Obama Butters Up Europe, Sneaks in Criticism

The Awesomeness Tour continued today, with President Obama traveling to Germany and France, where, the Associated Press reports, he was “welcomed with thunderous cheers.”

I’m sure it’s fun for the president to be in a place where people just L-U-V luv him! But it’s painful for me to listen to his kow-towing to liberal European opinion. At a town hall event in Strasbourg, for instance, he reinforced the canard that Washington regularly dissed Europe over the last seven years:

I know that there have been honest disagreements over policy, but we also know that there’s something more that has crept into our relationship. In America, there’s a failure to appreciate Europe’s leading role in the world. 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.

Really? Such as when we worked with NATO to build the mission in Afghanistan — a mission that continues even as Europeans grow tired of it? Or developed stronger procedures for sharing intelligence data to track down suspected terrorists in Europe? Or urged Europe to take the lead in negotiations over Iran’s nuclear ambitions (a strategy Senator Obama derided)?

No, the reality is that America has shown an openness to working with Europeans whenever our goals allow for mutual cooperation. Even in Iraq – which of course is what the president was really talking about — U.S. forces have been complemented by troops from the UK, Italy, Spain, Denmark, the Baltics, and several Eastern European countries.

The arrogant, dismissive, and derisive parties in those discussions were the French (who, as it turns out, were making quite a bit of money from their relationship with Saddam Hussein) and the Germans. The same French and Germans who are now a burr in Mr. Obama’s side as he seeks support for a larger NATO commitment to Afghanistan.

When the president of the United States goes abroad and coos to these revanchist elements of the European political class, he does himself and his country a disservice.

That said, President Obama deserves credit for injecting a dash of unpleasant truth into European ears:

[I]n Europe, there is an anti-Americanism that is at once casual but can also be insidious. Instead of recognizing the good that America so often does in the world, there have been times where Europeans choose to blame America for much of what’s bad.

Later, in response to a question from an audience member, the president cautioned Europeans against thinking the world has changed along with their attitudes about American leadership:

I think that it is important for Europe to understand that even though I’m now President and George Bush is no longer President, al Qaeda is still a threat, and that we cannot pretend somehow that because Barack Hussein Obama got elected as President, suddenly everything is going to be okay.

I’m not sure why the president referred to himself fully in the third person — to play up his Muslim-sounding middle name? — but it’s helpful to remind Europeans, especially young Europeans with closed minds, that as much as they may wish away global threats, it is unrealistic to believe the threats are gone.

This, of course, is the grueling paradox of President Obama: On one hand, refreshingly thoughtful; on the other hand, totally stale and self-serving.

I hope the new European comity toward the White House results in some policy successes. And I hope that President Obama realizes that Europeans bear more than a little responsibility for any erosion in the trans-Atlantic alliance over the last seven years.

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