Weak leaders who apologize for America are always popular abroad. Josef Joffe
Nearly 100 days into Barack Obama’s presidency and he is still a rock star in Europe, as evidenced by the large crowds that turned out to cheer him at the recent G-20 summit in London and NATO summit in Strasbourg, France.
George W. Bush was heartily disliked in Europe west of Warsaw, and Mr. Obama is universally loved. But how well does that popularity translate into power? How far could President Obama push his agenda with, say, German Chancellor Angela Merkel or French President Nicolas Sarkozy? About as far as you can throw a piano.
At the G-20 summit in London, Frau Merkel politely said nein to Mr. Obama’s entreaties about adding billions to the German economic stimulus pot. (Actually, it was a sheer pleasure to watch the Europeans, who have never seen a government expenditure they didn’t like, celebrate fiscal discipline in the face of U.S. profligacy).
Afghanistan? Mr. Obama asked his European allies to contribute more troops and put them where the fighting is — mainly in the embattled south. This is where the Anglo powers bear the brunt of warfare while the French, Germans and Italians remain happily ensconced in the quieter north. Though Mr. Obama says he received “strong and unanimous support” on Afghanistan from his NATO partners in Strasbourg, he got no additional troop commitments. The Europeans are happy to see the U.S. president add another 19,000 American troops to the 38,000 already there. Why worry, if Mr. Big is willing to carry the load?
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