Posted at 10:50 a.m. ET
The way Mr. Obama spoke during the campaign, you'd think our standing in the world would soar from the first second he took office, and that other nations would bow before The One.
But a funny thing happened to the president on the way to Utopia. Jim Geraghty, at National Review Online, explains:
Gallup announced Wednesday that just 32 percent of Americans are satisfied with the position of the United States in the world today, and 45 percent believe other countries perceive the U.S. favorably — “both little changed from last year, when George W. Bush was still president.”
It wasn’t supposed to be like this. When Obama went on his midsummer world tour, foreign leaders fell over themselves to get in photo-ops with the Democratic nominee, and a crowd of hundreds of thousands packed a park in Berlin to hear Obama speak.
Ah yes, I remember it well.
Almost overnight, the Obama administration has announced plans for a lot of policy changes the Europeans have been demanding for years...
...In gratitude, what are the Europeans offering? The Obama administration expects help in return: “America will do more. That’s the good news,” Biden told the Munich Security Conference. “The bad news is that America will ask for more from our partners as well.”
And their answer?
Biden’s speech provoked applause, and garnered attention in the American media, but European leaders haven’t been matching Obama promise-for-promise. Take Obama’s request for more NATO troops for Afghanistan: Spain and France declined, and it looks like German chancellor Angela Merkel and her party will do anything to avoid another debate about sending more soldiers (national elections loom in September).
So far, not so good.
With Obama in office, it is increasingly clear that Europe’s reluctance to send more troops to the world’s trouble spots had less to do with President Bush’s “cowboy” ways than with voting populaces that are effectively pacifist. French president Nicolas Sarkozy attended the Munich Security Conference and managed to put the issue surprisingly bluntly: “Does Europe want peace, or does it want to be left in peace?” A member of the British parliament responded by saying her constituents clearly wanted to be left in peace.
While Obama’s new friends may not be willing to help when it counts, his policy shifts are effectively punishing old friends — allies who put themselves out on a limb for the previous administration’s positions.
This is especially true of nations that joined with us on missile defense.
By agreeing to host the missile-defense-deployment sites, pro-western leaders in Poland and the Czech Republic put themselves on Russia’s enemies list — a dangerous place to be. These countries’ officials took this risk to cement a lasting defense relationship with the Arsenal of Democracy. Now the whole plan may be scrapped, and those pro-Western leaders may have put everything on the line for nothing. The word “betrayal” is being thrown around. Czech deputy prime minister Alexandr Vondra subtly jabbed at the shift in policy at the Munich conference, staying, “It’s too late to start building a shield when the missile is already in the air.”
But to the smug intellectuals who advise Obama, the missile will never be in the air because we will "negotiate" to avoid it. Only people from the best schools understand that, of course.
Obama has already demonstrated one improvement in America’s standing in the world — U.S. tourists will no longer confront bookshelves full of tomes denouncing their president in foreign bookstores. That may not be what Biden had in mind when he talked about America “asking more from its partners,” but it may be the most visible and tangible reciprocation that Europe offers.
And this is after only one month. I would not be surprised if some of our firmer allies, over time, silently wish for the days of George Bush. And maybe not so silently.
February 21, 2009.