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It must be jarring to those who assured us that the world would embrace America as soon as President George W. Bush returned to Texas. But President Barack Obama and his followers are learning that international frustration and even disdain come with the territory for U.S. presidents. Don’t take my word for it.
Pakistanis are burning Obama in effigy—and those are the anti-Taliban Pakistanis. Pakistan was humiliated by the U.S. strike on Osama bin Laden—deservedly so, given its duplicity and double-dealing—but it wasn’t supposed to be this way in the Age of Obama. After all, Obama lambasted his predecessor for alienating allies, acting unilaterally and launching military operations without UN permission. Yet as the Pakistanis know, the bin Laden raid failed to meet any of those standards Obama applied to Bush.
While on the subject of anti-Obama protests, when the bombs started falling on Libya, Sri Lankans took to the streets to stomp on photos of our president.
Obama’s mishandling of the Libya crisis has been spun by his supporters as “leading from behind.” But as the war enters its 15th week—a war against an isolated, hated, weak despot—leading from behind looks more like abdication.
Citing remarks by French president Nicolas Sarkozy, The Washington Post reports that the French leader recently “lashed out…at the U.S. commitment to the NATO effort in Libya.”
“I’m not of the opinion that the bulk of the work in Libya is being done by our American friends,” Sarkozy said angrily.
As The Financial Times explains, “Britain and France are straining to fill the gap left by Washington’s decision to pull back.” Sarkozy may not want to say it openly, but he and other NATO leaders recognize this limitation. When asked about Washington’s refusal to join France in deploying attack helicopters in Libya, French foreign minister Alain Juppe’s response was loaded with disappointment. “We regret that…We would be more efficient if they joined us.” Likewise, when British foreign secretary William Hague asked NATO members for support, he was aiming his message at Washington: “The United Kingdom in the last weeks supplied additional aircraft capable of striking ground targets,” he said. “It would be welcome if other countries did the same.”
The Washington Post is far less polite, bluntly concluding that Washington is “eschewing its indispensable role of leadership.”
In Egypt, Saudis are angry that Obama did too much to push their ally Hosni Mubarak out of power, while Egyptians are angry that he didn’t do enough. As the Obama administration hemmed and hawed over Mubarak, Mohamed ElBaradei wrote a scathing open letter to the man who promised to make the world love America again. “The American government said that it was ‘dismayed.’ Well, frankly, I was dismayed that all it could say is that it was dismayed…People were absolutely disappointed in the way you reacted to Egypt’s last election. You reaffirmed their belief that you are applying a double standard for your friends, and siding with an authoritarian regime just because you think it represents your interests… This isn’t even good realpolitik.”
Realpolitik is always a perfect segue to China. Bending over backwards for China in his first year has delivered no dividends for Obama. The PRC has lashed out at Japan, embargoed commodities high-tech industries depend on, blocked the UN from blaming North Korea for sinking a South Korean ship, continued its threatening behavior around Taiwan and sped ahead with its massive military buildup.
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