Nature of the Problem

H.R. McMaster, February 2017 until April 2018 National Security Advisor under President Donald Trump, describes how critical it was at the beginning of his tenure to get clarity on scope. Listen to minutes 3:00 to 4:15 about “the nature of the problem”, and about “framing out the problem”:

McMaster earned an M.A. and a Ph.D. in History, both from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He turned his dissertation on the strategy of the U.S. in the Vietnam War into his book entitled Dereliction of Duty.

Jack Barsky was too pushy

“Barsky discovered that the people who trained him (Russian KGB) did not have an authentic understanding of Americans, and he struggled at first with his assignment. While his instructions were to infiltrate political circles and get close to Brzezinski (National Security Advisor under US President Jimmy Carter), he was not given specific instructions on how he was supposed to accomplish that.

He also learned that while his English was excellent, he was very pushy and argumentative when dealing with people. He was shocked when he was confronted with this fact by a fed-up friend. He realized that he was essentially too East German to fit in.” From Wikipedia

See the CBS 60 Minutes story on Jack Barsky:

Jordan Peterson’s interview with Jack Barsky is extraordinarily fascinating:


A German with extensive experience living and working in the U.S. made this comment about entering into and maintaining agreements:

“I more observed that you make easier commitments in some cultures, and somewhere it takes more time. Then, in some cultures you can adjust when the boundary conditions dramatically change. And in others you stick to your word whatever happens. I guess that probably is the concept of Nibelungentreue, which has both positive and negative implications.”

Nibelung Loyalty

Nibelungentreue is a German compound noun, literally “Nibelung loyalty”, expressing the concept of absolute, unquestioning, excessive and potentially disastrous loyalty to a cause or person. 

It is derived from the medieval chivalric ideal of loyalty, Middle High German triuwe, as exemplified in the second part of the Nibelungenlied, where the Burgundian kings Gunther, Gernot and Giselher refuse to hand over to Kriemhild their loyal vassal Hagen of Tronje, who is guilty of murdering Kriemhild’s husband, Siegfried. The brothers place the loyalty to their friend above their obligations to their sister or to justice, leading to disaster and the complete destruction of the Nibelungs. 

The modern term Nibelungentreue was coined by chancellor Bernhard von Bülow in his speech before the Reichstag on 29 March 1909. Addressing the Bosnian Crisis, von Bülow invoked the absolute loyalty between the German Empire and Austira-Hungary to their Alliance of 1879against the threat by the Entente Cordiale:

Meine Herren, ich habe irgendwo ein höhnisches Wort gelesen über eine Vasallenschaft gegenüber Österreich-Ungarn. Das Wort ist einfältig. […] aber die Nibelungentreue wollen wir aus unserem Verhältnis zu Österreich‐Ungarn nicht ausschalten. Die wollen wir vor aller Öffentlichkeit Österreich‐Ungarn gegenüber wahren.

“Gentlemen — I have somewhere read a scornful word regarding a [German] vassalage to Austria-Hungary. This is fatuous. […] but we will not eliminate the Nibelung loyalty from our relation to Austria-Hungary. This we want to preserve towards Austria-Hungary in full public view.”

The term is adopted by emperor Wilhelm II of Germany as the German Empire declared war alongside Austria-Hungary on 1 August 1914. After the defeat of the Central Powers in 1918, the notion of th Dolchstoß (“Stab in the back”) also invoked the Nibelungen legend, invoking the cowardly murder of Siegfried.

Nibelungentreue was later, in East Germany during denazification and by the 1980s also in West Germany, applied (derogatively) to Nazi ideology, especially in connection with the Schutzstaffel motto, Meine Ehre heißt Treue. Used in this sense by Marxist commentators, the term describes a fanatical Germanic military loyalty associated with fascism and militarism. 

Franz Führmann in 1955 wrote a poem called Der Nibelunge Not (“the plight/distress of the Nibelungs”, the Middle High German title of the Nibelungenlied) in which he portrays the Nibelungs as a Germanic Töterdynastie (“dynasty of killers”) who brought a curse on their descendants. The term is also occasionally found in English-language literature about Nazi Germany; thus, Steinberg (1990) describes Goebbels’ suicide as “a paroxysm of Nibelungentreue“.

Source: Wikipedia

German bread, again

The Germans are extremely proud of their bread culture – and pretty scathing about bread from most other countries (don’t get them started on Toastbrot.) Since moving to Germany, Rachel has discovered the delights of fresh German bread from the local bakery.

But there’s still one thing getting between her and a bag of crusty bread rolls. Rachel moved from the UK to Germany in 2016. Back then, as a relative newcomer she casts a fresh eye over German clichés and shares her experiences of settling into German life. Every two weeks she explores a new topic – from unusual bans to meaty cuisine or haunted castles. This week: bread.

German bread

What do most Germans miss when they are abroad? Their bread! Hannah Hummel at Deutsche Welle explains why people in Germany are so crazy about it, how Germany developed such a huge bread diversity and why so many bakeries are under threat nowadays.

Her German father baked bread for the family in Scotland. It is very common for Germans living outside of Germany to bake their own bread.