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US Presidential Candidates: Who's Good for Europe?

As much as many Americans are looking forward for policy change, Europe is hoping for a multinational foreign policy under a new administration in the United States. In an article addressed to our "Dear Americans", former German chancellor Helmut Schmidt asks (in German; following translation and editing by Sonja Bonin) what Europe can expect from the next US president:

How do you intend to end the war in Iraq and what should Iraq look like afterwards?

What is your goal in Afghanistan? Eliminating just Al-Qaeda or the Taliban as well? Establishing democracy?

Should Al-Qaeda evade to Pakistan for good, perhaps even gaining access to nuclear weapons, would you military intervene?

What is your strategy for a peaceful solution of the decades-old conflict between Israel and its Arab neighbors? Will you support the establishment of a Palestinian state?

What is the future US policy regarding Iran?

Given the fact that one fourth of all states in the world are predominantly Islamic, will you try to prevent a "clash of civilizations" with the Muslim world?

Are the planned anti-missile systems in Poland and the Czech Republic meant to secure those two states and the US, or rather to pose a threat to Russia?

Do you accept Russia's political and economical position in the world?

Do you accept China's political and economical position in the world? Will you finally invite China to the world summits?

Will you re-establish the anti-ballistic missile treaty (ABM) that your predecessor has unwisely revoked, and will you finally sign the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty (CFE), which your predecessor has refused?

Will America commit to a global treaty to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases?

Will your budget and fiscal policy strive to balance the high trade deficit? Do you support regulation of the highly speculative global markets?

Do you consider the Charta of the United Nations legally binding in the United States of America?

As previous discussions on this platform have shown, it's not that easy to find out about the most promising presidential candidates' answers to theses questions or their general attitude towards the European allies. On Germany's foreign broadcast service, Deutsche Welle, expert Stormy-Annika Mildner speculates that a Democratic candidate "could tend to be easier to cooperate with".

I would say that the Republicans' motto is "Going together where we must, but going alone where we can." For the Democrats, it would be the opposite: "Going together where we can, but going alone where we must." They put a greater emphasis on multi-lateral institutions, while the Republicans emphasize unilateralism a bit more, as we have seen in the past.

As far as trade is concerned,

with McCain, I think that the trans-Atlantic economic partnership would have better prospects than under Obama or Clinton. [...] They have a more protectionist rhetoric; they favor free trade less than McCain.

Like most of the candidates, John McCain has promised to "revitalize the transatlantic partnership" (in Foreign Affairs):

As president, one of my top foreign policy priorities will be to revitalize the transatlantic partnership.

But that's basically paying lip service, just like Mike Huckabee has done it in his respective article in the same paper, Foreign Affairs. Put on the spot in an interview with Der Spiegel, though, McCain's statements were highly evasive and non-committing, at least on foreign politics.

Asked whether "America [will] attempt to go it alone less frequently in the future", he answered vaguely: "Well, we all hope that America will be multilateral again in the future."

Would he support a permanent seat in the UN security council for Germany? McCains answer: "Germany does play a very influential role around the world, and I value the relationship that we have shared for many, many generations. I believe Germany will continue to play a very influential and important role in the world." (By the way: Did he actually mean to say the Americans have been friends with the Germans for many generations, including Nazism and the Kaiserreich?)

Would he be willing to talk to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad? McCain: "As long as Iran continues to announce its dedication to making the state of Israel extinct and as long as the country continues to pursue the use of nuclear weapons, I will continue to say that is not an acceptable situation. I will work with other democracies in order to find incentives and punishments for the Iranians."

For an interesting conservative perspective on "John McCain, the Anti-Conservative", see the Weekly Standard. (abridged online version, not covering other Republicans nor the Democratic candidates.)

On the Democratic side, leading candidate Barack Obama looks back in anger a lot:

Too often we have sent the opposite signal to our international partners. In the case of Europe, we dismissed European reservations about the wisdom and necessity of the Iraq war. In Asia, we belittled South Korean efforts to improve relations with the North. In Latin America, from Mexico to Argentina, we failed to adequately address concerns about immigration and equity and economic growth. In Africa, we have allowed genocide to persist for over four years in Darfur and have not done nearly enough to answer the African Union's call for more support to stop the killing. I will rebuild our ties to our allies in Europe and Asia and strengthen our partnerships throughout the Americas and Africa.

Obama then adds a plea for continued international engagement rather than isolationism:

America cannot meet the threats of this century alone, and the world cannot meet them without America. We can neither retreat from the world nor try to bully it into submission. We must lead the world, by deed and by example.

Most room is given to America's alliances by Hillary Clinton. Repeatedly, she stresses cooperation and multilateralism: "U.S. foreign policy must be guided by a preference for multilateralism, with unilateralism as an option when absolutely necessary to protect our security or avert an avoidable tragedy."

