The speech was classic Obamaspeak: "In Europe, the view that America is part of what has gone wrong in our world, rather than a force to help make it right, has become all too common. In America, there are voices that deride and deny the importance of Europe's role in our security and our future. Both views miss the truth -- that Europeans today are bearing new burdens and taking more responsibility in critical parts of the world; and that just as American bases built in the last century still help to defend the security of this continent, so does our country still sacrifice greatly for freedom around the globe."
As usual, his words appear to be analytical, but probably that's because he comes to no specific conclusion. There is no straight talk on this jet.
Obama opposed the Bush surge of troops in Iraq, and to applause in Deutschland, he spoke against the war. He told the crowd what it wanted to hear.
Conversely, Obama has proposed a surge of U.S. troops in Afghanistan -- a position that will require sacrifice from American troops who could use more help from abroad. Germany has sent more than 3,500 troops to Afghanistan, most of them essentially exempted from combat duty. Polls show that 85 percent of Germans object to sending more German troops into the southern part of Afghanistan -- yet Chancellor Angela Merkel's government did send a German combat unit into that theatre this summer. Obama had a chance to praise Merkel and speak in support of sending 1,000 more German troops.
This is what he said: "The Afghan people need our troops and your troops, our support and your support, to defeat the Taliban and al-Qaida, to develop their economy, and to help them rebuild their nation."
Before the speech, the Washington Post reported that an aide had revealed Obama "will ask Europe to shoulder more of the burden to help deal with global security threats." I guess that was it.
OK, maybe Obama didn't want to come across as a "cowboy," but he didn't exactly come across as a leader either.
When Obama went overseas, he had the perfect platform to take on Western Europe's defense-light posture, but all he could mutter was, "Merci beaucoup."
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