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Obama Pivots Back to Europe

Presidents don’t say “oops” very often, and President Obama certainly isn’t doing it. But his recent steps in the Middle East, the Far East and now Europe suggest that even the White House has finally figured out that the world isn’t fixing itself and that American engagement and even leadership remains essential for prosperity and peace. The New York Times:

In meeting in Germany on Sunday with Chancellor Angela Merkel and on Monday with Ms. Merkel, Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain, President François Hollande of France and Prime Minister Matteo Renzi of Italy, Mr. Obama intends to press his European counterparts on a number of issues, aides said.

They include a new trans-Atlantic trade pact, the need for better intelligence sharing within Europe about the terrorism threat, holding firm against President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia and trying to find a solution to the civil war in Syria.

He is scheduled to give a speech Monday in Germany taking stock of Europe’s challenges.

It’s not clear how much a lame duck President can do, and the signs are that as the GOP rips itself to pieces and the clock runs down on the Obama era, foreigners are listening more to Camp Clinton. There, they are also hearing a message that the United States needs to re-engage with key allies.

Still, any leadership from President Obama is welcome—and the more he says about the need for U.S. engagement the easier it will be for the next President, whoever it is, to make the case to the American people that pivoting back to the world is ultimately the cheapest, easiest thing to do—and that it reduces rather than increases the chance of war.

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  • WigWag

    “Still, any leadership from President Obama is welcome—and the more he says about the need for U.S. engagement the easier it will be for the next President, whoever it is, to make the case to the American people that pivoting back to the world is ultimately the cheapest, easiest thing to do—and that it reduces rather than increases the chance of war.” (Via Meadia)

    Nope. Pivoting back to Europe would be a serious mistake. Our feckless European “allies” are good for nothing and they are wrong about almost everything. They were wrong about Libya and they’re wrong about just about everything in the Middle East. They’re wrong about Turkey and they’re wrong about Russia. They’re wrong about Iran and they’re wrong about inviting in the Islamist hordes. They’re wrong about economic growth, they’re wrong about multiculturalism and they’re wrong about their inclination to go babyless.

    Trying to reengage with Europe is like encouraging a comatose patient to train for a marathon. You can talk till you’re blue in the face; it just ain’t happening. Every time our nation listens to the advise of Europeans we end up waste deep in the big muddy.

    For decades our NATO allies have been willing to fight till the last dead American soldier. It’s time to tell it like it is; our European allies are toast; the sooner they are tossed on the garbage pile of history the better we will all be despite the short term unpleasant consequences.

    Obama’s disdain for Europe is one of the few things he’s gotten right, even if for the wrong reasons. London Mayor, Boris Johnson is right, Obama’s dislike of Europe in general and Britain in particular may very well be rooted in the psychological factors emanating from his Kenyan ancestry.

    But regardless of the reasons, a disdain for Europe is well justified.

    It’s not time to reengage with Europe, it’s time to plan for a future in which Europe is deader than a door nail. Our country needs new allies. The kindest thing we could do for Europe is treat it as would we would treat a horse with a broken leg.

    Via Meadia is wrong, reengaging with Europe is not the cheapest thing we can do, it’s the most foolish thing we can do.

    • Pete

      ‘Our feckless European “allies” are good for nothing and they are wrong about almost everything. ‘

      Amen, Brother!

    • AaronL

      I share your disdain for Europe. As per your post , I would be interested on which countries you think should be the new allies that America needs.

      • WigWag

        No ally is a perfect ally, but there are some countries that share American values and interests in a way that makes them valuable to us. The key is for these nations to be willing to pay their fair share of the freight in protecting themselves and the international system.

        It’s also necessary for these nations to realize that as long as Americans are footing the bill in terms of blood and treasure to police the international order, that they are junior partners, not full partners in the decision making process. Great Britain, France and Germany in particular have delusions of grandeur. Despite the fact that all three nations can be described perfectly by the term “has-been,” they still harbor the delusion that they’re entitled to participate in the decision making process as equals. They’re not. Given the state of these nations, it’s time that they were relegated to the kiddy table of world affairs.

        Which countries have the genuine potential to be valuable American allies? In Europe, two come to mind; Poland and the Czech Republic. So do the Balkan States minus Kosovo (which should be returned to Serbia).

        In the Middle East: Israel, Jordan and to a lesser extent Sissi’s Egypt are on the list. While not a Middle Eastern nation, Azerbaijan could be a very useful ally. While it’s easy to hate Erdogan’s Turkey, it’s geographic location makes it impossible to eliminate it as an ally (although if we could surreptitiously encourage a coup against Erdogan, we should).

