Obama Should Make Europe Yearn For Bush

Robert G. Kaufman Professor of Public Policy, Pepperdine University
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Remember how Senator Obama used to blame George W. Bush for rising Anti-Americanism in Europe? Remember Obama hectoring Bush for lecturing rather than listening and for acting unilaterally without compunction? Remember Obama promising to heal the breach between the United States and our European allies by acting “in partnership” and showing “humility?”

That promise has vanished into the same ether as the president’s assurances that Americans could keep their healthcare plans if they wanted it. Five years of the Obama administration should make European statesmen yearn for President George W. Bush.

Liberal New York Times op-ed columnist Roger Cohen labels the current state German-American relations the worst since World War II. President Obama contributed enormously to this downward spiral. In 2009, he offended many Germans by skipping the 20th anniversary celebration of the fall of the Berlin Wall. In the fall of 2013, the administration  provoked outrage in Germany with revelations that the NSC has spied on German Chancellor Angela Merkel, one of the most pro-American leaders in the country’s history. In July 2014, German-American relations sank even lower, when the German government requested the top representative of America’s secret service in Germany to leave the country. A spokesman for the Merkel government explained that the Obama administration’s “failure to cooperate on various” spying allegations prompted this drastic measure usually reserved for adversaries rather than allies.

Similarly, the Obama administration has badly damaged the special relationship between the United States and Great Britain — the bedrock of American alliances since FDR and Winston Churchill forged it in the early days of World War II. Multiple administration officials have even denied the  existence of an Anglo-American special relationship. Reversing Ronald Reagan’s unwavering support for British Margaret Thatcher during the Falkland War of 1982, President Obama has declared the United States neutral in the dispute between the U.K. and Argentina. Various State Department spokesmen have revealed Obama’s pro-Argentinian tilt referring to the islands as the Malvinas rather than the Falklands. Without consulting its staunchest ally, the Obama administration also provided the Russians with secret information on Britain’s nuclear deterrent to entice them to sign a new START nuclear arms control treaty.

The administration’s reversal on missile defense in Eastern Europe demoralized and antagonized the constituency in Europe most sympathetic to the American point of view on a wide range of fundamental issues, like deterring an authoritarian Russia seeking to re-impose its dominance across East Central Europe; keeping the EU pro- rather than anti-American; acting decisively with coalitions of the willing rather than being hostage to UN gridlock or the lowest common denominator of a lax EU consensus. Poland’s President Bronislaw Komorwski has accused President Obama of “betraying Poland” by canceling missile defense President George W. Bush promised. Hero of Solidarity and ex-Polish President Lech Walesa named Obama as the world leader who “has disillusioned him the most” by abnegating America’s indispensable role as the world’s sole superpower. In 2012, Walesa endorsed Obama’s Republican opponent Mitt Romney because “we are waiting for a president who understands that a strong America has always provided a balance of power in the world.”

Obama’s feckless reset with Russia and supine reaction to brazen Russian aggression in Ukraine has greatly added to Eastern Europe’s apprehensions. The president’s June 2014 trip to Europe failed utterly in its intended purpose of reassuring America’s Eastern European allies of America’s commitment to their security. Eastern European leaders dismissed Obama’s verbal assurance and a modest $1 billion spent on joint military exercises as a “smokescreen” for retreat.

Nothing less than new NATO bases in Poland and other allies in central Europe would suffice to demonstrate a credible commitment to the region’s safety. The president returned home from Washington with the governments of Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia understandably more doubtful than ever that the United States would really risk war with Russia to defend them. After Obama’s June trip, Polish Foreign Minister Radislaw Sikorski — ardently pro-American and a staunch supporter of NATO — despaired in a leaked secretly recorded conversation that “the Polish-American alliance is worth nothing. It is therefore harmful, because it gives Poland a false sense of security.”

Perversely, President Obama has conciliated and accommodated  enemies such as Putin’s Russia rather than bolstering America’s traditional democratic allies in Germany, Great Britain, and Eastern Europe. Consequently, this administration will leave Europe less secure, America’s deterrent less credible, America’s commitment to freedom less stalwart, and America’s word less reliable than the predecessor Obama has routinely vilified. President Obama owes George W. Bush an apology. So do all Western Europeans who fatuously hailed Obama as their savior from the phantom menace of American power, power that underwrote their freedom.  Our allies everywhere will reap the whirlwind the Obama administration continues to sow until the United States stops doing what it is doing now.