Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Europe wants to love Obama

The above article is by Robin Oakley, the CNN Political Editor. Much of Europe is emotional about Obama. Oakley isn’t. He expects Obama to disappoint a lot of the hopefuls. He quotes Obama to show he isn’t a pacifist: “I am opposed to dumb wars . . . I am not opposed to all wars.” He also writes “The U.S. and Europe share many values. But they don’t always share interests.”

Oakley also quotes Obama to say that “America must be free to take unilateral action on occasion.” But he adds, “Europeans hope is that President-elect Obama will prove to be instinctively multilateralist, that he will make full use of the United Nations, that he will at least consult and listen to them.”

Europeans are worried about Obama’s protectionist stance. Europe has a struggling economy and a protectionist president won’t help their cause.

I was most interested in Oakley’s quoting of Rifkind: “As the former British Foreign Secretary Malcolm Rifkind put it during the campaign: ‘It’s a touch of the John F. Kennedys and the Camelot-type excitement. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s healthy. It doesn’t necessarily mean it’s justified – but it’s a product of Obama’s personality.”


Donald Kagan, in his On the Origins of War and the Preservation of Peace, has a section on “The Cuban Missile Crisis.” Kagan describes Kennedy as not faring well against Khrushchev. Khrushchev saw him as young and inexperienced and thought he could be pushed around. Kennedy believed in diplomacy and negotiations. He thought it important to assure Khrushchev that America had peaceful intentions. This did not have the effect that Kennedy desired. Khrushchev saw it as one more sign of weakness and pushed hard. The Berlin Wall would never have been erected if Khrushchev believed he were facing a strong American president.

So when Rifkind refers to the “Camelot-type excitement” surrounding Obama, I think of the trouble the first Camelot-type excitement got us into. Kennedy did one wrong thing after another in regard to foreign affairs. We mustn’t forget his bay of pigs, another sign to Khrushchev that Kennedy was weak and indecisive. Fortunately for us now, there doesn’t seem to be any risk-taking Khruschev hanging about ready to jerk Obama’s chain. Perhaps Putin will push a bit in regard to former SSRs. Ahmadinejad seems more likely to entertain the unreasonable hope that Obama’s Islamic heritage will kick in. He may send Obama a letter like the one he sent Bush inviting him to accept Islam. And when it doesn’t work, he may express anger. But I can’t see him behaving like Khruschev. And in the final analysis, I don’t see American/Iranian relations improving as a result of Obama’s diplomatic efforts.

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