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The Limits of Obamamania in Europe

Beneath the popular craze are a number of significant concerns.

I recently returned from a trip this summer to the battlefields of Europe’s past—among them Waterloo, Verdun, and Normandy—and had a number of discussions with Europeans of all sorts. I can report that Obamamania is still sweeping Europe. With his youth, optimism, and charisma, Senator Barack Obama is hailed as the quintessential “good American,” a rare New Frontiersman in the mold of John F. Kennedy. Better yet, his biracial background and perceived hipness make him a glamorous 21st-century advocate of increased taxes, larger government, more entitlements, and a multinational foreign policy—all dear to the hearts of European socialists.

In Obama’s America, there will be no more of the hated George Bush’s anti-abortion, pro-gun, and twangy evangelical primordialism. The Illinois senator also sounds more antiwar than do even European statesmen. And he has surrounded himself with a number of advisers, past and present, who seem pro-Palestinian and eager to talk to Iran, Venezuela, and Syria. Perhaps a multilateral Obama presidency would restore the global clout of the United Nations and the International Criminal Court at The Hague.

Yet a number of European elites I talked with also sounded a little worried, their unease perhaps best summarized by a pause and question: “Obama wouldn’t change things all that much, would he?” Indeed, beneath the popular Obama craze are a number of European concerns. Will his desire for “change” translate into the liberal Democratic worldview of a George McGovern or Jimmy Carter? Though they would never admit it, the sentiment of many Europeans toward America can be summarized roughly as follows: “We two work best when you cowboys act like cowboys and then we can damn you as cowboys the next morning in Le Monde.”

The sentiment of many Europeans toward America can be summarized roughly as follows: 'We two work best when you cowboys act like cowboys and then we can damn you as cowboys the next morning in Le Monde.'Europeans understand that there are advantages to the present relationship between a militarily powerful America and its hypercritical but mostly unarmed European dependent. The teenager (Europe) rages about his embarrassing reliance, while the parent (America) bites his lip and subsidizes the security of his petulant but beloved offspring. The soft power of the European Union—whether manifested in diplomatic efforts to solve the Iranian nuclear problem, triangulation with Hamas, or lofty moral lectures to Russia, China, and illiberal states in the Middle East—assumes the looming presence of a powerful, reliable, and brave U.S. ally. In private, savvy Europeans fret about the notion of the United States as an EU doppelganger. The last thing they want or need in their senior partner is another big talker with a tiny stick.

Right now, Europeans have the best of both worlds—an easily caricatured but very cooperative United States. Indeed, Europeans have found relatively little fault in Bush’s second term, during which time conservative governments have taken office in France, Germany, and Italy. The United States has been sending massive AIDS relief to Africa, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Europe on Darfur, pursuing peaceful diplomacy with Iran and North Korea, and offering gracious thanks for European participation in Afghanistan. And who else in the West, other than the United States, is Vladimir Putin worried about?

For all their grievances against Bush, Europeans realize that most of the world’s problems either antedated or transcend the current U.S. president and will be here long after he’s gone. Gas prices skyrocketed largely because both importing and exporting governments have not invested enough in petroleum maintenance and new exploration, and because of the voracious appetites of new consumer classes in China and India. Rogue regimes like Russia, Iran, and Venezuela have enough oil wealth that they need not care about the consequences of irritating the West. Bush did not cause global warming, soaring food prices, Islamic terrorism, or the rise of China. And blaming him for the “fiasco” in Iraq is also problematic: the violence there has declined enormously, and Iraqi democracy continues to move forward.

A few Europeans even acknowledge that, contrary to popular belief, the Iraq war has not “created” jihadists who migrated to Europe. In fact, it has done just the opposite: radical Islamists more often traveled to Iraq—many of them from Europe—where they were killed in large numbers. Iraq, in other words, may well help explain the weakening of al-Qaeda and its increasing inability to replicate the London and Madrid bombings.

