Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff at PostGlobal

Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff

Germany

Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff is a Senior Director at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, a transatlantic public policy and grant-making foundation. He overseas the fund's policy programs. He was previously the Washington bureau chief of the German newsweekly, Die Zeit. Close.

Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff

Germany

Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff is a Senior Director at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, a transatlantic public policy and grant-making foundation. more »

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July 18, 2008 11:55 AM

Democracy and a Piece of Clothing

The Current Discussion: France has rejected a citizenship application from a burqa-wearing Moroccan woman on the grounds that she has "insufficiently assimilated" to French culture. Should cultural assimilation be a requirement for citizenship?

If France denied a Muslim immigrant from Morocco the French citizenship because she wears the burqa, then we are confronted with an outrage. France’s Conseil d’Etat, the highest Administrative Court to uphold the decision of the city government of Paris this week, would have violated the very Western values it intends to protect. But is that really what we're dealing with here? Not so fast – it's more complicated than that.

The modern Western nation-state is a community of political values. Citizenship is not based on cultural values, not on blood and not on ethnicity. Freedom and democracy and constitutionalism are at the core of this community. German philosopher Dolf Sternberger has coined the term “constitutional patriotism” for a citizen’s necessary identification with the basic political principles and procedures of the democratic state. According to Sternberger this identification does not necessarily have to be “affectionate.” It is part of the freedom of every citizen to abstain from exercising his or her political rights. Citizenship may be created by birth as well as free will. This type of republicanism includes the right to emigrate as well as to immigrate. The state may reject an immigrant’s petition to become a citizen if and when an applicant rejects the basic constitutional principles. Usually there are few cultural conditions to become a citizen, the proficiency in the local language being one of them.

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December 17, 2007 8:45 AM

Negotiations Weak, Too Easily Derailed

**Editor's Note: This piece was written in response to a question asking panelists to choose the best of six proposals on how to move forward on climate change. Read More Panelist Views**


I’ve spent the last week at the Bali Climate Conference, so my choice is heavily influenced by that experience. My preference is Jeffrey Frankel’s Proposal One: For Fairness, Use Formulas. If it turns out during the process of negotiation that Proposal One is not achievable because it is too ambitious or too complex, Proposal Three might be a fallback position.

The Bali conference has shown that stopping global warming is not only a question of policy models - it is a question of leadership and vision. In the dramatic days and hours leading up to a watered-down compromise, our leaders have shown that they are not up to the task (yet). What they suggest so far will not get the job done. Science tells us that more dramatic steps are necessary than the ones that the Bali negotiators suggest (and might, after further watering them down, put into a treaty with binding commitments in 2009). It seems to me that most people are more aware of the urgency and the magnitude of the problem than their leaders are.

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July 8, 2007 3:39 PM

The Abuse of "Empire"

In the recent past, nothing has fascinated theorists more than the idea of America as an empire. If Google is the arbiter of modern intellectual races, 33,400,000 hits place "American empire" among the lead contestants. The theory of empire comes with a few standard arguments. First among them is power. There has never been anything quite like America's dominance of the world, the argument contends. While there have been other dominant powers, none has towered over other rivals quite the way the United States does. Just look at defense spending and compare it with the rest of the world. But American dominance is not just military, the theorists of empire claim. In their thinking, economic power and cultural attraction are also elements of empire.

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June 8, 2007 9:40 AM

Authoritarian Bully & Imperial Wannabe

Countries react to power, or to the absence of power. Vladimir Putin and his Kremlin elite claim that the West has ignored, neglected, underestimated or bullied Russia for more than a decade. Perception can mirror reality. Post-imperial Russia has been characterized this week as a country that matters little in the post-1989 world. According to the Kremlin narrative, Russia has become a victim of Western arrogance.

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May 24, 2007 9:00 AM

Accepting Difference in Our Workforce

Globalization and immigration are twins. Germany exported more goods than anybody else in the world last year. Globalization is at the heart of Germany's economic recovery. After years of continuous outsourcing to low-cost competitors, German entrepreneurs have been able to carve out a niche for themselves. The country is high cost and high tech and high quality -- and highly competitive.

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May 14, 2007 3:06 PM

Mixed Up in the Wrong Crowd

The West is about to lose the only formidable leader in the cohort of the past age. Tony Blair’s tragedy is that he has been surrounded by Jacques Chirac, Gerhard Schröder and George Bush -- the weakest team since World War II.

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May 2, 2007 4:18 PM

Authoritarian Bully Wants Respect

The most comforting interpretation of the disturbing new tone from Moscow circles around legacy and elections. Vladimir Putin is in his last year as Russian President and wants to be remembered as the man who stood up to goliath. The fresh attack on the U.S. and NATO can be seen as the first salvo in the upcoming presidential campaign. Putin, acting in the interest of his yet to be handpicked successor, plays his friend Gerhard Schröder's game: when in doubt, go against America. It will win you an election. This weekend a high-ranking Russian official put it this way: "America-bashing is just as popular in Russia as Russia-bashing is in America." He concludes that we are not witnessing a sea change in Russian foreign policy.

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April 24, 2007 8:03 AM

Leadership Matters

Of course it matters how and by whom a country is led. Nothing is predetermined, in France no more than in the U.S.

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April 5, 2007 10:17 AM

More Lessons: Iran Showed True Colors

Here are some lessons that I draw from the outcome of the Iran-Britain standoff.

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March 29, 2007 10:11 AM

My Boundless, Borderless Generation Europe

Can one have complaints about Europe, the soft giant? The continent of grandiose political ambitions and moderate means? This is the continent that provides teenagers the “Eurorail Pass” and two dozen countries to discover. Boundless and borderless train-riding and hitchhiking and backpacking, that’s Europe to many today.

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