Hey, What Would Mr. Obama Say?

Article excerpt

Byline: Stefan Theil

America is back. That's the message the Obama administration is sending to foreign capitals. The new team has moved quickly to repair America's image abroad, promising to suspend torture, close Guantanamo and join the fight against climate change. Once again, the U.S. is ready to "engage, listen and consult," Vice President Joe Biden assured a high-powered security policy conference in Munich earlier this month, to much applause and relief among the assembled global leaders.

One would expect America's position in the world to be much weakened by financial collapse, an unpopular war, and an eight-year withdrawal from international diplomacy under George W. Bush. Yet in Munich, it became palpably clear how much the world still looks to the U.S. to lead. Whether the issue was Afghanistan, the Middle East or re-engaging Russia with a new round of arms control talks, the question that American delegates (including National Security Adviser James Jones and Afghanistan envoy Richard Holbrooke) heard again and again was, "What will Obama do?" When German Chancellor Angela Merkel used the meeting to propose a new concept of "networked security," for better coordination of diplomatic, economic and military efforts in such places as Afghanistan, it was taken for granted that it would be up to the Americans to put it into place. …