Her take on the recent transatlantic frictions adequately describes most Europeans' perspective on the situation:

The tragedy of the last six years is that the Bush administration has squandered the respect, trust, and confidence of even our closest allies and friends. At the dawn of the twenty-first century, the United States enjoyed a unique position. Our world leadership was widely accepted and respected, as we strengthened old alliances and built new ones, worked for peace across the globe, advanced nonproliferation, and modernized our military. After 9/11, the world rallied behind the United States as never before, supporting our efforts to remove the Taliban in Afghanistan and go after the al Qaeda leadership. We had a historic opportunity to build a broad global coalition to combat terror, increase the impact of our diplomacy, and create a world with more partners and fewer adversaries.

But we lost that opportunity by refusing to let the UN inspectors finish their work in Iraq and rushing to war instead. Moreover, we diverted vital military and financial resources from the struggle against al Qaeda and the daunting task of building a Muslim democracy in Afghanistan. At the same time, we embarked on an unprecedented course of unilateralism: refusing to pursue ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, abandoning our commitment to nuclear nonproliferation, and turning our backs on the search for peace in the Middle East. Our withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol and refusal to participate in any international effort to deal with the tremendous challenges of climate change further damaged our international standing. [...]

It is important to engage our adversaries but even more important to reassure our allies. We must reestablish our traditional relationship of confidence and trust with Europe. Disagreements are inevitable, even among the closest friends, but we can never forget that on most global issues we have no more trusted allies than those in Europe. The new administration will have a chance to reach out across the Atlantic to a new generation of leaders in France, Germany, and the United Kingdom. When America and Europe work together, global objectives are within our means.

In the end, though, we Europeans might have to understand, that even under dire circumstances and faced with global threats like climate change and terrorism, foreign politics doesn't make presidents in the United States. It's not Europe, stupid!  

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ROA on :

A more reasonable question would be what can the US expect from Europe? What can Europe offer the US? What has Europe done for the US in the last 60 years?

Anonymous on :

You are right, these are very reasonable questions, too.

Philip on :

Apparently you guys love JFK: Ask not what America can do for you. Ask what your country can do for America. Seriously: Everybody is asking what the candidates would do for them. The farmers, the home owners, the unemployed, the gun owners, the churches, the gay lobbies, etc. So why should not the rest of the world look at what the candidates are likely to do for them. In fact, since the US has such a big influence around the world, the entire world should point a few delegates to the electoral college... :-) After all, America wants to bring democracy to the world. So the world should have a say at US elections. ;-)

joe on :

Phillp, PLEASE KEEP UP!!!!!! Did you not read the influence of the US is decline and the influence of the EU is soaring? It should be the Americans who are demanding to be allowed to vote in Europe’s elections. The future is the EU not the US.

dave on :

"After all, America wants to bring democracy to the world. So the world should have a say at US elections. ;-)" You should be shot and dumped into a lime pit for thinking that way.

Joe Noory on :

And from the position of deep wisdom that you stand from, those are the only kinds of Americans that exist, right? All of us are white suburbanites whose lives consist of a little list of those things you've seen news-mockumentaries about, etc... What on earth would we do without your "advice"?

Fuchur on :

Ultimately, America and Europe still pursue the same strategic goals. Therefore I don't think that a certain policy (or a president) can be "good" for Europe and "bad" for the US or the other way around. Failure, e.g. in Iraq, Afghanistan or Iran will be bad for all of us. A president is either "good" - then that's good for Americans, Europeans and the rest of the free world, or, likewise, he's "bad" - then that's bad for "everyone".

Nanne on :

I find it kind of odd that in much of the European press Democratic candidates are automatically assumed to be 'more protectionist', 'favour free trade less' and that this would somehow diminish prospects of good trade relations between Europe and the US. On the one hand, most European governments are more in line with the views of the Democratic party about trade, which should mean that a workable compromise could be reached more easily with the Democrats. Trade deals are going to be about [b]much more[/b] than just 'free trade' for the Europeans, but the press talks about the matter as if every European country had a CDU/FDP (conservative/right-liberal) coalition in government. On the other hand, both the Republican and the Democratic party have inward and outward looking elements, and the current Republican President is no more pro-trade than the past Democratic President was. There were only two genuine populist, protectionist candidates running for POTUS who had an outside chance at winning. Their names are John Edwards and Mike Huckabee.

Pat Patterson on :

Aside from Spain and the UK who else has a socialist government in Europe? Unless the EU is becoming more protectionist then the supposed sharing of goals with the Democrats in the US is a pipe dream. Both Clinton and Obama have said they are either completely opposed to NAFTA, Sen. Clinton even arguing that she would have voted against it, and both are also opposed to CAFTA and the new trade agreements with Peru and South Korea. Why should American issues about outsourcing be of any concern to the Europeans who have there own internal problems of industrial movement to address? Is Sen. Clinton suddenly going to ignore plaintive calls from Wal-Mart concerning its difficulties in dealing with sourcing problems in China because she yearns for America to once again make stereos and Mickey Mouse dolls? The Democrats are stuck in that the unions most concerned with outsourcing, who also are Clinton supporters, are in declines that began immediately after WWII. While the unions that thnk they will benefit the most by an Obama presidency are concentrated in service industries that benefit from a free spending middle class. One represents unions that make things and the other represents unions that do things. Both complain about free trade but truly only one is affected by that type of trade.

