Barack Obama is a very smart and impressive politician, who was right about Iraq from the start. He has won big time at the Iowa caucus. Is that good news for Europe?
Well, Senator Obama is criticized for failing to convene a single policy meeting of the Senate European subcommittee, of which he is chairman. The Times quotes Steve Clemons, director of foreign policy at the New American Foundation in Washington:
Someone who is seeking the presidency should have some facility for the most important anchor in global affairs, which is the transatlantic relationship. (...) The major threats in the 21st century are changing but what is not changing is the vital necessity of Europe and the US collaborating in meeting those challenges with Europe, for instance, in the lead on dealing with Iran. This is a very disconcerting void in Obama's profile.
I am sure most Europeans love Clemons' appreciation of the Atlantic alliance as the "most important anchor in global affairs." Obama, however, is trying to get votes from Americans, who are increasingly less interested in (or have less faith in) transatlantic cooperation.
Of course, Obama is saying the usual nice things about Europe and NATO. And he promises to restore and further strengthen America's global alliances. David Vickrey wrote a guest blog post about Barack Obama's Foreign Policy article. IMHO, Obama expressed unrealistic expectations and wishful thinking in that article: "I will rally our NATO allies to contribute more troops to collective security operations and to invest more in reconstruction and stabilization capabilities."
I have the impression that many other Democrats underestimate European opposition to US policies.
They seem to assume that European countries do not support the US because of a dislike of President Bush. Yes, President Bush is not popular over here, but that does not mean that we love Democrats and do whatever a Democrat in the White House wants.
What is "to rally our NATO allies" supposed to mean exactly? How does he want to "rally" us? If Mr. Obama had convened a few policy meetings of his Senate European subcommittee, I would have more faith in his ability to increase transatlantic cooperation.
Steve Clemons writes on his blog The Washington Note:
My concern has to do with the fact that as Chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations' Subcommittee on Europe, Obama has held zero hearings -- at least that is how the record appears to me. Compare this to the House Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Europe, which is having constant hearings -- or to the Senate Subcommittee's work before Obama became Chair -- or to a comparative commitment of Hillary Clinton on a Subcommittee she chairs, and the zero hearing detail is disconcerting.
And he writes on TPMCafe:
Despite serving as Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Subcommittee on Europe, Barack Obama has not been there (unless we count Ukraine. . .but I'm not ready to do that yet) -- at least not recently. This was a bit of a follow-up to a piece I wrote the other day that Obama did not call any issue or policy oriented hearings in the Subcommittee during his tenure.
I spoke to a senior foreign affairs adviser to Senator Obama who I ran into at the foreign policy wonk-packed holiday party of the Center for a New American Security. This adviser, who must remain unnamed, said that he/she had worked very hard to get Obama to Europe this past year -- but that in the end, a planned trip fell through. This person also admitted that despite his/her own efforts to move Senator Obama towards more focus on Transatlantic issues and the fact that nearly all of the major challenges facing the United States today required significant, robust collaboration with Europe -- "Europe just isn't high on the list of Barack's priorities."
Related post in the Atlantic Review: NYT: Obama is Supported by the Vast Majority Democratic Foreign Policy Advisors
Duck of Minerva writes about Hillary Clinton's (lack of) foreign policy experience.
Endnote: John in Michigan emailed Daniel Pipes' article "Was Barack Obama a Muslim?" and comments: "I don't care if he was, and I think most Americans or Europeans wouldn't care, either. The really interesting thing is, would the Islamic world react to him as a Christian, or as a apostate? Something to think about."