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February 20, 2009

Obama's Foreign Policy Failure

It was a frankly unimaginable display of hubris for then-candidate Obama to take a victory lap through the Middle East and Europe this summer after he won the Democratic nomination. But he insisted that he was going to be a bridge-building president, who will "restore" America's image abroad. He told a crowd of thousands in Berlin that he was a "citizen of the world" and that he would break down the walls on either side of the Atlantic. The speech was entitled "A World that Stands as One."

He said:

Yes, there have been differences between America and Europe. No doubt, there will be differences in the future. But the burdens of global citizenship continue to bind us together. A change of leadership in Washington will not lift this burden. In this new century, Americans and Europeans alike will be required to do more - not less. Partnership and cooperation among nations is not a choice; it is the one way, the only way, to protect our common security and advance our common humanity.

They cheered and stupidly believed him. Here is the fruit of President Obama's popularity: Almost nothing.

US hopes of securing more troops for Afghanistan from its Nato allies were disappointed on Thursday as European countries refused to offer up many more soldiers despite pleas from Robert Gates, US defence secretary.

At a two-day meeting of Nato defence ministers in the Polish city of Krakow, Mr Gates said the new US administration “is prepared to make additional commitments to Afghanistan. But there clearly will be expectations that the allies must do more as well”. [...]

The lacklustre response to US hopes for a more robust commitment from the allies came as the parliament in Kyrgyzstan voted overwhelmingly to evict the US from a military base that is a crucial transit hub for its forces in Afghanistan.

The step led Washington to accuse Moscow of hindering the war effort in Afghanistan by backing the closure of Manas, the only US military base in former Soviet central Asia. Kurmanbek Bakiyev, Kyrgyzstan’s president, announced plans to shut the base this month during a visit to Moscow, where he accepted a $2.1bn (€1.7bn, £1.5bn) Russian aid package.

Don't get me wrong. We have many welcome allies in this fight. For example, the UK, Canada, Poland, and even France and Germany have sent troops, though these latter two refused to allow their contributions to engage in combat. And don't forget Georgia, which had a damn good reason to call their troops home. They've all lost soldiers in the War on Terror and we praise their troops. The failure here is not their soldiers'. And it's not really their governments' either.

The failure is Obama's. Obama, who criticized President Bush for failing to get more support out of our European allies. Obama, who played Monday-morning quarterback to decisionmakers in Washington. Obama, who puffed himself up with cheap words. Obama, who led us to believe he could do better. He can't deliver.

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posted by Gabriel Malor at 09:02 AM

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