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Tag Archives: Germany

In case you were wondering…

NO, Germany doesn’t “owe” NATO a red cent.

And perhaps if President TwitterFingers spent more time studying and understanding the alliance, instead of tweeting about it, he would have known this as well, instead of going on one of his infamous Twitter seizures on the heels of that “great meeting” he had with German Chancellor Angela Merkel last week.

I had honed in on this previously during the campaign, slamming Trump’s claim at the time that somehow we pay 73 percent of NATO, whatever the hell that means.

So, in case you were wondering how the alliance funding works, lemme ‘splain.

No, the United States does not spend 73 percent of NATO. That number refers to our defense budget compared to those of other NATO allies. Given the fact that we’re YUUUUGE, and they’re small, it makes sense that our total defense spending – even at a reasonable 3.6 percent of GDP will be much higher than theirs.

In other words: The United States defense budget ($664.1 billion) / the sum total of all NATO allies’ defense budgets, including the United States ($918.3 billion) = .72. The United States defense budget comprises 72 percent of the sum total of defense budgets of all NATO allies. OK?

Each country decides how much it will spend on its own defense.

NATO recommends that member nations spend at least 2 percent of their GDP on their own defense. It has other recommendations, vis-a-vis defense budget breakdowns, but none of these benchmarks are requirements. Nations decide for themselves how much to spend on their defenses.

Currently, maybe 5-6 NATO allies meet that standard, including the United States, Great Britain, Poland, Greece and Estonia. A number of other countries have committed to increasing their defense spending – not because Trump demanded it, but because they see the resurgent, aggressive Russia as an increasing threat, and since that’s why NATO was created in the first place, it’s a pretty logical turn of events.

NATO members do contribute some funds to common funding projects via direct contributions. This is where NATO members’ costs are assessed by the alliance based on nations’ GDP. The United States, being the biggest, baddest, and strongest member of the alliance pays roughly 22 percent of that figure. The UK pays about 9.8 percent, France pays 10.6 percent, and Germany pays 14.6 percent.

NATO is a treaty obligation for us, but members are not required to participate in all NATO operations. For NATO missions, each member decides how much they will contribute, if at all. The only exception is when NATO engages in an Article 5 collective defense operation, which requires the participation of all alliance members. Know how many times NATO invoked Article 5? Once. Know when? After the September 11 attacks on the United States. So yes, after terrorists attacked the United States, NATO members stood together and declared that an attack on the United States was an attack on all of NATO. But once again, there’s no size requirement. Allies contributed as much or as little as they assessed they could.

And no, we don’t provide defense to Germany, or any other NATO ally. We are NATO’s biggest partner, and we’re the leader of the alliance, but that doesn’t mean we give other NATO allies a penny, and that certainly doesn’t mean they owe us, considering the only time the Article 5 collective security guarantee was invoked was after an attack on US.

There are varying opinions about whether or not NATO is even needed today. Hardcore Libertarians (read: those who have no comprehension of how the alliance – or really human nature – works, and who will immediately call you ignorant and unaware of America’s oh-so-evil history of interfering in other nations’ affairs, blah, blah, blah) are screeching the alliance should be disbanded, as it’s no longer needed. I’m not even going to get into the vast numbers of conspiracy theories out there spewed by some of these nutjobs! Use your Google-fu, if you really are that interested in the crazy.

Suffice it to say, I disagree with the derpapotomi, given Russian aggression over the past several years, but that’s not what this post is about.

I would submit that the U.S. Commander-in-Chief, who ostensibly is ultimately in charge of all matters concerning our military and foreign policy, should at the very least know how America’s most significant alliance works!

And instead of once again using injudicious language on Twitter, perhaps he should spend more time studying that about which he tweets, so he doesn’t make us look like utter jackasses.

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ISIS inspired terrorism

In January of this year I discussed terrorism on this blog. I assessed that IS-inspired terrorism is actually more dangerous than IS-directed terrorism.

Why?

IS directed terrorism is easier to track. There will be planning. There will be electronic communication. There will be money transfers. There’s always a chance that someone will report suspicious activity, whether it’s banks or individuals. Planning can be compromised by lack of electronic security.

Contrast this with ISIS-inspired attacks in which lone wolves decide to take it upon themselves – for whatever reason, be it anger, religious zealotry, or mental illness – to murder scores of innocent people and screech their allegiance to Allah, the Islamic State, or whatever terrorist entity of the day moves them. IS doesn’t take part in planning. There are no money transfers, no plans being made by phone, text, or email. ISIS isn’t directly involved, although their leadership is certainly delighted by the results!

When the two scumbags launched an attack on San Bernardino, ISIS praised the two terrorists, but stopped short of claiming responsibility. The female gargoyle pledged her allegiance to ISIS in an online posting, but the attack doesn’t appear to have been directed by them. They simply stockpiled guns, went on a rampage, and tried to get away in a car, which didn’t work out so well for them.

We were just there. The US Embassy is on the left side as you face the gate.

