IP is upholding the EU’s claim to the status of a global power, various articles in its latest edition reveal the growing gap between this claim and reality. One can read for example, “like no other topic,” the Iran policy reflects the Union’s common foreign policy: “For nearly two decades” the member states have been pursuing “a relatively consistent approach toward Iran” – repeatedly even against massive US pressure.[6] However, it is precisely in the Iran policy that the EU has shown its “inability to exert decisive influence.” For example, in spite of the Union’s comprehensive efforts, trade with Iran has almost completely collapsed due to unilaterally-imposed US sanctions. The situation is similar regarding its Africa policy. Despite many years of grandiose announcements, the EU has not succeeded in its efforts to extend economic relations to the sub-Saharan African countries, while China has been massively enhancing its position on the African continent. “At the moment,” according to IP, “it looks as if China – and not Europe – is the main beneficiary of the [aspired, editors note] African economic boom.[7]

A Kind of Hubris

Economic policy-makers are increasingly warning that the EU’s claim to a status of global power is, by no means, supported by its economic performance. They point to the fact that the EU’s share in the global economic output is at best stagnating (german-foreign-policy.com reported [8]), or that the EU’s share of global patent applications had dramatically dropped from 34.7 percent in 2009, to 23.2 percent in 2019, while Asia’s share has risen from 32 to 52.4 percent in the same period.[9] However, political elites often have not even realized it, noted the former EU Commissioner Günther Oettinger: “In many EU capitals there is complete overconfidence in one’s own economic power. It’s a kind of hubris.”[10] At the beginning of this week, Werner Hoyer, former Minister of State in the German Foreign Ministry, today President of the European Investment Bank (EIB), was also quoted saying that EU countries have been “losing competitiveness for 15 years” while reducing their investments “in research and development by 1.5 percent of their GDP year after year.” “We are not yet catching up,” Hoyer warns, “but rather falling further behind.”[11]

[1] Ulrich Ladurner: Mehr Mut zur Weltmacht. zeit.de 01.10.2020.

[2] Gerd Müller, Werner Weidenfeld: Die EU hat das Zeug zur Weltmacht. welt.de 21.10.2020.

[3] Werner Weidenfeld: Thinktank: Die verhinderte Weltmacht. welt.de 08.03.2003. See also The Will to World Power.

[4] 53 percent said “No”, 4 percent “I do not know”. Internationale Politik 1/2021. S. 5.

[5] Daniela Schwarzer: Europas geopolitischer Moment. In: Internationale Politik 1/2021. S. 18-25.

[6] David Jalilvand: Verzagte Vermittler. In: Internationale Politik 1/2021. S. 38-40.

[7] Amaka Anku: Suboptimale Subsahara-Politik. In: Internationale Politik 1/2021. S. 41-43.

[8] See also Der große Ungleichmacher.

[9] Der Anteil Nordamerikas fiel zugleich von 31 auf 22,8 Prozent. Internationale Politik 1/2021. S. 26.

[10] Thomas Sigmund: “Es gibt in vielen europäischen Hauptstädten eine völlige Selbstüberschätzung der eigenen Wirtschaftskraft”. handelsblatt.com 16.11.2020.

[11] Michael Maisch, Hans-Peter Siebenhaar: Werner Hoyer: “Wir holen nicht auf, wir fallen zurück”. handelsblatt.com 04.01.2021.

 The original article can be found on our partner’s website here

10.01.2021 – US, United States – David Swanson

Restoring the Threat of Impeachment for Future Office Holders

In the past 150 years, U.S. presidents have lied, cheated, stolen, warmongered, incited hatred and violence, driven inequality and corruption through the roof, taken over major powers from the Congress and abused them, gained the power of nuclear war and abused it through numerous threats, accelerated the destruction of the earth’s environment, failed to protect the basic rights of people, pardoned their cronies for outrageous crimes, committed thousands of specific, open, public, and indisputable impeachable offenses, and been impeached for only two things.

The first was lying under oath and obstructing a critically important investigation into consensual oral sex.

The other was obstructing an out-of-control propaganda operation about Russia, and pressuring the government of Ukraine by withholding deadly weapons from its Nazi-aligned war-making government.

Both impeached presidents were acquitted, came out of the process with stronger support than they’d had before, and had zero penalties imposed on them.

This is roughly what most of the U.S. public knows about impeachment, which is why this critical tool of public accountability is in danger of being dismissed by the public.

This is not, in reality, the full story. The U.S. House has impeached 20 officials, including President Andrew Johnson. Eight of them have been convicted in the Senate, three more resigned before they could be, and another was expelled by the Senate and the trial dropped. That’s 12 out of 20 effectively dealt with.

