Leading article: Europe today. Tomorrow, America

Share
Related Topics

Hardly ever – probably never if one is to be accurate – has an American presidential candidate been treated with quite such enthusiasm in Europe as Barack Obama this week. A US president, yes. Both John F Kennedy and Ronald Reagan came and wowed them in Berlin. But Barack Obama is different. He is new. He is untried. And he is – hard though it may be remember in the cascade of hope that has accompanied his visit – still just a nominee, not the elected chief.

The point is important. It is very easy amid all this enthusiasm to think that Mr Obama is here mainly to present himself to Europe. He isn't. He is here to prove to the voters back home that he has the capacity and the charm to act as a global statesman. From the moment that he appeared as the prospective Democrat candidate, the Republicans targeted his international inexperience as his chief vulnerability, the more apparent in comparison with the worldly wisdom of their candidate John McCain.

In that sense this has been a trip aimed at countering a negative in America rather than positing a positive in Europe. Every occasion in the week has been calculated to make a point to the US voter: the visit to Iraq to show that his commitment to withdrawal is acceptable to the Iraqis and possible to the troops; to Afghanistan to display his firmness in the "war on terror"; the prolonged stay in Israel to confirm his commitment to that country as America's special friend; the flying trip to Ramallah to display his belief in Middle East peace.

And so with Europe. Some may have felt disappointment at the generalised nature of his speech at the Victory Monument in Berlin. But the truth is that this has been a calibrated affair. Berlin was chosen for his only major speech in Europe not just because of its resonance with JFK but because, to the US public, good relations with Germany has more weight than friendliness with France, of whom they remain suspicious, or Britain, whom they take for granted. So too with Mr Obama's decision to seek a meeting in Britain first with Tony Blair last night and only this morning with Gordon Brown. Tony Blair remains hugely popular in America; Mr Brown, hampered by the need to show neutrality between Mr Obama and Mr McCain, much less so.

That is no cause for disappointment. If Europeans had looked to Mr Obama's visit to open up new possibilities on the policies that most concern this region – relations with Russia, energy security, EU expansion to the east, the future of Nato and the deployment of the American missile shield – then they were bound to be let down. There are no votes on the other side of the Atlantic in these questions. Europe's hope in Mr Obama is at bottom the hope that a fresh face and a more open mind will change the way Washington approaches the world after President Bush. The proof can come, as it did with JFK, only in the decisions a new president makes in response to events.

For the moment it is sufficient to say of America's bright young politician. He came. He saw. And he has largely conquered.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SAP Project Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP PROJECT MANAGER - 3 MONTHS - BERKSHI...

SAP Project Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP PROJECT MANAGER - 3 MONTHS - BERKSHI...

Senior Investment Accounting Change Manager

£600 - £700 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Senior Investment Accounting Change...

Microsoft Dynamics AX Functional Consultant

£65000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: A rare opportun...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Children of a bygone era  

Kids these days aren't what they used to be — they're a lot better. So why the fuss?

Archie Bland
A suited man eyes up the moral calibre of a burlesque troupe  

Be they burlesque dancers or arms dealers, a bank has no business judging the morality of its clients

John Walsh
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star