President Obama this week traveled to Europe to strengthen old alliances and build consensus on how to handle issues of joint concern, including negotiating with the Afghan Taliban and ousting Libyan despot Muammar al-Qaddafi. His triumphant one-day visit to Ireland (see Best columns: Europe) was followed by royal pageantry and a state dinner at the queen’s London residence, Buckingham Palace. But after the pomp came politics.
Presenting a unified front, Obama and Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron said in a joint appearance that the West’s best response to the democratic movements sweeping the Middle East was support and encouragement, not military intervention. The Arab Spring was also high on the agenda at this week’s G8 summit in France, where Obama and other world leaders were to create an aid plan for Tunisia and Egypt loosely modeled on the U.S. postwar Marshall Plan for Europe.
This trip was long overdue, said Carrie Budoff Brown in Politico.com. Although “Obama remains popular with Europeans,” his “shine has worn off” with their political leaders, who often feel the self-declared “Pacific president” cares more about Asia’s emerging economies than about his allies across the Atlantic. Let’s hope Obama’s tour, which includes meetings in Poland with central European leaders, will convince his hosts “that he hasn’t forgotten about them.”
Nor should he, said Timothy Garton Ash in the London Guardian. America and Europe need each other in the effort to keep the Arab Spring alive. Only the U.S. has “sufficient clout” to prevent the Egyptian military from “strangling their country’s new democracy at birth.” But that fledgling democracy won’t thrive “without access to European markets, education, and support.” By working together, Europe and America could ensure that the Arab Spring becomes “a lasting freedom summer for the whole of the Islamic world.”
Has Obama thrown off the “lukewarm approach” he’s had toward Britain? asked Nile Gardiner in the London Telegraph. He did say this week in London that the “Special Relationship’’ between the U.S. and Britain remains “the greatest catalyst for global action.” But in the past, he’s treated Britain as an afterthought, and now he’ll have to back up his words with actions.