        There’s also Canada, India, Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Taiwan, Thailand, South Korea, Japan, Vietnam (maybe), Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia.

        To our South, there’s Panama, Mexico and Argentina and Brazil (though neither country is likely to get its act together permanently).

        The list is only partial and off the top of my head. I’m sure there are some I’ve Ieft off and a few that I’ve erroneously included.

        The key reality is that the big four in Europe; Great Britain, France, Germany and Italy are not allies; they’re albatrosses

        • FriendlyGoat

          Mexico, you say?

          • Jim__L

            Um, I suppose WW figures good walls make good neighbors?

          • f1b0nacc1

            If properly approached, I think Mexico could be encouraged to become a useful ally. We need to stop treating it as an equal (they aren’t, and they know it, though they have potential to be a valued friend in time) and make it clear that if they wish to become an equal, they must behave as one. Most of the states on that list above have become strong by adopt civilized values, and those on the list who have not are at least trying to do so. If Mexico can, wonderful…if not…well perhaps we can give them a discount on the wall

        • f1b0nacc1

          A masterful analysis. I might quibble with you in a few cases (Turkey is likely an irretrievable mess, and Brazil lacks only Islam to be even worse).
          As for ‘the big four’, France is not a has-been, it is a never-was (OK, maybe 200 years ago, but they were led by a non-Frenchman then…), and Italy is worse than useless.

    • Tom

      I have to quibble with the idea that they’re wrong about Turkey and Russia. As to Turkey, they’ve realized that they can’t take the hordes of unskilled labor coming in, and they’re making a deal with the devil to avoid the deep blue sea.
      As to Russia, I’m not sure what you mean by being wrong about Russia.

    • Tom

      Also, I remember the last time the country voted for change. How’s that work out, exactly?

    • johngbarker

      You give thoughtful counterpoints to many of the most important posts on AI; it is like having two blogs for the price of one.

      • WigWag

        Thanks for the nice words.

  • Anthony

    If not the U. S., what then?

    “From the rules-based international system to the raft of supranational and multinational groupings, such as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the European Union, the International Monetary Fund, the International Court of Justice and the World Economic Forum. the United States has engaged. That is, silently undergirding aforementioned process since Word War II has been the undeniable fact of American power – military, diplomatic and economic….”

    Prosperity and peace are not necessarily by-products of globalization sans leadership – beyond economic and cultural linkages. And then, there is the current European Union, which some consider enfeebled and crumbling. Are we to give way (retreat)?

    • WigWag

      Anthony, for a time I was a big fan of Robert Kaplan. I remember reading what I think was his first book, “Balkan Ghosts,” about 25 years ago. It had a great impact on me; Kaplan’s book inspired me to read Rebecca West’s opus, “Black Lamb Gray Falcon,” which many people, including me consider to be the greatest non-fiction book of the 20th century. It’s about West’s travels in what became Yugoslavia on the eve of World War II. The book is majesterial and I reread it often despite the fact that it’s over a thousand pages in length. Interestingly, Damir Marusic who was born in that part of the world hates West’s masterpiece. He once told me that many people from his part of the world have a problematic relationship with West’s book.

      I’ve also read “The Raditzky March” which Kaplan mentions in his essay. Professor Mead recommended that book to readers of his blog a few years back. Kaplan is right, the unraveling of the EU and perhaps of NATO has all the hallmarks of the final days of the Habsburg Empire described in Roth’s novel.

      The downfall of the Hapsburgs and the downfall of today’s international order have one thing in common; bad leadership. West described the Habsburgs this way,

      “This family from the unlucky day in 1273 when the college of electors chose Rudolf of Habsburg to be the King of the Romans on account of his mediocrity, till the abdication of Charles, II in 1918, produced no genius, only two rulers of ability in Charles V and Maria Theresa, countless dullards, and not a few imbeciles and lunatics.”

      One is tempted to say the same thing about the American electoral college and George W. Bush. Certainly our contemporary coterie of international affairs “experts” has more than its fair share of dullards, imbeciles and lunatics.

      Ultimately I decided that I’m no fan of Kaplan. If you’ve read any of his books, you know that he is relentlessly dark. A couple of years back he wrote an article (I think for the Atlantic) that was a paean to John Mearsheimer. Mearsheimer may be smart and right about a few things, but being smart and occasionally right is no excuse for being a rapid Jew-hater. Kaplan made one excuse after another for the man which I found highly objectionable.

