The forecasting competition in which I take part (Good Judgment Project) is about to kick off season 3. I plan to cover the next steps here on the blog, in particular because I have now been promoted to “super forecaster” status. Please consider reading part 1 and part 2 of my coverage so far.
Edward Snowden’s fate is still undecided and the news about U.S./UK surveillance will probably keep going. For Germany, there is a new angle to the whole story in the aftermath of interior minister Friedrich’s visit to Washington: “many were critical of his trip, saying he was given little information and came across like an obedient school boy” (SPIEGEL).
Friedrich is now under fire for suggesting that several terrorist attacks on German soil have been avoided thanks to PRISM; a statement that was not backed up by facts. He also neatly summarized the ‘let’s give up civil liberties for counter-terrorism’ logic: “The noble intention of saving lives in Germany justifies working with our American friends and partners …” (my translation; via law blog)
Today’s links somehow focus on U.S. politics. But all of the topics matter globally, so please bear with me. Also, we’re pleased to announce that the Economist is as unhappy about the lack of German strategic thinking as we are.
Evgeny Morozov on the perils of Big Data: “there is an immense—but mostly invisible—cost to the embrace of Big Data by the intelligence community (and by just about everyone else in both the public and private sectors). That cost is the devaluation of individual and institutional comprehension, epitomized by our reluctance to investigate the causes of actions and jump straight to dealing with their consequences.“
“On the euro, Germany’s competitiveness agenda is insufficient, and based on a distorted reading of the country’s own history. And Germany’s energy policy is less an example of bold leadership than of an ill-planned unilateralism that illustrates the country’s deep reluctance to think strategically about international challenges.”
Don’t worry, there are some more positive bits in there. The whole thing is available through the navigation on the right hand side of their website.
Last week, I was reminded of an exceptional issue of the German newscast heute journal a couple of years ago. Before talking about his next topic, anchorman Claus Kleber had directly addressed his audience: “Please do not switch now. Because we know that if I now utter the words conflict, Israel, and Palestine, we will immediately lose some ten thousand viewers.”
I often have a similar feeling when it comes to discussing the Western involvement in Afghanistan. Basically, no one wants to talk about it anymore. The prevailing mood – at least in Berlin – seems to be: Let’s just get out of that far-away country and forget it as soon as possible.
In his speech at the Freie Universität Berlin, Peer Steinbrück (SPD) made clear he opposed any arms transfer to the Syrian opposition. As is the case with the German government, he did not offer any alternative policy options. German politicians have long warned of an escalation of the conflict, but few have come up with specific proposals what the country could do to avoid it. As Markus Kaim (SWP) argues in an interview with the newspaper Südkurier, Germans are particularly good at telling others why their ideas won’t work, while not coming forward with an alternative. But is this enough for a country that size? Continue reading →
Peer Steinbrück, the Social Democratic challenger to chancellor Angela Merkel in the upcoming election, gave a speech at Freie Universität Berlin on Tuesday. You can watch it online (in German). This was not meant to be a typical campaign talk, but a speech on the “guidelines of social democratic foreign and security policy”.
The speech was disappointing. For people familiar with the issue area, in particular the first half of the speech seemed very much rooted in the general wisdom, or rather, the commonly shared worries about the state of the world. Steinbrück failed to clearly distinguish his position from vague and all too familiar boilerplate statements. Europe is important for Germany and a historic achievement that should be cherished. International law and the UN Security Council must be considered in decisions about employing the German army. Drones that kill people are undesirable. Oh my, who would have thought?
Steinbrück was unable to clarify how and why his positions represent social democracy, let alone an alternative to Merkel-style realpolitik. His dismissive response when asked about this weakness: “If a social democrat gives a speech, than this a speech about social democratic positions.” Well, what might these positions be? Continue reading →