Many European leaders will be saddened to see President Bush leave the White House next year. No, they won't miss his soaring inspirational rhetoric, collegial foreign policy or sophisticated knowledge of the world. What worries many Europeans is that their free pass is about to expire. Not since Richard Nixon's final year in office have foreign leaders been so free to say no to Washington with few if any political repercussions. In fact, for the last few years, agreeing with the White House has held greater political risks than snubbing Bush and his aides.
Yes, most political observers (at least in Berlin) believe that it will be harder for European governments to say no to a new president. I, however, think that German and European public opinion on issues like Afghanistan or Iran is not going to change, when a new president is inaugurated in the United States. European politicians will find plenty of good (and not so good) reasons to say no. Besides, 2009 is an election year in Germany. Don't expect any changes in our Afghanistan policy until after the elections.