      In West’s book she visits the Balkan town of Kotor. In talking to her husband she comments (speaking about both the Ottomans and the Habsburgs) that nothing quite has the stench of a rotting Empire.

      I think that the same thing might be said of the European Union.

  • Beauceron

    I suppose, with the migrant “crisis,” Obama can’t resist the opportunity to be there when the knife slides between the ribs of Europa. Maybe twist it a little, for good measure.

  • Jacksonian_Libertarian

    There are places where American engagement are a positive force, and there are places where it isn’t.

    One of the places where it isn’t is NATO. The American presence in Europe since WWII has been excessive, and since the end of the Cold War 25 years ago, our European allies have become entirely parasitic on the American taxpayer.

    Another place is the middle east, where the backward and inferior Islamic Culture is incompatible with the Western Culture created Modern Civilization. Those nations dominated by Islamic Culture, need to be contained and isolated. And the ambitious people from these nations must be prevented from seeking a better life in the west, and thereby forced to fix things in their own countries.

    In Asia on the other hand, now that the West has uplifted China, and created a middle class with expectations of affluence. It is time for the next step in the Strategy. By using China’s belligerence on all its borders, which has herded all the cats into moving in the same direction, an economic and military alliance very favorable to America should be negotiated.

    As far as non-Islamic Africa and Central and South America are concerned. I don’t see any point where more or less American involvement can be leveraged to America’s and Mankind’s advantage.

    Obama’s epic foreign policy failures are all due to his insane leftist ideology. “Insane” as defined by Einstein: as doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting a different result each time. Leftist ideology has NOT worked anywhere in history, and some very serious people have murdered tens of millions of their own citizens trying to make it work. Just look at the most recent failure in Venezuela, which was a thriving country, arguably the wealthiest in South America. But only 15 years after Leftist ideology was implemented, the people don’t have electricity or even toilet paper.

    • Nevis07

      In response to your comment, I will simply offer a recent experience of mine: Over this past weekend, I was told of a recent event by a close family-friend member of mine, who happened to be in Boston visiting her daughter. Apparently she came across a European couple visiting the US for the week. Eventually, they got to talking about the election and my family-friend asked the couple what Europeans in general thought of the US and what they wanted to see from the next president. Apparently the reply from this couple was that Europeans basically want to see the US collapse and for a new power to take it’s place. Mind you, I was hearing this story second hand and I don’t know exactly where in Europe this couple came from – and I’m sure that speaking for an entire continent is bound to be far too simplistic – but still, that was shocking for me to hear.

      I don’t know how much I want to help our allies or not help them. I do know however, that what we should be doing is pursuing America’s interest. Checking Russia, might be one of them, stopping expansionism in the South China Sea, might be one of them and stabilizing Syria might be one of them, but doing much more than that… I don’t know. I guess my list of foreign policy ‘must-haves’ is getting whittled down bit-by-bit. I wonder if a more basic and simplistic foreign policy objective is needed – meaning no more nation building, stop promoting free trade for the sake of free trade, etc.

      • Tom

        My question is why the Euros think any power that would take America’s place will listen to them more than we do.

        • Nevis07

          I don’t have a clue. Maybe a portion of them have Crimean like sympathies?

          • f1b0nacc1

            Do you know the story if Ivan’s goat?

          • Angel Martin

            Yup !

            as the euros look into the abyss, the relative success of America is an additional rebuke to the failure of europe.

        • f1b0nacc1

          They don’t….they have never liked the US (the elites despise us because we dare to deny their right to rule, the EuroTrash left because our very existence denies the validity of their faith, and the proles because we are not proles) and never will. Let us return the favor….by our exertions we have bailed them out of their own mistakes three times in the last 100 years….that is enough. If they wish to survive, they can find a way, if not, let them disappear.

          • Tom

            I would be foursquare in favor of that, were I not concerned that we would have to invade Europe again in order to secure our national security.

          • f1b0nacc1

            This isn’t 1940, and Europe is no longer central to America’s national security. Perhaps it is time that we acknowledge this and move forward. Our future lies to the west, not to the dead and dying east. if the EUnicks wish to reform and establish bilateral relationships with us, that can be an option on a case-by-case basis. Otherwise, their time is past

          • Tom

            The problem with that is that Europe’s economy is still as large as the United States’, there’s still a lot of military hardware there, and it’s still a very large trading partner with us.

