MacShane on Obama

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  1. Looking for Leadership

    Europe fears Obama's ignoring it.
    By Denis MacShane | NEWSWEEK
    Published Aug 28, 2009
    From the magazine issue dated Sep 7, 2009

    A little over a year ago, 200,000 Germans crowded around the Victory Column just down from Berlin's Brandenburg Gate to listen rapturously to a speech by Barack Obama. That was candidate Obama. Today it's less clear that President Obama would get the same turnout—in large part since, seven months into his tenure, no one here knows what his Europe policy is.

    All his predecessors, whether Democratic or Republican, defined themselves against Europe. The Truman doctrine endorsed a U.S. defense of the continent against communism. JFK came to the Berlin Wall to declare himself a Berliner. Ronald Reagan came to the same place and told the Kremlin to "tear down that wall." Jimmy Carter set up the G7 with Valéry Giscard d'Estaing and Helmut Schmidt. George H.W. Bush, after initial hesitation, supported the concept of "Europe whole and free." Bill Clinton was an honorary European social democrat, and kept Europe on Valium with warm words made stronger by his alliance with a fellow modernizer, the Europhile Tony Blair. Even George W. Bush spoke in 2001 in favor of European integration and the euro.

    But Obama? Europeans still adore him as the un-Bush. But no one can work out what he wants from or for Europe. Hillary Clinton tours Africa and Asia and hams it up with her Russian opposite number, Sergey Lavrov, at the United Nations. George Mitchell is sent to the Middle East to push for peace. Joe Biden turns up in Georgia and Ukraine mixing words of support with caution for those nations. But Obama has no Mr. or Ms. Europe. He dutifully came to the G20 meeting in London but is now signaling that the 30-year era of the G7 and G8 is over. Obama's banking-bailout policies have been made in and for the U.S. with little real coordination with Europe, and China and India now seem more important to his economic policies than London or Berlin.

    Without clear U.S. leadership, Europe and its leaders are floundering. On climate change and universal health care, Obama talks the talk, but Europe wants action. Does he see Russia as a menace after its invasion of Georgia, its bullying of Ukraine, its attacks on the OSCE, and Vladimir Putin's steady erosion of human rights and the rule of law? Or does he see Russia as a partner and ally for whom a blind eye is needed when the Kremlin goes off the rails? Nobody knows. Or take Muammar Kaddafi. Europeans thought the U.S. wanted to normalize relations with the Libyan leader and shift Libya away from the anti-Western camp. French President Nicolas Sarkozy allowed Kaddafi to pitch his tent in Paris, while Italy's Silvio Berlusconi cannot find enough red carpets to roll out for the dictator. Britain released a man to Libya convicted of the Lockerbie bombings. But suddenly Washington is lambasting the soft-soaping of Kaddafi as it recognizes the anger over any move that appears to reward his longstanding support for terrorism.

    The one policy Obama is firm on is his desire to see the U.S. and NATO allies emerge successfully from the conflict in Afghanistan. But he now faces the liberal FDP in Germany calling for the withdrawal of German troops as it appeals for votes in September's elections. In Britain, opinion polls show majority support for bringing British soldiers home. Eager to garner these votes, the opposition Conservative Party has said it wants a timetable for handing things over to the Afghan Army and bringing U.K. soldiers home.

    Part of the concern about Obama lies in the fact that he is the first U.S. president in generations to have no firm ties to Europe. Previous American presidents passed around invitations to Camp David or Crawford. Eisenhower played golf in England, and Kennedy sent Jacqueline to Paris to charm de Gaulle. Nixon and Ford had the help of the European-American Henry Kissinger, and Carter had the Pole Zbigniew Brzezinski to advise. Bill Clinton was a Rhodes scholar who knew European political history better than most of Europe's leaders. Obama shakes hands with all in the Oval Office, but the personal stroking of European leaders is not taking place.

    In July, all the retired Eastern European presidents and prime ministers—liberals, conservatives, and social democrats—joined to write an open letter to Obama, questioning his commitment to what they called the "Euro-Atlantic community." They argued that their generation had grown up admiring what U.S. presidents said and did to support European democracy and Euro-Atlantic values and ideals. The letter was polite, but the thrust was clear: Obama must not abandon a tradition that began with Truman and helped bring peace, prosperity, freedom, and democracy to the European continent.

    Obama still has huge reserves of admirers in Europe, but time is running out, as Europeans simply do not know what he expects of the old continent. For the first time since 1945 there is a vacuum of U.S. leadership for the ruling elites in Europe. And without American nudging, does Europe know where it wants or needs to go?