We were just there. 

During the past couple of weeks, a series of terrorist attacks rocked Europe. There were several attacks in Germany, only one of which doesn’t appear right now to have been inspired by ISIS (although one witness claims she heard the murderer screaming “Allahu Akbar”), and one in the French city of Nice on Bastille Day, which killed more than 80 people when a terrorist named Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel plowed a into crowds, leaving a street strewn with bodies before taking a hike to swine humping hell.

It doesn’t matter if the attackers were mentally ill, bullied, or inspired by radical Islam. There was no planning, no strings to unravel in terms of tracking potential future attacks, and lots of carnage.

Worse yet, it requires no effort or resources on the part of ISIS, other than to applaud the bloodshed and publicly claim credit for inspiring the attacks. Hell, it’s free labor for them that doesn’t require their fighters to leave the AO! It’s free publicity, and it’s like a contagious disease that empowers and encourages other frothing loons to stage rampages of their own.

Meanwhile, what makes inspired attacks even worse is that it gives clueless politicians reason not to acknowledge problems with ISIS, radical Islam, or anything related to it, because the attacker was sick/mental/bullied/*insert stupid reason that’s not terrorism here*.

I know some will claim that it really doesn’t matter. Lives have been lost. Security has been compromised, as has the people’s confidence in their governments’ ability to protect them from violence.

But it does matter, because the terrorists’ goals are being accomplished without much effort or risk on their part. And that’s a big problem.

A little more Berlin

This is for one of my favorite commenters Sara, who was sad I didn’t post photos of Checkpoint Charlie yesterday. 

This photo was taken by a buddy of mine, who told me and Rob to look sufficiently grumpy. We did, I think.


Reenactment… sort of.


The one thing I hate most about historically significant areas such as Checkpoint Charlie is that they’ve become a Mecca for cheesy, kitschy, touristy crap. This is a bunch of reenactors, wearing old US Army uniforms, posing at what used to be the guard booth at the checkpoint for the entertainment of tourists. 

The site is filled with vendors selling cheesy, old Soviet souvenirs, fast food joints, and story boards tacked on to random places. 

What used to be a symbol of the free west battling communist oppression, has become kind of a clown show, with everyone trying to make a euro off history. Look, I get it. It’s become a carnival for people to claim “Look! I was there!” It’s modern. It’s a source of vanity. 

But it’s also history, and it’s a pretty significant part of our past. It seems the respect has vanished to be replaced with tawdry, abbreviated soundbites and Soviet “fur” hats. 

This is history. 


This is a grassy, overgrown area in the eastern portion of Berlin, fenced off to the side of a parking lot. 

This is also where the Germans took the carcass of Adolph Hitler, chopped it up, and turned it into ash. They apparently didn’t want the site to become a magnet for Nazi freaks and racist Fuhrer worshippers, so they scattered the ashes buried them underground and allowed weeds and grass to grow over the site. They also dumped a portion into the Elbe River. 

This place is not a tourist attraction, and it’s not notable. But my buddy, who happens to be an officer with the Bundespolizei, took us there to show us the parts of Berlin one doesn’t get on official tours. 


Yes, parts of the wall are still intact, left to stand along the cobblestone path that today runs through Berlin, showing where the wall used to divide the city. 


We will post more adventures as we have them. 

Hope everyone had a great Independence Day!

Wondering where the blogging has gone?

It’s gone on vacation! Guess where?


On Mountains and Pushing Oneself (With Update)

Since I got to Germany three weeks ago, I’ve been having a lot of trouble sleeping. It’s partially because the bed is about as comfortable as those foldaway Army cots from WWII days – those of you who have been in the military know exactly what I’m talking about. The bed is a wooden box, with a mattress the size of a stack of 10 Kleenex stacked on top of it. If one is super skinny, bones hit mattress, and ultimately the wood plank on which mattress is sitting. I’m not talking Princess and the Pea here. I’m talking about honest to goodness mattress thickness that rivals a folded quilt. I don’t want to complain too much, since I’ve actually had worse, like having slept on top of the hood of my Humvee when I deployed to Louisiana post-Katrina. Trying to avoid the metal loop was interesting. Trust me.

Then there’s the mountains. They’re gorgeous! Beyond belief incredible!

Garmisch 021

But apparently, according to my teacher, who says many of her students complain about sleeplessness, it may something to do with the mountains. I’m not alone. Maybe we’re all just not used to the fresh air!

Whatever the reason, I’m not sleeping, and it’s pissing me off. Not only that, but I wake up exactly at 0512 almost every morning.

0512.

I don’t know why, and I don’t care. No matter what time I get to bed, I wake up at 0512, and it’s annoying.

So yesterday, I decided to make myself really tired. I don’t mean just going to the gym and working out. That’s pretty much standard for me when I’m at home anyway. No, I mean, push myself to the point of exhaustion and hope the exhaustion wins out over my body’s desire to wake up at 0512 every morning.

