American Views Abroad

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Interesting Comment from An American Citizen who has been living and working in Washington, DC for many years:

I read this op-ed (Wash Post 2/17) by David Ignatius about Obama's experience or lack thereof. He looked back at the first 18 months of the Kennedy administration, which were mostly spent in a very steep learning curve, especially in terms of foreign affairs, culminating in the Cuban missile crisis. We tend to forget that Kennedy was not exactly a glittering success in domestic policies and the only reason he looks good in the Cuban missile crisis is because Russia backed down. Then there was that whole Bay of Pigs ugliness.

It suddenly occurred to me that one guy looking on with great interest must be Vladimir Putin. He definitely has ambitions and may well be licking his chops at the chance to test Obama. We Americans tend to view the world in terms of an unending Manifest Destiny, whereas Europeans I think see things more in terms of Empires that come and go. And clearly you could make the case that the American Empire is going, going, maybe gone. A guy like Putin who clearly has great ambitions and would love to head up a newly resurgent Russian Empire may well see this as his moment. Certainly if you look at the classic signs --- a weakened economy, the decline in cultural literacy, destructive wars fought far from home --- America fits right into the mold of an empire on the decline.

I can remember walking down M Street with H. sometime in the late 60s and saying to him that I couldn't see how the USSR could possibly survive. I based that on the belief that no country that fucked up could possibly endure for long. H. just sort of humored me but I remember that conversation well and I have that same sort of feeling now that something big is coming our way and it ain't good.

Oddly enough, I also have the feeling that Obama could be the one guy who could turn things around in terms of getting the world to see us in a better light. Are we looking at win-win or lose-lose? And what would happen if Hillary or McCain wins? I guess we are doomed to live perpetually in uncertain times.

He included an added comment on Putin when agreeing to have his words put up here:

As for Putin, you should definitely be worried. This is one scary guy who definitely has plans. The collapse of an empire is always a dangerous time and the repercussions may take a few decades to full unfold. Here we have two empires --- the old Soviet empire and the new American empire ---- that are in various stages of decline and birth.

Kosovo may prove to be a revealing snapshot of where we are. The 20th Century started out with a war that had its initial spark in that region. Hate to see history repeat itself, but this whole situation is so reminiscent of the entangling alliances that caused so much trouble before.

The David Ignatius column at

Thursday, February 21, 2008
The two candidates debate in Texas tonight. Lest the war in Iraq gets too little notice with the economy being more the front line issue, the following two articles are on Iraq:

Fort Hood Soldiers Breaking the Silence in War in Iraq at

The honest truth is that if the American people knew what was going on over there everyday, they would be raising their voices too. They would be saying 'Hey, bring those guys home,' Sgt. Selena Coppa said. Coppa blames lawmakers in Washington for filtering the facts on the war in Iraq. She said there's no real end in sight.

German Arms Firm Ends Blackwater Deal After TV Report at,2144,3135177,00.html

Weapons manufacturer Heckler&Koch said it would end its relationship with Blackwater after German media reported that the controversial US-ran military firm was using its guns in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Thursday, February 14, 2008
On the issue of what good medicine costs today, Richard Bernstein compares the cost of hip replacement surgery in the US and Germany in his Letter from America in the IHT. In Germany the cost of a total hip replacement would be 7,000 to 13,000 euros ($10,200 - $19,000) depending on the patient's condition and whether there are complications according to one of the national health insurers, AOK. A private clinic would charge about 20,000 euros. Bernstein's own operation in New York last year will end up being around $40,000, or perhaps a few thousand more, once the bills for anesthesia, for four days in the hospital, for medications, pre-and post-operative exams, physical therapy and the prosthesis itself are added in.

A patient undergoing hip replacement in Germany will not even see an bill or even have an inkling of what it all costs if he or she is within the 90% of the population depending on a national health insurance. Except for a very small out of pocket charge of around 10 euros per hospital day, the patient will not be presented with a bill. He or she will most likely spend more time in the hospital than four days and then be sent on to a rehab program, all covered by insurance.
The patient will not have to wait months for an appointment and in Hamburg, at any rate, one can now go online to review how hospitals score on hip replacement when trying to decide where to go.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

A first hand report from an American friend in Munich:

Obama's Fireside Chat Abroad - Con Call with U. S. citizens around the world

Barack Obama's con call to thousands of Americans abroad yesterday was an idea as fresh and innovative as Roosevelt's famous fireside chats. He spoke about the issues that particularly touch those living far away, but without in any way minimizing the weight of the issues at home in the United States. For old folks it brought back memories of how families used to sit around the radio at night to listen to the news together. This call touched a nerve in the emotions of Americans everywhere and will go down in history as a landmark when the global community came together at 16:15 Central European time on February 11, 2008 to listen to a man who might become the next President of the United States.

This is not a political endorsement, but an objective observation about a very unique way to personally reach citizens outside the country.

Marina in Munich

Thursday, February 07, 2008
On the Democrats by Frank Rich: .......the race for the Democratic nomination is going to be a scramble built less on policy than on a wide variety of factors including race, gender, negative campaigning, and the usual unpredicable events of any political season. ......Compared to the Bush presidency, almost any conceivable Democratic ticket would seem a step up to the vast majority of voters eager to turn the page. The Democrats could yet lose the White House in 2008, especially if the general election becomes a referendum on the Clintons or race, but it would take the party's full powers of self-immolation to do so.

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