11 September 2008

Vote for Obama because it’s what Europeans want

Well, that’s what some of us might want to do in response to a poll reported by Alexander Burns at Politico.com.

Forty-seven percent of Europeans believe an Obama victory in November would lead to a better relationship between the United States and Europe, versus just 5 percent who think Obama would weaken the trans-Atlantic relationship.


Now that has to make you stop and think. I know it has me. And what I’m thinking is this. First, it’s at least possible that the 5 percent who think Obama would weaken the trans-Atlantic relationship are the smart ones. Second, if an Obama presidency is the solution to U.S.-Europe relations, then the problem may be over-stated. (In other words, if Senator Obama is the answer, then it may be an insignificant problem.)

In all seriousness, a great deal of commonality exists between Europeans and Democrats. I noticed during my army days that Europeans and Americans looked upon the soviet bloc differently. It seemed to me that most of our European allies took a purely defensive posture against the soviets. There was very little interest in bring down the soviet empire.

Until Reagan, the U.S. were inclined to take a similar approach, peaceful co-existence, détente. Under Reagan, the policy changed. Peaceful co-existence, according to Reagan and his ilk, was not only not possible, the soviets were not really interested in it, despite their friendly talk. Communism is not a provincial attitude; it’s a world-wide mandate. The soviets had to be defeated somehow. Europeans, comfortable with détente, balked at Reagan’s aggressive moves (such as the placement of Pershing II missiles in West Germany in January 1984). The end of détente was an unwarranted and aggressive path to open war, a war of which Europe would bear the brunt. Who could blame them for opposing such moves.

And some Democrats in the U.S. balked right along with Europeans, caricaturing Reagan as having one hand in his jelly bean bowl while his other hovered over “the button.” (That was when they were not caricaturing him as stealing food from the homeless, sneaking back into the White House and eating it himself.) There was nothing wrong with peaceful co-existence, enforced by mutually assured destruction. Reagan was going to screw it all up, bring the entire world to the edge of existence.

Opponents of Reagan’s aggression had an understandable point. If you make clear to a nation, any nation, that you intend to take it down you must acknowledge that the nation in question will not just take it sitting down. Israel doesn’t. It was to be expected therefore that the soviets would respond with counter-aggression. War was inevitable; Reagan would be responsible.

That was then. Now, U.S. – Europe relations suffer because of what they think an “uncalled for” war in Iraq. It is a war based on baseless accusations, supposition, and desire for revenge.

Certainly, an Obama administration, if it keeps its promise to unceremoniously jerk troops out of Iraq, will certainly improve those relations. Too, Obama’s politics are much like most of Eurpope’s. They believe in material rights; so do Democrats. Most Americans believe in formal rights. So Obama and Europeans have a lot in common.

Anytime you do what someone wants you to do, you will improve your relations with that person. Pull troops out of Iraq, and relations will probably improve. (We’ll also probably have to stop dominating NATO.)

It would be nice to get along better with Europe. Right now, I’m inclined to think the price a bit steep. Also, Europeans’ attitudes, as expressed in the poll, assume that Europeans are correct in their view of the issues and that the U.S. are wrong. It could be that Europeans are wrong, in which case the current state of U.S. – Europe relations is their fault, not ours. (It is at least a possibility.)

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James Frank Solís
Former soldier (USA). Graduate-level educated. Married 26 years. Texas ex-patriate. Ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America.
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