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Archive for Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Success of trip hard to gauge

Obama charts new course in diplomacy

President Barack Obama is accompanied by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, far left, as he visits Hagia Sophia on Tuesday in Istanbul. Others are an unidentified guide and translator. It likely will take a long time to gauge the success of Obama’s recent overseas trip.

President Barack Obama is accompanied by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, far left, as he visits Hagia Sophia on Tuesday in Istanbul. Others are an unidentified guide and translator. It likely will take a long time to gauge the success of Obama’s recent overseas trip.

April 8, 2009

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— President Barack Obama headed home from his first trip overseas Tuesday confident of at least one thing: He had managed to put his face indelibly on American foreign policy for much of the rest of the world.

Using personal diplomacy to advance his broad policy goals, Obama charted a new course as he moved rapidly across the continent, attending three summits, visiting six countries and meeting at least 15 foreign leaders, wrapping up with a surprise visit to Iraq on Tuesday.

Among the highlights:

• A summit in London of 20 economic powers that worked to find a coordinated way to bring the world economy out of a tailspin.

• A summit of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization at which fellow government leaders cheered Obama’s new strategy for the war in Afghanistan, but committed additional troops only to guard elections and train Afghans, not to fight al-Qaida.

• An agreement with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to negotiate a new treaty further slashing both countries’ nuclear arsenals.

• A proposal to curb all nuclear weapons and keep them out of the hands of non-nuclear powers such as Iran.

Everywhere he went, Obama was a figure of fascination to foreign leaders eager to take his measure, as well as to everyday citizens, who saw him as personally and politically far different from his predecessor, George W. Bush.

“It was so easy to work with him,” French President Nicolas Sarkozy said.

“He’s a great, great man,” said Elisabeth Vogel, a teacher from Colmar, France, who came to see Obama when he appeared in nearby Strasbourg.

“Obama No. 1,” said a broadly smiling taxi driver in Istanbul, flashing a thumbs up.

‘A slow process’

Perhaps. How much he succeeded is open to debate, however, and it could take a long time to gauge how successfully he managed to reshape American policy, and with it the course of world affairs.

“This will be tested in time,” Obama said at a town hall meeting in Istanbul, his second of his trip.

“Moving the ship of state is a slow process. States are like big tankers; they’re not like speedboats. You can’t just whip them around and go in a new direction. Instead you’ve got to slowly move it and then eventually you end up in a very different place.”

Senior Obama adviser David Axelrod called it an “enormously productive trip.”

He said it produced an international approach to solving the economic crisis, restoring growth and creating a new regulatory framework for business and finance, including hedge funds.

White House aides also lauded the agreement by NATO allies to send an additional 5,000 troops to Afghanistan, though they didn’t mention that none would be combat troops.

Ultimately, they said, Obama got to know world leaders, recommitted the United States to working through international alliances and demonstrated a personal leadership style in mediating disputes between France and China over tax havens and between European powers and Turkey over appointing a new secretary-general at NATO.

“He … projected the best of America on this trip, and I think the world responded in a very positive way,” Axelrod said.

“Why didn’t the waters part, the sun shine and all ills of the world disappear because President Obama came to Europe this week? That wasn’t our expectation. That will take at least a few weeks,” he added to laughter.

Obama’s critics

Reginald Dale, a scholar at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a national-security research center in Washington, wasn’t among those laughing. He called Obama’s trip a disappointment.

“It was very strong on glamour and presentation but much less so on substance,” Dale said. “To draw an analogy, it reminded me a bit of an Easter egg: very colorful, but when you open it up, it’s hollow.”

He said:

• Obama came up short at the G-20 summit when other countries refused to commit more money to stimulus spending on the scale the United States has done under Obama.

• The president failed to win combat troops from NATO.

• His lofty goal of a world free of all nuclear weapons “is largely irrelevant to the world’s problems at the moment and impossible to achieve in the foreseeable future.”

• “He let the Europeans set the agenda on international regulation. He let them define what their response would be on Afghanistan.” In both cases Obama said it was a wonderful success, “which it clearly wasn’t,” Dale said.

Comments

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 7 months ago

“It was very strong on glamour and presentation but much less so on substance,” Dale said. “To draw an analogy, it reminded me a bit of an Easter egg: very colorful, but when you open it up, it’s hollow.”


I'm not going to claim that Obama's trip was "successful," but folks like Dale need to learn that this is no longer BushCo, so "success" is no longer defined as bullying to get your way on anything and everything.

Mary Darst 5 years, 7 months ago

Just to know that he was welcomed by the people of these countries with an open mind and open arms satisfies me for now. We needed to mend some fences. We needed to not be the bully that the Bush admin. was. Maybe those things that Obama was asking for, after some thought by the leaders he met with, will work out. It's better to be asked than to be told.

Flap Doodle 5 years, 7 months ago

Does kowtowing to the king of Saudi Arabia count as a plus or a minus?

Alia Ahmed 5 years, 7 months ago

Yes, snap, everyone should follow GWB's protocol and hold hands with the king. How horrible for President Obama to be so formal!

http://www.slate.com/id/2117517/

Kyle Reed 5 years, 7 months ago

Bowing as he did to the King wasn't being formal Alia. It is in fact looked at as being submissive.

On a side note Bush was slammed as well for the holding hands move.

Alia Ahmed 5 years, 7 months ago

Wow, Multi, I apologize if I lambasted you about Michelle Obama touching the queen. I thought I was respectfully disagreeing with you. I've tried to avoid these comment boards recently for this very reason. Again, please accept my apology.

In terms of bowing, akreed, I guess lies in the eyes of the beholder if it was being respectful or submissive. You perceive it as being submissive and that is your right. It doesn't matter to some people what Obama does, they will find fault with it. You may retort that many people did the same thing to GWB and you would be right.

However, I did not critize him about every step, decision, or greeting he made. I'm actually fine with him holding hands with the prince or king of Saudi Arabia. I provided the link to demonstrate the hypocrisy that Obama's critics often engage in.

I opposed the US invasion into Iraq and verbalized that before the invasion and since then which is my right as a citizen of a free country. Going after Osama bin Laden and the Al-Queda in Afghanistan was the right decision and many (including me) felt we should have completed that mission and not destabilize the entire region and lead to many deaths of innocent Americans and Iraqis by invading Iraq. It seems different to voice your difference of opinion with our government or leaders' decision rather than rejecting any and all decisions. I didn't want GWB to fail and I don't want Obama to fail.

Alia Ahmed 5 years, 7 months ago

Mulit,

I agree about the great buildings in Italy. I was there a couple of summers ago for about two weeks and it is such a fabulous and historic country. Sometimes we think our leaders stick their feet in their mouths (and they do), did you hear what the Italian prime minister said to the survivors? "Just pretend you're on a camping weekend". Oops! http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/04/08/berlusconis-earthquake-ga_n_184587.html

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