In his speech in Strasbourg, Obama criticized his country further than any standing US President in history. The British perspective and highlights.
“Instead of celebrating your dynamic union and seeking to partner with you to meet common challenges, there have been times where America has shown arrogance and been dismissive, even derisive.”On this side of the pond what was noted was the Obama lambasting of the Euros and their insidious anti-Americanism. The American perspective and highlights.
Both the British newspaper, The Telegraph, and the American Politico obviously grasped the broader context of Obama's harsh criticisms of both America and Europe. Simply to build a partnership, between the US and Europe, for fighting Al-Qaeda. A partnership which is dependent on Obama's personal popularity and how much smugness and guilt he can instigate among the Euorpeans.
He decried “an anti-Americanism that is at once casual but can also be insidious.” And he suggested that America had done its part to break with the past — not least of all by electing him — and now it was time for Europe to do the same.
“America is changing but it cannot be America alone that changes,” he said.
In contrast to reality, Obama has overlooked a few important facts about the Europeans and AQ.
Stephen Sestanovich, of Foreign Policy Magazine, has some interesting observations on the political dealings of past US Presidents and European leaders.
For half a century and more, in good times and bad, European leaders have advised new American presidents not to bother them with big, risky, expensive Washington ideas. They almost always prefer the status quo -- or, at most, very incremental change. But, having said their piece, they then usually come around. (Sometimes -- very rarely, it has to be said -- they're right to begin with.)
History only proves this observation to be correct.
As Mr. Sestanovich points out the four President's preceding Obama all dealt with European obtuseness and bullheaded complacency. George W. Bush's adversarial relationship with Gerhard Schroeder and Jacques Chirac over Iraq and Bill Clinton, again with Chirac, over intervention in the Balkans. George H.W. Bush and his challenge to NATO to offer up a more aggressive peace plan to over match Gorbachev's "peace-offensive," Which was met by the European response of being to bellicose. The very same response they offered to Reagan on his suggestion of "scrapping" the failed 70's policy of detente with the Soviets.
Not much has changed in way of the European attitude and expectations of the United States. From StratFor, Global Intelligence.
There is no question that Obama and the major European powers want to have a closer relationship. But there is a serious question about expectations. From the European point of view, the problem with Bush was that he did not consult them enough and demanded too much from them. They are looking forward to a relationship with Obama that contains more consultation and fewer demands. But while Obama wants more consultation with the Europeans, this does not mean he will demand less. In fact, one of his campaign themes was that with greater consultation with Europe, the Europeans would be prepared to provide more assistance to the United States. Europe and Obama loved each other, but for very different reasons. The Europeans thought that the United States under Obama would ask less, while Obama thought the Europeans would give more.While Obama is is perpetual campaign mode and relying solely on his popularity with the Europeans to get his agenda pushed through, the rigidity that he faces is almost hereditary within their society. The Europeans seemingly view themselves as dispensers of sage advice and wisdom to the younger America, not really wanting to get "involved." They are merely content with letting America do the dirty work while they reap all the rewards. Waking up to this reality about the European mindset would greatly assist the administration to create a foreign policy doctirne that is above all, realistic.
After having been soundly defeated in Al-Anbar province in Iraq and losing immense popularity among Arabs because of their violent tactics employed against civilians. AQ is no longer the big picture threat that the US faces in the Middle East. The Taliban may have taken on the role of public enemy number one.
As noted by MEMRI (Middle East Media Research Institute) while the Taliban may have a difficult time maintaining ground in Afghanistan, they are gaining new territory in Pakistan.
The Taliban's enforcement of the Shari'a law in the Swat Valley district did not begin with the signing of the Shari'a for Peace agreements. As a matter of fact, the Taliban in the district, under the command of Maulana Fazlullah, has been consolidating its control and authority over the region for several years and gradually enforcing the Islamic law there.
There is a more disturbing trend developing being revisited. The Pakistani military and Taliban forces have re-entered into an old alliance which aims to degrade and defeat the US and NATO forces in Afghanistan.
The apparent capitulation of the Pakistani authorities to the Taliban demands is due - at least partially - to a long-standing strategic alliance between the Taliban and the Pakistani military. This alliance benefits the Taliban by allowing it to gradually realize its goal of asserting its control and imposing the Shari'a law in expanding areas of Pakistan.
The benefits for Al-Qaeda in all of this is an expansion of territory to operate from, new recruits, and possible support from the Pakistani military and intelligences services. For now, any success AQ might muster is solely dependent on the Taliban gains within Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The Europeans need to be shook out their malaise and made aware that only concentrating on AQ is fighting a symptom, not the sickness. By defeating the Taliban this would leave little room for AQ to hide and forces them into more of a rear guard movement, if not rendering them to complete ineffectiveness.
To his credit though, Obama, has promised to revitalize military action in Afghanistan, with the assistance of NATO. Nevertheless, one of his greatest foreign policy errors might not be Afghanistan itself, but depending on vigorous assistance from the Europeans. The same people who have proven in the past the be more of a political hindrance than a helping hand.
Update: And so it begins. From Yahoo News.
STRASBOURG, France – France and Germany fully endorsed President Barack Obama's new Afghan war strategy on Saturday but firmly resisted sending more combat troops in a rift that overshadowed symbols of unity at NATO 60th-anniversary summit.