Thursday, November 4, 2010

As the World Sees Obama

It is always a good thing to check out what George Friedman thinks about foreign policy. The head of Stratfor is easily one of our most astute non-partisan foreign policy analysts.

Now Friedman has posted a column about how the world sees Obama after the mid-term elections. Link here.

We recall that many Americans voted for Obama because they wanted the world to like us more. It feels somewhat strange for the citizens of the world’s only remaining superpower to place being-liked at the top of its list of goals.

Of course, it is a good thing if your friends like you, but if you are a world leader being respected is better than being liked. If you as a nation do not command very much respect, and if you do not exercise real leadership, people might like the fact that they can run over you, but they will not respect you.

In the currency that defines relationships between nations, respect is the gold standard. When you are the leading nation, likeability counts among the base metals. It's not even a rare earth.

Anyway, in his essay Friedman offers the following shocking observation: “A foreign minister of a small — but not insignificant — country put it this way to me: Obama doesn’t seem to be there. By that he meant that Obama does not seem to occupy the American presidency and that the United States he governs does not seem like a force to be reckoned with. Decisions that other leaders wait for the United States to make don’t get made, the authority of U.S. emissaries is uncertain, the U.S. defense and state departments say different things, and serious issues are left unaddressed.”

Friedman’s analysis is more comprehensive, but that encounter summarizes it well. When the world looks for leadership, as it normally does, it knocks on the door of the White House. Now that Barack Obama is president, the world has been discovering that no one is home.

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