Nanne on :

Wikipedia is your friend. As a pointer, there are 8 European Minister Presidents from the PES party, out of 27 Member States. And PES member parties are partners in the governing coalition of various other EU Member States. That this 'socialist parties' frame doesn't make much sense can be seen from Nicolas Sarkozy's increasingly insistent calls to install carbon levies on goods produced in non-Kyoto countries, and Peter Mandelson's disavowal of such a measure. Europe already has more concern for its industry than the US does, it's not a question of [b]becoming[/b] more protectionist.

joe on :

I can assure you the question of who is good for Europe will not determine who I will vote for. It will not be a consideration.

Anonymous on :

Ditto. And, BTW, what makes these Euros so sure the Democrats aren't just paying lip service too? Was it how they proved their sincerity in actually ever DOING anything to stop that war they scream in their campiagn speeches every election cycle about? Or in how they have failed to impeach a president they accuse of high crimes and misdemeanors? I sometimes think you Euros know nothing about America. Absolutely nothing. It ain't your country. You don't get a vote. The hubris is breathtaking. And you somehow think that we Americans CARE what you think. Even the Democrats don't really. It's all just trash-the-Republicans rhetoric that they immediately forget after the election is over.

David on :

Plenty of Americans are disgusted by how the Bush administration has destroyed our image in the world. Who would have thought that the United States would torture detainees? At the Democratic caucus in my state last week there were thousands of independents and even many Republicans who registered as Democrats in order to participate in the in caucus? Why? Anger at what has happened to our nation in the last 7 years. In Virginia, Senator Obama captured 8% of Republican voters. Overall, participation in the Democratic primaries and caucuses is outpacing the Republicans by a 2 to 1 margin. That bodes well for November.

Philip on :

@ Anonymous "It ain't your country. You don't get a vote. The hubris is breathtaking." Your lack of humor is breathtaking.

Pat Patterson on :

Actually instead of worrying about a kinder and gentler foreign policy that agrees with European views of Iraq and Afghanistan, whatever those are at the moment, it might be more important for the Europeans to ask what the candidates are planning or not planning to do about Putin? That's not to say that the US can wave a wand and solve the problem though I suspect that many in Europe believe that if the US follows their advice the Age of Aquarius will finally arrive. But at least some idea aside from Sen. McCain, who basically attacked the moral authority and legitimacy of Putin but was careful to not threaten Russia or paint them as a rogue state, would probably be nice to hear. [url]http://www.bostonglobe.com/news/world/europe/articles/2008/02/15/mccain_criticizes_putin_for_leading_puppet_show/[/url]

franchie on :

oh, well, vote for anybody that pleases your self confidance ; the elections do not mean much for/of a country, it's just an image that got a better media support from lobbies that rule the global world. see how each leader can't achieve what he promissed in his electoral campaign ; at least I ackowledge that the only honest political leader (in the medias though) is Angela Merkel. She does' talk of things that she knows she has no control on them. (he, may-be cause she is a woman :lol:) happy week-end

bashy on :

it's along time to november. I don't put much stock in the people getting all excited about the repubicans voting in the dem primaries. there is a good chance they are doing that so clinton dosen't win. then come november they will vote republican. plus the democratic convention might turn into a mess. you have the super delegates and they can nominate who they want, it dosen't matter what the people in their state voted.

David on :

It is highly unlikely that independents are voting for Obama in the primaries, only to shift back to McCain in November. Every poll I've seen suggests that Barack Obama has a much better chance than Hillary to beat John McCain in the general election. Maybe they just aren't excited by a 71-year old candidate who has vowed to stay the course in Iraq for 100years and has admitted he knows little about economic issues. We won't be able to bomb our way out of this recession...

Pat Patterson on :

What Sen McCain said on those two issues was that US troops could be in Iraq just like the Americna presence in Japan, Korea and Germany which among the left may be seen as occupiers but are hardly in the midst of fighting unless that fighting erupts during summer war games when someone's poor cow is mashed by an Abrams. The other was that he admitted he did not know enough as he should about economics which is somewhat reassuring as the cries of expertise from others indicate that what they know comes from reading Hufffington Post, Saul Alinsky and Deepak Chopra. Actually considering the defense spending that Pres. Bush proposed and the Armed Services Committee has so far raised no serious objections to might indicate that we might not be "...able to bomb our way out of this recession," but owning stock in Raytheon or FRPT might be helpful. And if anyone seriously believes that either of the two Democrats aspiring to be president are actually going to cut defense spending then I own a bridge in Brooklyn...

joe on :

Will someone please refill David's glass. It seems to be empty.

Elisabetta on :

Joe- ignore.

David on :

It will be hard in November to ignore the will of the majority of voters. I'm just pointing out the numbers and the polls. Everything is pointing to a landslide victory for the Democrats - for Congress and the White House.

joe on :

Elisabetta, Thank you

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