Now, I love hiking. I’ve hiked quite a bit, so it’s not like I’m a newbie. I generally do it with friends, and it just becomes a fun thing to do. My first week here I went hiking at the Partnach Gorge with a buddy of mine whom I got to know when I was deployed to Kosovo. He’s a German federal police officer who works and lives in Munich – only an hour away from Garmisch. So he picked me up one day, and we went hiking, while we caught up on the past 6 years.

I don’t have a problem going up a mountain. I get a little winded, especially when I’m laughing so hard that snot is flying out of my nose at MACH 4, but overall, I’m fine. Coming down is a problem, because I have three screws in my right knee holding my anterior cruciate ligament in place, and the knee is always somewhat unstable. I have less control of it going down, so I generally take more care and effort.

The gorge is a sight. Click on the link I provided above, or take a look at some of these:

Hiking 019

Hiking 037

There are more photos, but I’m too lazy to upload them here. Needless to say, it was a beautiful hike, and I loved every minute! Was it difficult? Meh. It was alright. It didn’t kill me.

And it didn’t help me sleep.

I hiked all over Garmisch. That didn’t help me sleep either.

So I decided I needed a really LONG hike. For those of you who don’t know, Garmisch is in the Alps. Yes, those Alps. When you go up to the highest peak in Germany – the Zugspitze – you can see for miles and miles. It’s amazing!

Yes, that is me at the Zugzpitze summit.

Yes, that is me at the Zugzpitze summit.

You can hike up to the Zugspitze, but I’m not that crazy. There are lesser mountains to climb, so that’s what I did. So yesterday, I decided to hike, saw a footpath, and followed it.

Kreuznach 004

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I… I took the one that looked like it went up the mountain, and that made all the difference.

It started out pretty steep, and I walked through some incredible natural scenery! I continued upward and upward. It seemed like I walked forever. My legs were beginning to burn, but I continued to walk.

After about an hour, I looked to my right, and saw this:

Kreuznach 020

My first thought: holy shit, that’s high!

My second thought: I wonder how long it will take to get to the top.

My third thought: What happens if I keep walking?

So I kept walking… and walking… and walking… all uphill. I wound up having to do the maneuver cyclists do when faced with a particularly steep incline – they zig-zag from side to side. I did that too. It helped somewhat. I kept going… and going… and going…

When I finally stopped, I found this:

kreuznach

And this:

kreuznach2

And then I went, “Hmmmmm. I wonder if this goes any higher. And it did. I was exhausted, and was sweating like a canned ham, to quote a friend of mine. But I really wanted to see the top. I started to hike up a VERY steep, gravelly trail, and discovered that sneakers were not the best thing to wear if you’re climbing a VERY steep, gravelly trail. I kept climbing, took a photo of the path, and then I turned around and decided that the only way I’d get down is if I actually slid back down on my ass.

path

I decided sliding down on my ass down a gravelly mountain was a bad idea, so I turned around and hiked back down the mountain. Going down was again harder than anything I’d anticipated. Four miles up a very steep path was difficult, but I’m a pretty good hiker, so it wasn’t undoable. Four miles down that same very steep path was… um… scary.

Several times, my sneaker hit a patch of loose gravel, and I nearly rolled down the mountain. I had to stop several times and catch my breath, because of the effort required not to roll down. My bad knee was burning, and I thought several times that it may just collapse on me. The only thing going through my mind as I made my way down the mountain was, “Holy shit! Did I really walk 4 miles up this thing???  What the hell was I thinking?”

Thing is I wasn’t thinking anything. I just wanted to see what was at the end of the path. I didn’t care how much it hurt, and I didn’t think about coming back down. I wanted to say I did it, and I did. Just when I felt like my legs were going to give out, I saw more path I wanted to follow. I was all alone. Complete solitude. The few folks I saw following the path were on bike (zig-zagging) just to keep moving. I just wanted to conquer that mountain and myself at the same time.

And I did.

me

Yes, that’s me right after I got up there with a “HOLY FUCK! I DID IT!” look on my face. Yes, that’s my soaked hair in a ponytail looking like I just emerged from a bath, and that’s my red face.

But you know what? I did it. I beat that bitch, and I did it all by myself with no help or encouragement from anyone else. So I’m pretty proud of myself.

When I got back down and walked back to my barracks room, I could feel the muscles tightening up, but I didn’t care…

…until I realized my barracks has no elevator, and my room is on the top floor.

Shit.

Nonetheless, after 800 mgs. of Ibuprofen and some rest (and then another 800 mgs. after dinner), I realized that I had pushed myself to the limit, and I won. And I would do it again, and next time I would wear hiking boots, and take on that trail.

Because I’m stubborn, and I’m a ginger.

And that’s how we roll.

UPDATE: I’ve been made aware that I never did post whether or not the hike from hell helped me sleep. That’s a no.

Not only did I wake up at 0512 again, but I had the most bizarre dreams all night!

I have resigned to sleeplessness.

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