Obama and new Europe

HOWEVER much John McCain might be right in downplaying the importance of Barack Obama's speech in Berlin, the event proved a milestone in more ways than one and may well end up having more relevance to the final presidential election than McCain, or Obama for that matter, comprehend presently.

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Published: Sat 26 Jul 2008, 9:47 PM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 4:03 PM

Firstly, the fact that Obama could command a huge rock concert like audience scored precious charisma points, an important war front that McCain's ageing appeal will always have trouble holding. Big crowds by their very nature attract special attention and the unexpected numbers did not only add importance to Obama's observations and promises but also charmed certain important observers into comparing the showing to historic Kennedy and Regan speeches hosted by the same significant city. A hopeful's comparison to former presidents during campaigning while the other looks on no doubt hits the other where it hurts, as McCain must have felt by now.

The most significant point about the speech though was Obama's take on Europe. Few will fault him for noticing the increasingly visible diplomatic estrangement between America and mainland Europe in the wake of the unexpectedly unsuccessful war against terrorism. So the "shared destiny" rhetoric was a carefully planted, and one hopes sincerely meant, strike that apparently hit the bull's eye, generating the right kind of understanding in the continent.

It bears remembering that Bush's former defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld of the New Europe fame, used to boast of the terror-war carving out new alliances within Europe. Obama has sought to include bridge-building as a core part of his strategy, part of the larger policy proposition that includes numerous U-turns on important Bush administration initiatives since 9/11.

Significantly, careful Europe observers will point out that a new Europe was indeed created after America's war of vengeance mandated a paradigm shift in foreign policy outlook. Indeed, in the sudden show of unity following the September 11 tragedy, mainstream American media perhaps went a step too far in ridiculing European capitals opposed to stretching the war into Iraq. Now, considering Obama's stiff opposition to the way the war has been carried out, his most fitting European ploy could have been embracing new divergences with Europe and working around them to erect common shared vision, of which the war against terrorism will definitely be an integral part, while it is also politic to put in a word or two about other no less important issues like climate change. An appropriate thing too since it naturally comes with praise for Berlin.

So far Obama has used his money to play his cards pretty well. For old-timers still banking on war-time vote to lean towards the Republicans, Obama will be one tough fight with more surprises to follow.

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