Saturday, April 04, 2009

Obama Abroad

My own view of President Obama's diplomatic performance this week is that he excelled as a statesman and represented America with a humble and honorable face. That is no small thing following President Bush who effectively alienated human civilization. Obama continues to dwarf political adversaries at home while slowly restoring America's reputation abroad. Most Europeans I believe prefer a cooperative relationship with America absent the rancor of recent years. President Obama's presence on the global scene is making it less fashionable for Europeans and hopefully other nations to scapegoat America for all that plagues the world. Realistically, Obama did as well as possible.

Unfortunately, that is not good enough. Although not entirely Obama's fault, as well as possible but not good enough is the reality of the moment. Hopefully, that will not prove to be the epitaph of his presidency.

The Europeans with their established social safety net are less inclined to add more stimulus spending. Both the administration and Europeans agree robust regulation is necessary but neither side of the Atlantic is ready to diminish the power of hyper-sized financial institutions and empower local banks instead. Unless both sides of the Atlantic eventually agree to completely restructure the global financial system, this week's "progress" with respect to the International Monetary Fund and agreeing in principle to increase banking regulation will be insufficient.

Also, there is that bleeding sore called Afghanistan and the increasing possibility Pakistan may become a failed nuclear state unable to control its borders or prevent any collusion among their military and intelligence services with terrorists. Click here to review a gruesome video of the Taliban recently beating a teenage girl in public in Pakistan's Swat Valley. As President Obama himself noted, his merely succeeding George W. Bush has not made this sort of barbarism disappear.

Neither the Obama administration nor the Europeans are joined at the hip with a common strategy to address the al Quaida/Taliban threat in Afghanistan or Pakistan. All the diplomatic symbolism aside, Obama owns the Afghanistan quagmire and is treating Pakistan like a corporation that is too big to fail.

One can understand the Europeans reluctance to add more of their own blood and treasure to Afghanistan. Trying to disable and destroy al Quaida and the Taliban has been a treadmill resulting in massive civilian casualties without progress. It's curious that the American political left isn't as mobolized against the Afghanistan conflict as it is with Iraq.

Personally, I believe our surge in Afghanistan is strategically misguided. Even so I hope it succeeds for young women like the one shown in the video. But unless the administration's diplomatic initiatives with Iran bear fruit and the Europeans are persuaded to do more, this week's pomp and circumstance will merely be another chapter in America's senseless global war on terror.

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