WASHINGTON -- President Obama set great expectations for himself on his first European diplomatic trip to test his new get-along-by-going-along foreign policy. And it was a complete success, according to the gushing reports from the news media.
Not everyone agreed with that assessment. Obama certainly proved "that he can work smoothly and productively with a wide range of foreign leaders -- provided that he allows them to set the agenda," remarked the Washington Post's foreign-policy analyst Jackson Diehl.
Obama went to Europe to persuade the major European powers and other countries who make up the world's richest G-20 to pump more money into their financial markets to help pull the global economy out of its recession. They agreed to come up with more than $1 trillion, most of which went into the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. But they said no to plunging their countries further into debt as he was doing here at home.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel flatly dismissed his bigger spending request, saying, "That is not a bargaining chip." French President Nicolas Sarkozy said his own demands for imposing more regulations over the financial markets were "nonnegotiable."
Then it was on to the NATO summit where Obama hoped to talk the military powers into sending thousands of combat troops to help the United States fight the Taliban terrorists in Afghanistan. He got weak commitments from the NATO alliance and other countries of a mere 5,000, mostly for noncombat roles.
He said he came to Europe to listen and not to lecture. The days when great world leaders like Roosevelt and Churchill sat "in a room with a brandy" and led the Free World against tyranny were over, Obama said. Did he miss his U.S. history classes where FDR, Truman, Churchill, Stalin and a host of other allies joined together to defeat Germany and Japan in World War II?
But this is the Age of Obama, a time when we had to "show some element of humility and recognize that we may not always have the best answer."
Well, humility can take you only so far in a still-very-dangerous world where Iran, North Korea and other rogue nations consider humility a sign of weakness and indecision.
While Obama was practicing international humility in Europe, Defense Secretary Robert Gates was unveiling the overhaul (some are calling it a dismantlement) of America's military arsenal, including worrisome cuts in U.S. missile-defense programs.