Now that the dust is beginning to settle, what, really, was accomplished in what Anne Applebaum likens more to a sold out concert tour than a diplomatic tour-de-force.
Well in the latter category it was more of a diplomatic tour-de-farce.
The Obama administration had two goals in two important meetings on the continent. The first was the G20 and the goal was to talk the Europeans into buying into increasing government spending to unprecedented levels, as the US has done, in order to “stimulate” the world’s economy. Epic “fail” in that department. However, the Euros did manage to talk Obama out of another 100 billion for the IMF.
The second goal was associated with NATO, and it was to talk our NATO allies into a large commitment of combat troops for Afghanistan. Again, an epic “fail”. As predicted by those who understand Europe, and thus NATO, that was a non-starter from the beginning. NATO instead offered up 5,000 troops, 3,000 on a temporary basis to help with the election, the rest as trainers for the ANA and ANP. But where troops are needed most – in combat positions – none, nada, zip, zero.
So, although you wouldn’t know it given the adoring media reports and the dutiful reporting of the administration spin on the trip, Obama ends up 0-2 in his first attempt at global diplomacy.
Applebaum notes one thing that struck her as “strange”:
Still, someone has to say it: Although some things went well on this trip, some things went badly. The centerpiece of the visit, Obama’s keynote foreign policy speech in Prague — leaked in advance, billed as a major statement — was, to put it bluntly, peculiar. He used it to call for “a world without nuclear weapons” and a new series of arms control negotiations with Russia. This was not wrong, necessarily, and not evil. But it was strange.
Yet, while Obama mentioned nuclear weapons reduction to Russia, he apparently didn’t mention Iran’s nukes or the fact that Russia’s shipment of the S-300 missile system to Iran is likely to destabilize the region by pushing Israel into finally striking Iran before ths system can be installed.
And then there’s North Korea’s decision to launch its ICBM at the very moment Obama was addressing nuclear weapons reduction. A bit of an in-your-face in diplomatic terms, by Kim Jong Il.
In other words, ridding the world of nuclear weapons would be very nice, but on its own it won’t alter the international balance of power, stop al-Qaeda or prevent large authoritarian states from invading their smaller neighbors.
I’ll be interested to see whether anyone gives a more sober assessment of the trip among the talking heads (as Applebaum did) or whether it will continue to be characterized as something it wasn’t.