Even this is not, in reality, any more than scratching the surface of the full story. The vast majority of impeachment efforts have led to resignations or firings, court rulings, or governmental actions that have resolved to some extent the offenses at issue, prior to achieving an impeachment, much less a conviction. An attorney general like Alberto Gonzales, for example, will typically be forced to resign before impeachment hearings can inform the public about all of his outrages, or about the power of impeachment. But that doesn’t mean Gonzales would ever have left without the activist sliver of the public demanding his impeachment.

Even with presidents, the popular story only scratches the surface of what’s actually happened. Richard Nixon only left because he was about to be impeached. Harry Truman only lost the power to take over factories because pressure was building to impeach him. John Nichols’ book, The Genius of Impeachment, tells some of this history. But Nixon was quite a few years back now. Anybody paying attention knows that every president since could have been impeached for numerous outrages, and that both Clinton and Trump were not impeached for their worst abuses of power.

George W. Bush, who, according to CNN this week, merely “lived through the war on Iraq” (unlike, I would note, over a million of his victims) was a prime candidate for impeachment, as was his vice president. I organized dozens of experts to draft dozens of articles of Bush impeachment for Congressman Dennis Kucinich, who actually introduced a fraction of them (35) into Congress. But Speaker Nancy Pelosi blocked as unimportant an effort that we proponents called preventative, that we swore was about precedent, and that we grimly promised would see similar abuses of power in subsequent presidencies if not acted on.

Barack Obama and Donald Trump predictably expanded on numerous Bush power abuses. But only delusional, racist, rightwing impeachment efforts against Obama got much media attention. Advocates for Trump’s impeachment since his inauguration day have long since compiled highlight lists of the most critical articles of impeachment being ignored by the Congress. To take just one topic, Trump has instigated violence against various groups since before his inauguration, including immigrants, blacks, leftists, etc. For Congress to suddenly care only when that violence reaches the halls of Congress is a serious problem, and should tell us all a great deal about who Congress “represents.” But it is much better than nothing.

I think finally impeaching a president for a legitimate reason, for a public undisputed act, and for an act that the public wants him impeached for, could seriously help restore the status of impeachment in many people’s minds, which could be very good for the future of U.S. government. It could also strip impeachment of numerous slanderous misconceptions. For decades we’ve been told that any impeachment would take months. The time and work supposedly involved has been a chief argument against numerous impeachments. In vain we have argued back that a vote could be held in 1 day. Now, suddenly, there’s been an admission that we were right all along.

Of course, Congress has run screaming from public indisputable actions, in favor of dubious allegations. That has assisted the stalling tactics and evasion of which claims about long impeachments have been part. Trump has openly profited from office, incited violence, interfered with voting rights, discriminated on the basis of religion, waged illegal wars, blown people up with missiles, threatened nuclear wars, pardoned criminals, politicized prosecutions, abused immigrants, neglected those in need, intentionally and openly exacerbated climate collapse, instructed subordinates to break laws, supported coup attempts (in other countries), illegally torn up disarmament treaties, etc., etc., and Congress has preferred unproven allegations about Russia and Ukraine. To finally, at long last, impeach Trump for something he indisputably did would wipe away generations of pretense that an impeachment must be a long obscure investigation, while open power abuses are perfectly permissible.

So, it actually matters that right now we not let Congress get by with just rhetoric or with just the delusional passing of the buck to Mike Pence, or with merely finding some other means of barring Trump from holding future public office. It matters that Pelosi not be allowed to run out the clock on this impeachment. (Pushing the Senate trial into the next Congress and even the next presidency would be fine, and Pelosi fans may feel free to declare it the Genius of Pelosi, but no single person has done more to evade, stall, and sabotage the power of impeachment for decades, so wariness of her delays is always merited.) It matters because a precedent has to be set for presidents who try to overturn elections through fraudulent actions, dishonest demagoguery, and the instigation of violence. It matters because Trump may pardon everyone involved, because he may commit new outrages — even much worse ones, because his successors certainly will if he is given a pass, because if the Biden presidency doesn’t start with a serious approach to turning the page it will not deliver anything the world needs, because Trump must be effectively barred from running for office again, because the nonviolent rule of law must reclaim respect now being gained by the increased use of military force in U.S. streets, and for numerous other reasons. But one key reason to impeach is to save the important tool of impeachment from being thrown in the trash.

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Dietrich Bonhoeffer

We must act and dare the appropiateness and not whatever comes to our mind not floating in the likelihood but grasp the reality as brave as we can be freedom lies in action not in the absence of mind obedience knows the essence of good and satisfies it, freedom dares to act and returns God the ultimate judgment of what is right and what is wrong, Obedience performs blindly but Freedom is wide awake Freedom wants to know why, Obedience has its hands tied, Freedom is inventive obedient man respects God’s commands and by virtu of his Freedom, he creats new commands. Both Obedience and Freedom come true in responsability (Dietrich Bonhoeffer)

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