President Barack Hussein Obama has been on a whirlwind tour of Europe, stopping at three recent European “summits.” Of course, his tour received glowing reviews by most U.S. news media and liberal/Democrat talking heads who decried that the tour was on the scale of Caesar’s return from the Gallic Wars.
World leaders and the world press, less obsequious than their U.S. counterparts, acknowledge the likeability of the new U.S. President, but as a leader for U.S. interests, not so much.
The European press concurred that Obama sought to be everyone’s friend, and everyone in turn sought to be his best buddy.
The “summits” attended were the Group of 20 finance ministers and Central Bank governors in London, England; the European Union (EU) in Prague, Czechoslovakia; and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in Strasbourg, France. These meetings provided a campaign-like verve for Obama fed by the adoration of the European masses and most of the U.S. press.
It is worth noting, however, that nothing of substance was accomplished. The Obama administration hastened to say that the president “built new relationships, which will prove to be the foundation for future substantive accomplishments,” which is Washington, D.C., spin at its best.
Contrary to the Obama administration, which tends to believe its own press clippings, the world is not in lock-step with the president’s stimulus plans, or his Afghan plans, his bailout plans, or his nuclear weapons control plans.
The Obama grand tour may have energized his celebrity status, but little else. The administration believes the president has re-kindled hope in the world; but if so, that hope is an inch deep and a mile wide.
Europeans recognize that the Obama habit of blaming past-president George W. Bush for the world’s ills is a feel-good exercise that has run its course. The time has come for President Obama to govern rather than campaign.
At the G-20 meeting, Obama apologized for the United States having begun the latest financial crisis, stating, “I take responsibility, even if I wasn’t president at the time.” This mea culpa was well received, even though no other world leader blamed his or her predecessor for their inherited messes. French President Nicolas Sarkozy made it clear that Europe was not taking any criticism for a crisis started elsewhere.
The infighting among the G-20 leaders was centered on Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who desire regulation of foreign tax havens. They seek a list of “tax cheats” from their respective countries. Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi sided with Sarkozy and Merkel. Chinese Minister Hu Jintao supported an international financial regulation concept with no self-regulation.
These were opposed by the United States and Britain, who lost the debate, as the G-20 approved new rules for banks, ratings agencies, and hedge funds. Of major impact, the G-20 majority agreed to create a new international supervisory authority — the Financial Stability Board (FSB), whose powers will bear scrutiny.
France, Germany, Italy, and other Western European countries were the G-20 winners with establishment of the FSB. The United States stood by, while its sovereignty was eroded by creation of a new world order capable of transfixing the U.S. Republic. Assuming that the United States plays its part as a subservient G-20 member, the FSB could require U.S. companies to seek FSB approval of financial decisions, such as employee compensation and promotion, company expansion, pricing and production methods, perhaps even advertisements.
In Prague, Obama took a bold step by declaring, “I will lay out an agenda to seek the goal of a world without nuclear weapons.” North Korea, apparently excluding itself from the Obama goal, celebrated the declaration with a missile launch.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, responding to Obama’s nuclear capitulation statement, was quick to demand that the United States remove all its nuclear weapons from Germany. Green and leftist parties of Europe followed suit by seeking removal of all U.S. nuclear weapons from their homelands. It remains to be seen if China, India, Iran, or Russia accept nuclear restrictions.
Europeans complain that Obama is meddling in European internal affairs. In Prague, President Sarkozy commented, with French savoir faire, that Mr. Obama should mind his own business when it comes to European matters. Bernd Posselt, a German member of the EU parliament, opined: “The EU is not Obama’s plaything. He should accept Turkey as America’s 51st state instead.”
At the close of his European tour, President Obama did visit Turkey, where his speech offering outreach to the Muslim world did not sit well with old-guard Europeans and Germans in particular.
His Turkey speech may play well in the Muslim world but not in the West, except where U.S. polls were designed to show his Muslim outreach as a new day in U.S. foreign policy.
The Obama plan for more European combat troops in Afghanistan was dead on arrival at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization summit. Not only is Europe unwilling and unable to provide for its own defense, it cannot be expected to fight someone else’s battles. Since World War II, Europe has had the luxury of U.S. military might and presence to secure its well-being. With Obama at his side, President Sarkozy stated, “There will be no French military enforcements” for Afghanistan.
In his speech at the NATO gathering, Obama apologized again, when he spoke of past Trans-Atlantic differences, saying, “There have been times where America has shown arrogance and been dismissive, even derisive” toward Europeans.
Obama’s appeasement message is far more significant globally than is his much-reported celebrity status with the masses. The implications of his appeasement message are not lost on world leaders; Obama will not play hardball with them.
European experts agree that Europe’s military capabilities still require the United States to be the main player in NATO military actions. Yet Europeans retain a certain beau geste that demands U.S. homage.
Change does not come easy to the Trans-Atlantic alliance. Meanwhile, the Obama administration appears oblivious to Trans-Atlantic rebukes.
The biblical lyrics are “Whither thou goest, I will go,” but where President Obama promises to take the United States, many U.S. citizens are unwilling to go.
James Walsh is a former federal prosecutor.
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