Barack Obama: stumbling towards isolationism

One of the ironies of Barack Obama’s presidency is that he is increasingly distant from the world he promised to embrace

Toby Harnden
Telegraph [UK]
6 February 2010

Europeans cheered Barack Obama every step of the way to the White House.
They swooned when the candidate took his stump skills to Berlin, where he spoke of “the burdens of global citizenship” and promised to “remake the world”.

He had lived in Indonesia as a boy, travelled to Pakistan and Africa in his youth and came from a family that looked, as he liked to quip, “like the United Nations”. Then, in his first year in office, he made 10 trips abroad to 21 countries, making him the most travelled of all United States presidents in their first 12 months.

So it came as a rude shock to Europeans last week when Obama decided not to bother with the European Union knees up Madrid in May – particularly miffing Prime Minister Jose Luis Zapatero of Spain, who, like the American president, campaigned on his opposition to the Iraq war.

American officials intimated that they were unimpressed by European bickering over who would sit next to the Obamas at the summit dinner and even over who would be the first leader to shake the hand of the person that Oprah Winfrey anointed as “the One” in Iowa back in 2008.

Perhaps Obama himself was a touch irritated by Nicolas Sarkozy’s new habit of mocking him. “Obama has been in power for a year, and he has already lost three special elections,” the French president said last week. “Me, I have won two legislative elections and the EU election. What can one say I’ve lost?”

The discomfort of Europe’s elites indicates growing a realisation that perhaps he’s just not that into them. The fact that Hillary Clinton, Obama’s Secretary of State, felt the need to point out that “European security remains an anchor of US foreign and security policy” spoke volumes.

There is little sign that Obama feels the kind of instinctive belief in transatlantic alliances that, for instance, President George W Bush felt. In Washington, the much-ballyhooed “special relationship” – a phrase that Team Obama views as betraying a British inferiority complex and cloying neediness – has never felt less special.

The article continues at the Telegraph.

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