Friday, April 3, 2009

A New Tone Towards Europe and the World

As President Obama is reaching the midway point of his European tour, it has become clear that Mr. Obama and his administration are using a completely different tone when speaking to Europeans and the rest of the world.  I have been watching international news coverage of President Obama’s speeches and press conferences, and I watched him hold a town hall meeting in Strasbourg, France this morning.  From a New York Times article, titled, “Obama Sets a New Tone for Alliance With Europe”:

“On the eve of a NATO summit meeting here [in Strasbourg], President Obama offered a compact for a renewed partnership with Europe, saying ‘America is changing but it cannot be America alone that changes’…Hundreds of people, many of them students from France and Germany, applauded him loudly as he spoke in a sports hall, particularly when he evoked efforts to reduce nuclear stockpiles and close the Guantánamo Bay detention center. He also drew enthusiastic cheers when he insisted: ‘The United States does not, and will not, torture.’”

I have noticed that in all his speeches over the last several days, President Obama has emphasized that the U.S. wants to listen and have a respectful dialogue with Europe and the rest of the world.  Mr. Obama has even admitted U.S. mistakes concerning the global economic crisis and has implied that the U.S. will no longer dictate terms to Europe.  He spoke candidly at the town hall meeting about U.S.-Europe relations in the past: 

“[President Obama] urged a shift in attitudes. In America, he said, there had been ‘a failure to appreciate Europe’s leading role in the world,’ and there had been ‘times when America has shown arrogance and been dismissive, even derisive,’ Mr. Obama said…But in Europe, he went on, there had also been anti-American attitudes. ‘On both sides of the Atlantic, these attitudes have become all too common,’ President Obama said. ‘They are not wise.’”

The language and tone being used by President Obama would have been unthinkable during the Bush administration.  Pledging to listen and engage in dialogue are hallmarks of effective public diplomacy, as is reaching out to foreign publics, such as today’s town hall meeting in Strasbourg.  This could be a boon to U.S. public diplomacy and lead towards less anti-Americanism in Europe.

What remains to be seen is if President Obama’s tone is followed by the actual implementation of policies and if Europe is willing to reciprocate regarding a variety of issues facing the U.S. and Europe.

1 comment:

  1. The Town Hall meeting shows, as Feri pointed out, America’s willingness to “listen and engage in dialogue.” This meeting could have been seen in any small American town during the Obama campaign, as the New York Times article “Obama Sets a New Tone for Alliance with Europe” points out. It appears that this public diplomacy technique has branded the US president as the president of the globalized world. Obama is our first international president, coming from a country where international affairs traditionally reached the waters edge.

    Many of his comments indicate drastic changes in the US, such as accepting wrongdoing and seeking to repair its relationships. In every great tragedy, the hero goes from ignorance to awareness. This is one of those times. The US realizes that it can no longer live in a bubble and must amend its ways to fit into a global world.

    This appeal to the people is the US response to the angry mobs of protesters outside the Group of 20 meeting. Vice President Joe Biden already acknowledged their presence and frustrations with the current economy. The police have been battling thousands of protesters in the past few days. Angered by the economic crisis, the stimulus package is highly controversial. Several European states want to wait to see the outcome of the plan before dedicating more money. The US disagrees with that idea- this Town Hall is an attempt to prove the US power over the European public and shove the small stimulus package in the faces of the European leaders. They are no longer dealing with the unpopular President Bush but they have to compete with Obama.

    While it seems as though the Europeans should be the most angered at the US, as it appears that our failing economy spurred the global downfall. Most of that blame isn’t being directed solely at the US but at the international leaders, especially European leaders who failure to step up and face the growing problems. People want their leaders to follow the same stimulus steps as the US. While US public diplomacy may assist in ending anti-American feelings throughout Europe in the future, Obama’s presidency and his honeymoon public diplomacy attempts have already dispelled the direct blame on the US. Looking at the economic situation, I expected to see a new level of hatred against the US and instead I am seeing open arms and trust.