But it appears that all of the criticisms directed at the Bush Administration for its management of foreign policy were better directed at the Obama Administration:
First came the snubbing of Gordon Brown in March of last year. That was followed by Mr Obama’s decision to skip the US-EU summit in May. Then there was this summer’snationalistic flogging of BP over the Gulf oil spill. And the most recent slap at Europe concerns influence at the International Monetary Fund, with America badgering EU countries to cede some of their voting power. The administration’s logic on this count is not necessarily absurd—Europe’s global economic influence has declined as that of countries such as China, India and Brazil has risen—but the move strikes me as gratuitous, a thinly-veiled attempt to curry favour with the nations the administration sees as the powers of the future at the expense of our old European allies. And they are our allies, not just a bunch of people with whom we did some deals in the past when it was mutually advantageous.
I spent election night 2008 in central Europe, at an election party thrown by a Finnish friend and attended by about 30 people from a half-dozen European countries. Like most political junkies, I have attended many such gatherings, but this was the first time I had been to one in which none of the other attendees could vote in the election at hand—and I have never seen one where the mood was more electric. To a person, they were rabidly pro-Obama, cheering the states he won, cursing the ones he lost. At one point, my Finnish friend told me—out of earshot from the others—that he did not think John McCain was a particularly bad guy or that his would be a mere continuation of the previous administration. Nonetheless, he said, Mr Obama had to win, so America and Europe could clear away the anger and hostility of the Bush years. “The future is too dangerous and uncertain,” my friend said, “for us not to be united again.”
Mr Obama won, but the result has not been what champions of the Atlantic alliance hoped. As James Joyner wrote in Foreign Policy last October, “Despite George W. Bush’s defiant ‘you’re with us or you’re against us’ public stance, he actively solicited advice and input from his NATO partners. Obama, by contrast, is saying all the right things in public about transatlantic relations and NATO but adopting a high-handed policy and paying little attention to Europe.” The relationship has not improved over the past twelve months.
I am still waiting for fervent supporters of the Administration to finally come out and admit that Barack Obama hasn’t been the Change We Can Believe In. It seems as though the President’s fans are in denial over the fact that he is more like their caricature of George W. Bush than even George W. Bush was.