    Macshane Is A British Labour M.P. And Former Minister For Europe.
  2. Macshane Is A British Labour M.P. And Former Minister For Europe

    Says it all for me. :wink:
  3. The political concept of there being something called the Western World is the foundation for US European partnership.

    The problem is the Left in both US and Europe dont really beleave in the West as a postive political force. They suport a socalist globalism instead centered around UN. The result is a strong drift pulling US and Europe farther apart. This is happening even though Obama and EU share the same broad political beliefs.
  4. Well said sir.
  5. did all the other presidents do the europe stuff not long after taking office or long after they'd focused on the issues at home? Maybe it's yet to come?
  6. Typical of the mindset of the Euro-fanatics. They are convinced that Europe is a single state and should be treated as such on the world stage. It makes as little sense as us treating the USA, Canada and Mexico as being one nation. The US of A will deal with individual countries for as long as they are sovereign states - McShane and his crowd just don't seem to realise that the UK's priorities may not always be exactly the same as Germany's France's or, heaven forbid, some former Soviet block country's.
  7. When Blair first went to Washington to meet Dubya he was treated as a socialist light weight from a piss poor nation and fcuked off at the high port. (Quite rightly ! ). It was only after his sycophantic post 9/11 antics they became bezzers.
  8. Actually, I don't think it would be all that bad a thing if the US did ignore Europe for a bit. It would force the EU to face some unpalatable home truths if it were forced to be completely self-reliant for a bit.
  9. Why do we have a 'Minister for Europe'? We have a Foreign Office, albeit currently run by a spotty brat.

    As we are governed by the faceless, unelected and unaccountable apparatchiks in the Supreme Soviet of the European Soviet Union, why have a 'minister' for it? We need a WAY OUT not an expense gobbling, traitor engineering our continued membership of it.

    How can they order us to use useless light bulbs? Why? Why do we put up with this sh1t? The French just ignore bits they don't like, but we employ another twenty thousand, otherwise unemployable, jobsworth toss-wits to monitor the Euroswinish laws!
  10. There is some truth to this. But, on the other hand, remember the right is also pro-globalisation. They may pay lip service to the ideals of nationhood and patriotism, but in reality, they want cheap labour for their corporations and don't care where it comes from.
  11. Part of the problem here is that you are trying to analyse the foreign policy of an administration that does not really have a foreign policy. They have never really thought things through and simply react to events. The Chosen One simply focuses on domestic issues and does not envision any global implications of his actions.
  12. Internationalism on the Left in Europe is more of an atavistic rhetorical trait than a reality. WWI effectively scuppered it and it left the USSR with Trotsky.

    Latterly European Socialists have tended to be nationalist or even regionalist, often actively protectionist and when not distracted by inane identity politics or pious environmentalism largely concerned with tackling the on rush of globalization.

    The idea that there was ever much affection for the UN in Europe's Left is laughable. It's either been ineffectual or a US policy instrument since the Roosevelts set it up. A regard for the UN and the EU for that matter is more a characteristic of the center of European politics than the Left.

    The spectrum of US politics is now far narrower and drastically more conservative than in Europe. This is not only because the US system is dogged by well funded corporate lobbyists and simply poorer at representing the rather broader views of the population. Yanks have always had a paranoid view of government not least because they are generally elect a high proportion of incompetent corrupt shysters and have great difficulty in getting rid of them. Just look at the clown house that Congress has become and you'd have to admit rational choice is at work here.

    The very idea you could have elected representatives of parties with labor, left, social , socialist or even communist in its name would baffle most Septics yet it is common in Europe. Like Bill Clinton Barry is actually well to the right in most policy areas of a typical German Christian democrat.
  13. I find rightwing globalism easier to roll back then the left wing globalism.

    Who do you consider the bigger threat microsoft are EU? Of the two who would be hardest to push back?
  14. Perhaps , but I am so encouraged by the infinitely better treatment of the UK by Osama---er, Obama. Have you seen any of the classic US movies our nation bestowed on the UK in a classy bit of statesmanship and respect?
  15. There is the hard unelectable left and then there is the softer left currently infesting both US and Europeans goverments. The hard left is just more honest they will tell you what they want to do while the soft left follows a policy of aquiring power first then doing whatever the hell they want to afterwards.

    The hard left will tell you ahead of time they want to nationalize industry. The soft left like Obama will bailout auto industry with taxpayer dollars and then hand majority ownership to unions. The hard left will tell you there going to nationalize healthcare the soft left will lie its ass off in order to sneak nationalized healthcare into law before public knows whats happening. The hard left will give you a honest postion on EU. The soft left will promise a referendum on EU constitution then break that promise when the moment suits them.