Opinion

The Great Debate

Obama honeymoon ends in Europe

March 31, 2009

Robin Shepherd

– Robin Shepherd is Director, International Affairs at the Henry Jackson Society. His areas of expertise are transatlantic relations, American foreign policy, Middle Eastern relations with the West, Russia, eastern Europe, NATO and the European Union. The views expressed are his own. –

It is to be hoped that President Obama has a developed sense of humour. The man heralded by many as the new Messiah of political renewal lands in London this week not to the chorus of approval he might have expected on his first official trip to Europe but to crowds roaring with anger and frustration at the global economic system which his country underpins.

It isn’t personal – yet. Few but the most unreasonable would hold the new American president responsible for woes that he inherited. Nonetheless, Obama campaigned on a platform of change. The implicit claim that his election was a grand, indeed poetic, instance of the time finding the man will be explicitly rejected – in Europe as well as at home – if he fails to deliver. We know he can give a pretty speech. But at the G-20 summit in London this week, that simply won’t be enough. For the first time at a major international gathering the blinding lights of international scrutiny will pour over Obama’s credentials on substance. His mettle is about to be tested.

It is true, of course, that there is tremendous accumulated goodwill towards the new American president in Europe. But time may yet show that much of that was merely the counterpoint to a hostility felt by so many against his predecessor. That, at least, is the risk. Obama can no longer play good cop to George Bush’s bad cop. He alone now has the stage, and when people are losing their jobs and homes they will want to see results. As leader of the Western world, the buck stops with him.

What applies to the economy will also apply to the great issues of international affairs. Obama will be given a chance over his new strategy on Afghanistan, though murmurings of discontent are not hard to detect in liberal-Left circles across the continent even now.

The idea that the war is unwinnable is gaining currency, especially in Britain. If, as the veteran political commentator Simon Jenkins put it in the Guardian this week, Afghanistan comes to be perceived as a “Vietnam for slow learners”, then it is Obama who will be handed the dunce’s cap if things do not improve. The president’s sensible and predictable modifications to earlier intimations about a complete and quick withdrawal from Iraq have also raised eyebrows. America’s critics did not die with Bush.

The NATO summit which follows the G-20 will provide a welcome opportunity to grandstand, especially with the re-incorporation of France into the alliance’s strategic command. The new deal with Paris marks an important symbolic turnaround with a country which more than any other symbolised transatlantic rifts under Bush. Obama will bask in it.

But even at NATO, he will have to tread carefully. As relations with the western part of Europe improve, there are rising concerns in some parts that the administration’s mooted new deal with Russia could herald a partial climb down from some long-standing American strategies, not least to expand the sphere of democracy in Europe’s east. Appeasement of Putin and Medvedev is not the kind of change the Poles and the Balts are looking for.

But that, of course, is the nature of the beast. You can’t please all of the people all of the time. Sometimes it really is a zero sum game, even for a leader with the charisma of Barack Obama.

The honeymoon is definitively over. Obama’s trip across the Atlantic marks the end of his transition from symbol of change to politician with a job to do. In the end, he will be judged like all the rest of them.

Comments
62 comments so far | RSS Comments RSS

Allison,

I believe you are astute and well informed.

However, I would venture that the “money-changers” who control the Federal Reserve mechanism would not be stymied by a return or “quasi return” to a “gold standard” backing of fiat currency. They would simple look to acquire the gold, or whatever basket of precious metals might in the future amalgamate to form the new world reserve currency.

The other big “unknown” is…”How much gold is really in Ft. Knox?” There has not been an official audit since the Eisenhower Administration! Nixon closed the convertibility window in August 1971 as the French called out bluff and demanded gold in exchange for our fiat currency. So, while we are “reported” to hold some 8,133 tons…I would say that is highly doubtful.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Official_go ld_reserves

Much of this gold represents to confiscated Gold of the Roosevelt Executive Order from the early 30′s.

Personally, I am now beginning to learn Mandarin Chinese alongside my young daughter and son. I think I will certainly need “the skill” in the coming decades.
The 20th century was hailed as the “Great American Century”. It was. Our superpower zenith was reached in 1945. *Though as you pointed out, the seeds of demise were planted in 1913 with Christmas legislature legitimizng the “illegitimate” Federal Reserve.
The 21st will belong to China and India. “Chindia” will in all likelihood become the world’s dueling superpowers, and hopefully will remain more benign in their “quasi cold war” relationship. The US (I fear) will decline, much as Britain declined throughout the 19th and into the 20th century.

We are now in the winter phase of our 233 year democracy.

Posted by bustedpopsicle | Report as abusive
 

Barack Obama’s campaign effectively turned the American election into a referendum on hope. And his victory, while one cannot discount the matchless effectiveness of his campaign, can fairly be described as a resounding statement of just how Americans yearn for something in which to invest hope. Now with the honeymoon almost over, the people expect him to stand up to challenges. There is an uncanny similarity between former British Prime Minister Chamberlain’s diplomacy and that of Obama’s. The Chamberlain form of diplomacy led Hitler to ignite World War II. The lesson is: diplomacy not underpinned by action is fruitless, even dangerous.

