Saturday, September 19, 2009

We Always Hurt The One We Love

Foreign leaders admire President Obama (and why wouldn't they?), but so far it adds up to diddly on the policy front. Is anyone surprised? When Nicholas Kristof predicted in October that Obama's election would "rebuild American political capital," I demurred (striking fear in his heart, no doubt):

Do the Chinese care what we think of their general secretary or premier, the Germans what we think of their chancellor? We know China isn’t especially interested in what foreigners think of their activities in Sudan. Many countries do business in Cuba without caring what Americans think. I don’t think they should care. I just wonder why I should care what they think of us, beyond knowing that we mean what we say (honoring commitments and when necessary backing up threats with action).

Leaders and nations rarely if ever behave philanthropically. And indeed according to the New York Times, here's the scorecard so far:
European allies still refuse to send significantly more troops to Afghanistan. The Saudis basically ignored Mr. Obama’s request for concessions to Israel, while Israel rebuffed his demand to stop settlement expansion. North Korea defied him by testing a nuclear weapon. Japan elected a party less friendly to the United States. Cuba has done little to liberalize in response to modest relaxation of sanctions. India and China are resisting a climate change deal. And Russia rejected new sanctions against Iran’s nuclear program even as Mr. Obama heads into talks with Tehran.

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