Archive for the ‘Italian’ Category

Race, Obama, World: After U.S. Breakthrough, Europe Looks in Mirror

November 12, 2008

In the general European euphoria over the election of Barack Obama, there is the beginning of self-reflection about Europe’s own troubles with racial integration. Many are asking if there could be a French, British, German or Italian Obama, and everyone knows the answer is no, not anytime soon.

By Steven Erlanger
The New York Times

It is risky to make racial comparisons between America and Europe, given all the historical and cultural differences. But race had long been one reason that Europeans, harking back to the days when famous American blacks like Josephine Baker and James Baldwin found solace in France, looked down on the United States, even as Europe developed postcolonial racial problems of its own.

“They always said, ‘You think race relations are bad here in France, check out the U.S.,’ ” said Mohamed Hamidi, former editor of the Bondy Blog, founded after the 2005 riots in the heavily immigrant suburbs of Paris.

“But that argument can no longer stand,” he said.

For many immigrants to Europe, Mr. Obama’s victory is “a small revolution” toward better overall treatment of minorities, said Nadia Azieze, 31, an Algerian-born nurse who grew up here. “It will never be the same,” she said, over a meal of rice and lamb in the racially mixed Paris neighborhood of Barbès-Rochechouart.

Her sister, Cherine, 29, is a computer engineer. Mr. Obama “really represents the dream of America — if you work, you can make it,” she said. “It’s a hope for the entire world.”

But the sisters are less optimistic about the realities of France, where minorities have a limited political role, with only one black deputy elected to the National Assembly from mainland France.

Has the Obama election caused any real self-reflection among the majority here? “It’s politically correct to say, ‘O.K., great! He’s black,’ and clap,” Nadia said. “But deep down, there’s no change. People say one thing and believe another.”

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NATO’s Superbowl Loss?

March 5, 2008

by James Zumwalt
Human Events
March 5, 2008

The 2007-2008 NFL season witnessed the march of one of the greatest teams in professional football history fall 35 seconds short of perfection. Despite its loss in Superbowl XLII, the New England Patriots demonstrated tremendous success in fielding a team each week with single unity of purpose — to win.

Each team member had equal responsibility to achieve this goal, knowing the rest of the team relied upon him to execute his assignment with maximum intensity and effort.

Imagine, however, if some team members, at the outset of the season, placed limitations on what they were willing to do on the field? What, for example, would have been the result had a defender informed the coach he would only defend against the pass for 20 yards out but not beyond that? Or, worse, if a fully capable player, fearing injury, opted to sit on the bench the entire season, unwilling to share the risks, leaving his fellow teammates to take hits for him.

No coach would ever field such a team, knowing that doing so would spell disaster.

Ironically, on a much more important field — a battlefield in the war on terror — this is exactly what is happening.

In 2003, Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai asked NATO to help stabilize his country and provide security against the threat of the Taliban insurgency. Under a UN mandate, NATO took action, becoming the first ground mission in the six decade history of the alliance. French and German forces were sent to the north of Afghanistan; Italian and Spanish forces west; and US, British, Dutch and Canadian troops south — where most of the fighting takes place.

NATO’s mission in Afghanistan was an enormous evolution for the alliance. It represented the first time the Alliance was taking action against a threat outside the European theater.

This was an important step because the member nations, recognizing that the threats to their mutual security posed by terrorism and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction were global, necessitating more than purely local action.

The future of NATO as a credible force, with single-minded unity of purpose, turned on its performance in Afghanistan.

And it has failed.

Despite the strategic importance of NATO’s success in Afghanistan, it quickly became apparent not all team members came to win. Promised manpower levels were not provided. Some team members placed operational restrictions on their forces. They were not allowed to operate at night.

Others were barred from operating in those areas where the threat was greatest and, thus, help needed the most. Some even put limitations on the distance forces could patrol outside their bases. It was clear not all team members had the same unity of purpose in mind, content to leave other team members to take the hits for them.

