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Nothing Exceptional at the G-20

April 6, 2009

The French Cowboy can’t help but to have the feeling that on his trip to Europe, President Obama’s message to the world was that the USA is not a special country at all and that its relative position of strength towards pretty much every other country and region of the world is somehow undeserved and more a usurpation than anything else.

To the Europeans, Obama says that America has shown “arrogance” and has been “dismissive” and “derisive.” He acknowledges the importance of Japan, India and China as if those three belonged into one category – and into the same category as the US – that is as if the oppressive, human-rights trampling China should be judged only on its size of GDP and military strength. For Obama the times when “Roosevelt and Churchill [were] sitting in a room with a brandy” and left others out of their negotiations are gone. Fair enough, but doesn’t Obama realise that with Roosevelts and Churchills you are still much better off than with Stalins and Hitlers? And why give away a position of strength towards regimes like China and Russia and ask for nothing in return? And this after both countries’ leaders have fully intentionally engaged in provocative actions even during the last months.

I don’t know about you, but the French Cowboy would much rather see the USA dominate the international stage than those other nations that are eager to do so. It’s not as if New Zealand or Japan were contesting with US domination. It’s China, it’s Russia, and those smaller countries that invest their scarce resources into anything that allows them to oppress their own citizenry and to threaten other countries’ security. President Obama seems to believe that any regime should have as much to say on international matters as the US, no matter how many journalists they kill, religious minorities they persecute or illegitimate territorial claims they make.

Obama claims that through reducing America’s nuclear arsenal he achieves “moral authority” to demand from the Iranians to leave their nuclear project. Why does he use this argument when he evidently has no intention on using such “moral authority” on issues like human rights? What Obama did so far instead is to treat any thuggish head of state as if they deserved deference. Think about Obama’s message of “respect” towards the leaders of Iran and his quasi falling prostrate before the Saudi King.

It is the very presence of US military power and the nation’s reputation of striking when the need to do so is perceived that keeps rogue nations from causing more trouble than they do. Does Obama think that Iran or North Korea are wary of the Europeans rising in anger should they try something stupid? Or of the Canadians? Plutôt non. In signalling that from his point of view the US is not supposed to carry the biggest stick, President Obama risks swiping away bad-guys’ nations’ belief that they can’t get away with mass murder.

Remember that line someone from the US State Department is said to have given a British newspaper after Monsieur Brown got the DVD treatment? “There’s nothing special about Britain. You’re just the same as the other 190 countries in the world. You shouldn’t expect special treatment.” Well, here’s the impression that President Obama thinks the same about his own country: the USA is just the same as the other 190 countries in the world, so Obama puts it back into line where it belongs. Nevermind that it’s those who don’t bother standing in queue who are going to exploit the situation for ends that will make us long for US cowboy diplomacy.

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