The first duty of national leaders is to worry about the self-interest of their own countries; utopian internationalism can come later. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, despite her soaring European Union rhetoric, is relearning that lesson.
German voters in a recent parliamentary election rebuked her for bailing out the spendthrift Greeks with hard-earned German money.
Barack Obama should take note.
Last year, Obama won a Nobel Peace Prize not for what he did, but for what he represented -- to the European judges a new post-national American president. His subsequent apology tours abroad have emphasized American sins without much discussion of the context of the times.
In Cairo last year, the president inaccurately claimed that Islam helped to foster Western achievements like the Renaissance and Enlightenment.
In such moments, Obama sounds as if he thinks America has to be perfect to be good, while other nations merely need to be OK.
Even though Obama apparently has no intention of closing down Guantanamo Bay as he promised -- or ending tribunals, renditions, Predator targeted assassinations, wiretaps and intercepts -- he continues to fault former President Bush's war on terror and promises the world that he will reset American foreign policy.
Consequently, the mixed message goes out abroad that if you were anti-American from 2001 to 2008, you probably had reasonable complaints; and if you were friendly back then, you may now seem a little suspect.
Obama's new outreach to Iran, Syria and Venezuela tells the world, fairly or not, that the United States -- not these anti-American authoritarians -- was responsible for tense relations in the past. Meanwhile, the old special relationship with democratic Britain, the once unquestioned support for democratic Israel, and missile defense for democratic Eastern Europe all seem passé.
Recently, Obama went too far when he invited Mexican President Felipe Calderon to the White House to address the Arizona immigration law. Side by side with Obama, Calderon summarily trashed the voters of Arizona for demanding enforcement of their nation's immigration laws: "It is a law that not only ignores a reality ... but also introduces a terrible idea, using racial profiling as the basis for law enforcement."
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