In today’s New York Times, Ronald Asmus provides a useful summary of the German Marshall Fund’s recently released Transatlantic Trends report.
The report indicates that support for American foreign policy has risen dramatically in Western Europe, but not in Eastern Europe or Turkey. It also notes that Europeans and Americans remain at odds over the issues of the day, including whether to use force in Afghanistan and Iran.
Two additional points related to the report:
1. Western European attitudes toward the United States have improved because the Obama administration has not asked Europe for much yet. As George Friedman remarked back in April, “Europe and Obama loved each other [during Obama’s campaign], but for very different reasons. The Europeans thought that the United States under Obama would ask less, while Obama thought the Europeans would give more.” The truth of Friedman’s statement will become more apparent as Obama asks for more on Iran, Afghanistan, and financial reform.
2. While increased popular support in Europe is nice, it won’t mean anything for America’s strategic interests if the Obama administration cannot restore our credibility.
The Bush administration squandered two kinds of American credibility. The first relates to other governments’ perceptions of whether the United States can achieve the goals that it sets out for itself. As Steve Clemons has noted on this blog, the Iraq war demonstrated America’s limits in dramatic, devastating fashion.
And as Steve pointed out yesterday, the same thing may be happening in Afghanistan, as we escalate our commitment there. The best thing Obama could do to restore American credibility would be to score a big win on some international issue of consequence – something he has yet to do.
The second kind of American credibility relates to whether the United States tells the truth. The “Weapons of Mass Destruction” mess tarnished America’s credibility in this area as well. Whether foreign capitals accept the Obama administration’s statement yesterday that Iran has enough nuclear fuel to make a nuclear weapon may indicate whether America’s credibility has rebounded in this area.
— Ben Katcher