Even still, Europeans may prefer the Obama position on Iraq to that of President Bush and Senator John McCain. But Obama’s trashing of NAFTA and other free trade agreements worries Europeans. The euro is still sky-high, which has hampered European exports to the United States and damaged Europe’s global competitiveness. Europeans hope that American markets will become more open, not less.

How, then, to sum up European cynicism about the Atlantic Alliance and our upcoming election in a dangerous, turbulent world? “Please don’t give us what we want.”

Victor Davis Hanson, a classics scholar and military historian, is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. He recently wrote for THE AMERICAN about the global scramble to redraw geographic boundaries.


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Added: Oct-1-2008 
By: roundandround
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Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, News
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  • whoever the fuck wrote this article needs a smack in the fuckin face.

    Posted Oct-1-2008 By 

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  • The media would have you believe that everyone in the world is a flaming fascist lib and that everyone hates America - but it isn't true. People in Europe are starting to wake up out of their stupor. They are electing conservatives in larger numbers.

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    • all the hollanders i talked to, and two of the hollanders i know of on this site (badmother and zwaanjul) think the american media is right-wing

      i also watched Dutch news translated into English -- their news is better than ours (more facts, more real footage, no arrogant pundits arguing)

      Al Jazeera is a decent channel, btw

      Posted Oct-1-2008 By 

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    • Ah, no again. No way the media in the US is right wing. Where have you and these people been living, under a liberal rock for decades? Our news used to be great until CNN ruined it years ago. Now its to commercialized and, shit just a waste of time to watch, and for all that want to bash me about Fox, I don't watch that crap either.

      Posted Oct-1-2008 By 

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  • Question to the ones that call people Sheeple.

    What makes someone not a sheeple? Why would anon50 be a sheeple and lasrever not be a sheeple. We all live in the US, supposedly, and everyday we go to work, supposedly, we all pay taxes, supposedly, we all follow one thing or another. So with that being said, arn't we all sheeple in our own way?

    Posted Oct-1-2008 By 

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  • Oh please, if it wasnt for us they would all be speaking Russian. Fuck em.

    Posted Oct-1-2008 By 

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  • Comment of user 'willy_lump' has been deleted by author (after account deletion)!
  • i took a trip to europe for 2 months and EVERY european i talked to said they hope obama wins (not just for our sake but the world's sake)

    they also said they differentiate between the government and average americans and that they love america

    this is truly what i experienced in Holland and it wasn't just native Dutch people from Holland but travelers visiting Holland (such as Australia) who also said the same

    Posted Oct-1-2008 By 

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    • Nope, not true. It depends on where you are in Europe. Since you are a liberal you will gravitate to liberal areas. Just like if a conservative were to go they would do the samething.

      Posted Oct-1-2008 By 

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    • Yep, basically true.

      In general, we make a clear distinction between an american citizen and the american government. In Spain we are quite sympathetic and respectful to americans. Nobody will mistreat you or insult you just for being an american, quite the contrary.

      I know it happens in Spain and I have also seen it in other western european countries in all the years I have been travelling to those countries.

      Of course, if you act like a prick you will be mistreated, regarless if you are More..

      Posted Oct-1-2008 By 

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    • YEs those kind of people are called sheep las, they are bred to submit to mob rule these days.

      we're going that way too.

      Posted Oct-1-2008 By 

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    • he does have a point. i've been to many countries in my life and i gravitate towards holland because i perceive their country as more progressive than others

      but is that my ultimate reason? nah. i just love being there and the people are fun to talk to.

      ***

      as far as your saying the mainstream media is liberal biased, roundandround, i can write a long list of names on both television and radio that would refute your assertion. or i can ask you if you ever wondered why the pre-war intelligence More..

      Posted Oct-1-2008 By 

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    • when it happens i know what song i'll be playing, that's for sure. i hate ACDC but i think a remake of their song is worth a gander:

      "Dirty Deeds Done With Sheep"
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oCRE9qOgbug

      Posted Oct-1-2008 By 

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