          • f1b0nacc1

            Their economy is mired in corruption, static and largely irrelevant. Their value as a trading partner is still considerable, but declining rapidly, and not likely to improve as the EU itself declines. As for the military hardware, aside from the nukes (which are limited to Britain and France, and now less significant than India’s arsenal, for instance), most of it is obsolete, poorly built, and in the hands of effete and corrupt military establishments. The Europeans are unable to fight on a modern battlefield without significant American support, and not terribly useful (a few small special forces units notwithstanding) even with it.

            Their time is over, and they have shown no real inclination to reverse this decline. Let them fade away.

          • Tom

            Their equipment is mostly as good as ours is, with some exceptions; the military establishments are, if not as good as ours, still better than almost anywhere else in the world; and they mostly need assistance when going across the sea.
            I see no reason to attempt to restore Europe; but Europe falling apart will be detrimental to the United States, and more expensive over the long term than the .1% of the budget we spend there.

          • f1b0nacc1

            With the possible exception of a few armored vehicles, most European military equipment is far inferior to ours, and even the Europeans themselves admit this. What they have is in poor shape, and badly in need of replacement with a newer generation of hardware. They lack advanced electronic warfare assets, air-refueling capabilities, most types of UAVs, and anything larger than a frigate in terms of surface ships. The Germans make some reasonable capable subs, but they have few of them, and those they do have lack range and modern weaponry. Their military establishments are not only inferior to ours, but to any local enemy outside of the third world. Even the Russians would likely thrash them, which is a very sad state of affairs indeed. Add to this their demographic collapse, their inability to fill the ranks of the militaries that they do have, and the word ‘pathetic’ comes immediately to mind.

            Why SPECIFICALLY would Europe’s falling apart (which is now merely a when, not an if) be harmful to the US? What capabilities do they offer or assets do they provide that either are or would be useful to us? Some lovely works of art we can pick up cheap, I suppose, but if the Russians wish to move east, let them trouble themselves with administering the place…

          • Tom

            Destruction of American trading partners and resultant harm to the American economy, probably to the tune of tens of billions of dollars. Again, we’re spending considerably less than 1% of the budget on Europe right now.

          • f1b0nacc1

            That is the best you can do? Given current trade deficits, the destruction of European economies (which they are doing to themselves without any help from the outside) could actually turn out to be a profitable enterprise for us. Europe was important 25 years ago, vital 50 years ago….now they are optional, soon they will be dispensable, very soon after that, they will be irrelevant.
            Tens of billions of dollars really isn’t all that much in a GDP of over $15 trillion. Keep trying….

          • Tom

            Tens of billions in benefits vs. a few billion in costs, and you want to dump the Euros out of a fit of pique?
            The benefits aren’t that great, but the costs aren’t all that high, either.

          • f1b0nacc1

            First, 10s of billions in benefits is hardly an unmixed blessing. The EUnicks are hostile to American enterprise (ask Google, for instance), and constantly pushing their own companies at the expense of ours.
            As for ‘a few billion’, maintaining bases in Europe may cost that, but committing military forces (or earmarking them) for European defense is certainly far more than that. Arguing that we are talking about 1% of the defense budget is an accounting game that multiple administrations have played, ignoring the costs of naval forces (vital to keeping the supply lines open), and ‘cooperation’ with various NATO militaries. If you want to pretend that Europe is a worthwhile investment, make the argument….suggesting that it is ‘cheaper’ (when you ignore opportunity costs, for instance) is silly.

        • Boritz

          The EuroLeft like all the Left demand perfection of the U.S. in all matters and are perpetually disappointed. They hold Russia, China, and Cuba, for that matter, to a much lower standard and have perceived wondrous good in those states for many decades.

      • Angel Martin

        “Europeans basically want to see the US collapse and for a new power to take it’s place. ”

        no wonder they were so supportive of Obama !

  • Angel Martin

    By the time Obama notices that there is a problem, it is likely too far gone to do anything about it.

    In my view the big decisions on the future of the EU were made in the spring of 2015 when the migrant numbers were allowed to spiral totally out of control. At that point the EU lost control of its borders and became a failed state.

    Migration into the EU tripled in 2014 (280K) and tripled again in 2015 (1 million+)

    In 2016 the EU is looking to Turkey to control this – ie. the EU still can’t do it themselves.

    But the route thru Turkey is only one of many ways for migrants to reach europe, and the decline in numbers from Turkey is already being reversed by boat arrivals in Italy and Greece.

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