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

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner - Night Shift

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A leading Leicestershire based chilled food ma...

Ashdown Group: Senior Accountant - ACCA, ACA or ACMA - Construction Sector

£45000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Accountant (ACCA, ...

Recruitment Genius: Media Sales Executive - PR and Broadcast - OTE £35,000

£16000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company has an exciting op...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisor - Shifts

£17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This European market leader for security...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

If I were Prime Minister: I'd champion the young and hold a cabinet meeting on top of Ben Nevis

Bear Grylls
 

i Editor's Letter: The five reasons why I vote

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot