As the World Turns - Against Obama

Change doesn't bring Hope.

Throughout the course of the election, one of the many reasons given why we should vote for Barack Obama was that the world loves him, and if he is president, the world will have a different view of the United States.  George W. Bush, according to the mainstream media, has bred hatred and anti-Americanism across the globe; present a leader bearing an olive branch and a kind word instead of a machine-gun and a threat, so this reasoning goes, and we'll be loved instead of being loathed.

No doubt the rest of the world devoutly hoped for Obama's election, although there is some reason to doubt their good intentions in so doing.  Well nigh a quarter-million Germans assembled in Berlin to hear Obama deliver a speech in a language many couldn't even understand; of course, the fact that his speech was both preceded and succeeded by celebrity rock concerts in the same place was merely incidental.

The outpouring of adoration before the election, though, was as nothing to that which followed his victory.  Comparisons to Nelson Mandela, the fall of the Berlin Wall, and even to Jesus Christ abounded in the British press.  The French were in such awe that several papers printed their Obama commemorative headlines in English - if you've ever been to Paris, you'll understand the magnitude of that accolade.  Oh, and don't overlook Kenya, which declared a national holiday of celebration in Mr. Obama's honor.

That was a few weeks ago, which, as the saying goes, can be a long time in politics.  No doubt there is still rejoicing going on, but anyone who thinks that the entire world will take the same position regarding President Obama as the American media is in for a rude shock.

Comes word of an interesting dustup in Poland, one of our closest and most loyal allies.  The Telegraph has the story:

Writing in his blog, Mr Czarnecki, an MEP, quoted the [Polish] foreign minister as saying: "Have you heard that Obama may have a Polish connection? His grandfather ate a Polish missionary."  A spokesman for the Polish foreign office conceded that Mr Sikorski had made the controversial comment, but denied that the foreign minister had intended to insult Mr Obama, whose father was Kenyan.

Let's be clear: this is not a polite joke.  It may even be racist.  What's interesting is that the article goes on to allege that this sort of joke is fairly common in Polish political circles.

Can it be that where American comics have not dared even to attempt Obama humor, the Poles are treading new ground?  Perhaps they are tired of American "Pollack" jokes, and see an opportunity to return the favor?  Or is Obama humor simply serving a neglected market?

In all seriousness, though, this should put the lie to the thought that Mr. Obama will be welcomed everywhere for his person, his politics, and his policies.  For all that Europe likes to cast the United States as irredeemably racist, our race problems are nothing compared to those of oh-so-haughty Europe.

Is there a black politician anywhere in Europe who could dream of the same success Mr. Obama has had here?  How about a European nation with two black foreign ministers in a row?  Or a black head of the armed forces?  America has; where's Europe?

With Japan, at once the most race-sensitive society on earth and one of the most politically adept, the public reaction to Mr. Obama was obviously supportive.  In private, though, it's a different story.  A Washington Post op-ed reports deep Japanese concerns over Mr. Obama's policies regarding China, North Korea, free trade, and the economy.  Japan's national interests, it is feared, will shortly be in conflict with Mr. Obama's political / national priorities.

And with this, we see the underlying truth of international relations:  It doesn't so much matter who, specifically, is the leader of any given country.

Sometimes, at the margins, it can make a difference; Russia's President Putin's ability to convince President Bush that he was a decent democratic guy certainly helped him get away with more foul play than he could have otherwise.  But at the heart of the matter, nations have well-understood goals and interests, and no matter who the leader might be, those interests will inevitably come into conflict with the interests of other nations.

Japan understands this.  Poland, Ukraine, and Georgia understand this; they are deeply concerned that the United States will no longer guard their back when the Russian bear comes pounding on the door.

Russia understands this; in this gray time between presidents, Russian diplomats have taken the opportunity to bail out the collapsed Icelandic economy in exchange, it appears, for an invitation to occupy the abandoned American Keflavic airbase which commands the entire North Atlantic.  While America is preoccupied with unicorns and rainbows, Russia is making the grand strategic moves which are to be expected of any global power.  Other nations will shortly follow suit.

And when geopolitics rears its ugly head, where will "Hope and Change" be?  Where it always ends up - much diminished under the cold, hard light of reality.

At least we might wind up with some funny Obama jokes.  But please, hold the missionary stew.

Petrarch is a contributing editor for Scragged.  Read other articles by Petrarch or other articles on Foreign Affairs.
Reader Comments
It's beginning to happen.

Well, That Certainly Didn't Take Long
It took Tom Daschle's resignation to shake the president out of his attitude that his charmed circle doesn't have to abide by the standards he lectured us about for two years.
February 4, 2009 11:33 AM
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