Instead of fielding the 18-1 Patriots, NATO fielded the 1-15 Miami Dolphins. President Bush and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates have been pressing our NATO allies to do more in this very important fight.

Trying to at least get those nations imposing limitations on the use of their forces, Gates has pointed out, “Brothers in arms achieve victory only when all march in step toward the sound of the guns.” He repeatedly encouraged NATO team members to make their restrictions as benign as possible.

But their continued failure to do so is making the military commander’s mission in Afghanistan a nightmare as leaders need constantly consider what assets can be used at what times and in what locations. Missions are impeded as commanders fail to have unlimited access to all resources in-country. This is no way to fight a war you intend to win.

Leaving a disproportionate share of the risk and responsibility for fighting the Taliban and stabilizing Afghanistan to only a few members of the NATO team is a recipe for disaster. It undermines the team concept of all for one and one for all. It undermines support for the mission by a public who senses less than a full commitment to maximizing the application of military force. Why show up for the game if you’re not going to give your all towards achieving victory? Such a lack of risk balance has prompted Canada, which has suffered the
highest casualty rate of any country, to threaten a withdrawal of its forces next year if other member states fail to contribute more to combat operations.

President Bush has made clear, “Afghanistan is NATO’s most important military operation. By standing together…we will protect our people, defend our freedom and send a clear message to the extremists — the forces of freedom and decency will prevail.”

Afghanistan is NATO’s Superbowl. But while NATO leaders pledge to stay the course there, they are doing little to demonstrate a winning commitment. It was recently revealed that Prince Henry — third in line to the British throne — secretly spent more than two months as a combat soldier in Afghanistan before his presence was revealed by the media.

The bad news is the media placed greater value on reporting this story than on limiting risk to human life; the good news is Henry’s front line deployment demonstrated the Brits’ unity of purpose and commitment to the principle all team members are equal and should share equal risks. If only we could get all our NATO team members to accept this standard.

Short of that, NATO’s quest to win its Superbowl may well go the way of that of the New England Patriots.

James Zumwalt is a retired Marine who served in the Vietnam and Gulf wars. He has written opinion pieces on foreign policy, defense and security issues for dozens of newspapers. He is president of his own security consulting company.

Analysis: NATO keeps eye on China

February 8, 2008

By Andrei Chang

HONG KONG, Feb. 8 (UPI) — NATO is closely watching China’s military expansion, with an attitude of rising concern and wariness. Led by the United States, NATO members are starting to view China as a possible emerging common adversary.In June 2007 the Stockholm Peace Research Institute of Sweden claimed in a published report that China’s military spending had overtaken that of Russia by a very large margin. U.S. defense officials have expressed concern over the lack of transparency in China’s military budget and the purpose behind some of its weapons acquisitions.

In light of these concerns, chances are very slim that the European Union will lift its arms embargo on China this year; in fact, the embargo may remain in effect for a long time to come.

At the Paris Air Show and other major European exhibitions of military equipment, major arms manufacturers from Germany and France have shown little interest in the Chinese market; they are not pressuring the EU to lift the embargo on China.

French and Italian arms manufacturers learned their lessons through brief attempts at cooperation with China in the 1980s. Not only did these efforts yield little profit, but the companies found their technologies had been stolen and replicated by the Chinese.

The United States and Japan are behind a plan to strategically isolate China, which has been very successful so far. Both Tokyo and Washington believe that the scale, pace and strategic intent of China’s arms expansion in recent years are far beyond its needs for a future conflict in the Taiwan Strait. They see China posing an immense challenge, over a much broader area, against the United States, Japan, NATO and even India. China’s latest moves to construct an aircraft carrier and build new nuclear-powered submarines are specific examples of this challenge.

Why is NATO planning to locate ballistic missile defense bases in Poland and the Czech Republic? The United States managed to convince NATO that China’s intercontinental ballistic missiles may pose a threat to NATO members’ territory. These facilities would not only be directed at Russia, according to multiple military sources within NATO countries.