 

Barrack Obama, a man with whom many had invested their hopes have already started turning their backs at him within a span as short as 3 months.One should also consider that the G20 meet is gonna be the first international summit where he will be addressing delegates from different corners of the world.Isnt it peurile to deem him as a futile democrat even before we hear from him at the summit?He aint SUPERMAN after all to resolve the financial crisis in 3 months that has swept the globe and has rendered many jobless.He too is a human being in flesh and blood like all of us and let us be a tad patient before we start condeming someone who has trudged his way through to get to the top.

 

Well it’s clear by now, Obama is nothing more than a glib talker and an opportunist. After harping over change, when time for action arrived he did nothing more than preserving everything that is old and rotten. Even today he is reluctant to impose regulations on hedge funds and the world of finance. He has done no more than giving public speeches about his anger at the executive pays and financial excesses but does not want to take any long term action that will curb such excesses in future. Why are hedge funds so essential that for their sake Obama is ready to sacrifice consensus at the G20 and leave scope for future catastrophe.

If Obama is that honest why is he trying so desperately to protect hedge funds from regulations. Like all his predecessors he is a liar. If France and Germany can afford to rein in these monsters why not Obama. And all developing countries want restrictions on these whose financial markets have been robbed again and again by these predators. May be those who have controlled Washington in the past have been successful to buy Obama also. What value do these people add rather than indulging in speculative activities and creating bubbles. Their power comes from the fact that they control huge amount if money. Ban them and they will be worse than beggars as they know nothing other than gambling.

Obama has shown where his priorities lie and for whom he works. Also amazing is that Britain which harder hit than most other European economies has not yet officially pushed for financial regulation and sought to put pressure on Obama. Even British Prime Minister is doing nothing more than paying lip service. In my opinion Obama has successfully run the biggest ponzi scheme in the electoral history of the world.

Posted by asterix117 | Report as abusive
 

Well put asterix117. He would not have been allowed to be elected if he weren’t playing ball with the guys that really run things (IMF, WHO, World Bank and Federal Reserve). Too many vested interests and too much chicanery will lead us down the path of destruction. It’s just politics as usual. All a bunch of smoke and mirrors. Obama is quickly turning out to be just one of the boyz. Unfortunately, the whole thing is rigged. Grass roots education is where it starts if we ever want to do anything about it.

Posted by Billiam | Report as abusive
 

listen up world – we americans are special people blessed with a whole free continent from the man himself cause he knew those other people weren’t really humans just heathens

so you ain’t got nothin to worry bout cause we can print out as many of those greenbacks as you fools will take in, crank em around and we’ll do it all over again just like it has been foretold in the good book about special people like us

can’t ya just get it and stop complaining so much?

they call it providence for a reason ya know

Posted by vilhelm vos especiale | Report as abusive
 

“America will cease to be great…when America ceases to be good”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexis_de_T ocqueville

The real question is…How close are we? What say u Vilhelm?

Posted by bustedpopsicle | Report as abusive
 

In Europe we seem to see things this way: Obama’s honeymoon may be over, but he’s doing a great job at building a good, robust relationship with the world. This is NOT “the counterpoint to a hostility felt by so many against his predecessor”, it is that finally the most powerful global politician has the right attitude towards contemporary problems, gathering a real coalition AND setting a serious, good example. This is real leadership (not just for him; for the US, too) and the world is recognizing it. Basically, he is telling our governments, they need to take on more responsibility for their future, stop depending on the US to get them out of troubles, and do their own share of the job. Guess what? He’s charismatic enough to sell them a deal they had been afraid of all along. Apart from the loud few who still refuse to accept the reality of a global world, Europeans welcome the change. THANKS President Obama, and THANK you Americans for electing him.

Posted by Laura Cambiago | Report as abusive
 

When was the Obama honeymoon over?

Like all honeymoons, it was over the morning after the election.

Posted by John Smith | Report as abusive
 

Dear Mr Robin,

Capitalism is dead, and it’s being replaced by a jungle economic lifestyle.

Thanks.

Marcel J. Kiza

Posted by Marcel J Kiza | Report as abusive
 

Lets do a quick summary of some of the comments so far…

Dear Mr President,

In spite of the fact that you’re tasked with undoing almost a decade’s worth of poor economic, foreign and domestic policy choices, we feel that the 70 odd days that you’ve been at it has been more than enough time to achieve this in.

Now, could you please hurry up and solve this financial crisis *now*… we need to get back to our previous lives of excesses. The fact that you are the *single* world leader that is actually doing something about this crisis, along with the fact that this crisis is unprecedented in terms of complexity and reach, is no longer considered as redeeming factors by us.

Geez… who do you guys pray to at night?

Posted by Quintin | Report as abusive
 

That is simply a lie. The Europeans were not booing Obama

 

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