On several occasions, the United States has replaced China with North Korea as the potential target of missiles from Eastern European bases. But why should Europe and NATO be on guard against non-existent intercontinental ballistic missiles from North Korea? In fact, the bases are related to the fact that NATO views China as a potential threat and an unstable factor that directly influences its security.

Generally speaking, the strategic friction between China and NATO is related to the following factors: First, China’s military is expanding at a pace unmatched by any other country in the world, and China’s strategic arsenals, including its ICBMs and SLBMs, can easily reach the territories of all NATO member countries. China is one of the few major countries that have the capability to pose a direct military threat to NATO members, and yet China’s military expansion is nontransparent and restricted by no international treaties.

Second, China’s construction of an aircraft carrier and other large-tonnage surface battleships suggests that China will directly challenge the interests of NATO countries in the Pacific Ocean and in the Indian Ocean as well. This includes the interests of the United States and Canada.

Thirdly, China’s rising military, political and economic prowess in central Asia and Afghanistan is also in conflict with NATO’s frontline strategies in the region. Several reports published in the United States have claimed that 90 percent of the weapons used by insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan are from China. Moreover, China has close political, military and diplomatic ties with those countries that are considered “rogue nations” by the United States and NATO, for instance, Iran and Syria.

In particular, Iran’s ballistic missiles are considered the most practical and direct threat to NATO territories, giving NATO an excuse to develop its own ballistic missile defense program and for the United States to deploy anti-ballistic missile systems in Eastern Europe. In fact, China has been the key source of Iran’s arms over the years.

Lastly, Chinese intelligence agents are also a threat to the interests of NATO countries. NATO has the world’s most cutting-edge technologies, and Chinese spies have been quite active in all NATO countries and even in Russia. A top official from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service openly acknowledged recently that the agency devoted more than half its personnel and material resources to dealing with these Chinese operatives.

How does China look at NATO’s reassessment of its China policy? An internal Chinese document on the country’s diplomatic relations talks about its policies on the European Union and NATO. A fundamental focus of the arguments in the document is that China should take advantage of NATO’s “internal contradictions” and attempt to divide the alliance.

A large section of this document is devoted to a discussion of EU and NATO members’ concerns about U.S. “unilateralism,” claiming that the disappearance of a common adversary has led to the rise of internal differences. The document says that since the end of the Cold War, NATO’s role as the hub of European and U.S. security has weakened, and Europe and the United States now have fewer common political objectives as a result.

The course of development in international affairs has meant that, due to their respective democratic political systems, changes of governments in the United States and within NATO member countries has also meant adjustments in their foreign policies. Nonetheless, because of their shared values, race and close cultural heritage, the United States and Europe still have some common goals, particularly in the fight against terrorism, preventing the rise of “rogue nations” in specific regions and guarding against the threats of Russia and China. The consensus of the United States and Europe on the issue of Iran’s nuclear program is a best representation of such common strategic interests.

The Chinese document also claims that the European populace has generally lost confidence in the United States, and that relationships between the leaders of Germany, France and the United States have cooled. The author of the document believes that there is no close coordination between Europe and the United States on the Balkan and Afghanistan issues, nor have they formulated common policies on Russia and China.

The document concludes that China should actively strive to strengthen China-Europe economic and trade relations. China should not only continue its efforts to strengthen its strategic partnership with France, but should also reinforce its ties with Germany and Eastern European countries.

“Countries such as France and Germany do not like the United States to dictate what they should do. The United States has always tried to use NATO to interfere in affairs around the world, which is in fact to use NATO to serve the interests of the United States. Without France and Germany, Europe could have become a handy tool of the United States long ago,” reads the Chinese analysis.

The document recommends that China reinforce its relations with the European Union to minimize the impact of the U.S. strategic squeeze upon China, and to win solid support from the European Union in a wide range of areas including the Taiwan issue, technology transfers and the lifting of the arms embargo. China’s strategy of using Germany and France to create divisions between the United States and Europe has been a frequent topic of discussion in articles published by the Chinese media.