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The Strong Points in Obama’s Strasbourg Speech

In writing about the president’s remarks in Strasbourg, most conservative bloggers have (with good reason) faulted him for labeling American “arrogant” and for apologizing for the liberation of Iraq. ( I too had fun with the first comment.) It’s clear he was taking shots at his predecessor, borrowing from the standard arsenal of liberal rhetoric and ideas to do so.

Indeed, it seemed there were a number of such cheap shots shattered throughout the speech, particularly his reference to emerging “from an era marked by irresponsibility.”*

Let’s hope his successor shows him greater deference four years hence.

Despite the pettiness of parts of his speech, there were some moments when he seemed to be using his popularity abroad to good effect.  He took on European anti-Americanism:

But in Europe, there is an anti-Americanism that is at once casual but can also be insidious. Instead of recognizing the good that America so often does in the world, there have been times where Europeans choose to blame America for much of what’s bad.

I wish the president has built on this, addressing some of the points Jean-François Revel made in his book Anti-Americanism.  European anti-Americanism is a serious problem and it precedes George W. Bush.  (I lived there before he took office and experienced it firsthand.)

Still, it’s important that he said it.  Let’s hope Europeans take his words to heart and examine their attitudes.

It wasn’t just in addressing European anti-Americanism where the president made some strong points.  He underscored the importance of the war in Afghanistan:

I understand that there is doubt about this war in Europe. There’s doubt at times even in the United States. But know this: The United States of America did not choose to fight a war in Afghanistan. We were attacked by an al Qaeda network that killed thousands on American soil, including French and Germans. Along the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan, those terrorists are still plotting today. And they’re — if there is another al Qaeda attack, it is just as likely, if not more, that it will be here in Europe in a European city.

The American President thus reminded his European audience of something many of them would rather forget: they face an ever increasing risk of a terror attack.

Despite the potshots at his predecessor, President Obama, in Strasbourg, did say some things which needed to be said to our European allies.  Let’s hope they listen.

*So, if we’ve emerging from this era of irresponsibility, I guess he’s saying it’s responsible to increase increased spending an exponential pace without the revenue to pay for all his new programs.

UPDATE:  The folks at Powerline find much to fault in the speech, especially his reference to Abu Ghraib:

Obama thus repeats the slander that the pointless abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib by a handful of low-life Army Reservists was part of President Bush’s “strategy to battle terrorism.” This is an absurdity. The Reservists in question violated every known policy, which is why they went to jail when their crimes were discovered. For Obama to defame his own country in this way is contemptible.

Read the whole thing.



  1. I admit Obama did a bit better than I expected and did much that was expected. He was too relaxed for my taste and his halting, part extempore part faux-extempore speech craft comes across to my ears as artifice (and if he thinks he’s fooling the Europeans who are far more sensitive to language than ourselves, he’s really fooling himself) and he’s simply not bright enough to sound as brilliant as he’s been told he is when speaking off-the-cuff. Some of his answers in the ‘town hall’ were at best pedestrian, vague, and high school boilerplate while others were, for a Democrat, surprisingly straightforward and pretty good. In all, compared to a low-level MEP like Daniel Hannan, Obama comes across as a ineffective, imprecise, pleasant, image-conscious pol with little to say, riding on a wave of popularity generated not by genuine affection but misplaced relief. I respect and understand his caution, but the praise being lavished is only in response to a lack of a major gaffe.

    And that’s far more praise than any Republican would receive from my Democratic counterparts.

    Comment by Ignatius — April 4, 2009 @ 10:16 am - April 4, 2009

  2. I think the Dixie Chicks were his warm-up act.

    Comment by Ashpenaz — April 4, 2009 @ 10:17 am - April 4, 2009

  3. As a European, and a student of counter-terrorism policy, I find your characterization of a ‘European audience’ wanting to ‘rather forget’ an ‘ever increasing risk of a terror attack’ bizzare. Europe has had an extensive history of ethnic and nationalist terrorism for decades, from the IRA, UVF, ETA and the Red Brigades, to thriving neo-nazi movements, the Badher-Meinhoff gang, with some islamic radicalism dusted on the top. The domestic and foreign police and military operations that have stemmed from the analysis of terrorists and terrorism organizations is flawed, but comprehensive. As a continent, europe has stared down ideologically bankrupt terrorist groups, and brought others into the political process after a reouncing of violence, as happened in northern ireland. We’d rather forget the threat of terrorism? Hardly. We’re acutely aware of the cost it has taken to reach stability and are determined to ensure that terrorism does not affect the way that our society functions.

    Comment by scottland — April 4, 2009 @ 10:18 am - April 4, 2009

  4. awwwwwwwwwwwwww, you heart obama.

    Comment by bob (aka boob) — April 4, 2009 @ 11:04 am - April 4, 2009

  5. When a European starts in on American arrogance with me, I try to pin him down and I find there is precious little of substance beyond simple bitching. Often, I state that I believe we would all be better off if the United States withdrew from NATO, packed up its entire military presence and returned to the days when the embassy and tourists were our only meeting points.

    I always get lectured about the selfishness of isolation.

    The United States Navy keeps the sea lanes of the world open. We have no merchant marine worth mentioning, but the Europeans do. European nations have navies, but if they put them all together into one European fleet, they do not have the strength, diversity or bases throughout the Oceans to be effective. Ditto the possibility of a combined European air force.

    (The littleletterpeople can bring up the Somali pirates, but if the United States wanted to unleash its Naval “arrogance” on those puppies, they would last about a New York minute.)

    Our “problems” with the European attitude towards us is nothing but salon hissing. I think it is a bit like listening to the gripping in an old folks home. If they change the size of the piece of cheese with the apple pie, it causes complaints for a year and is never forgotten.

    Just once, I would like to hear something about American arrogance that is not laughably trivial.

    Comment by heliotrope — April 4, 2009 @ 11:43 am - April 4, 2009

  6. I know from talking to some of my British friends, that part of the anger they felt towards the War on Terror, was why did the IRA get a pass?

    I’ve no idea their thoughts on Teddy ‘I Heart IRA’ Kennedy’s knighthood.

    And look, bob blathers again, showing that he can’t ever find anything positive about his idological opposites.

    Comment by The_Livewire — April 4, 2009 @ 12:29 pm - April 4, 2009

  7. you lost any credibility with your editorial when you suggested Obama’s successor, four years hence. How delusional are you? Obama will sweep to a greater landslide in 2012. It will take the public a LONG time to forget the damage Bushco and the GOP congress did earlier this decade. The GOP will remain a vastly minority party for the next generation (i.e. 20 years) as they have no new ideas and no platform that’s of interest to independents (note: cutting taxes doesn’t have any clout and abortion is a LOSER issue). The 2010 midterms will show greater democratic strength and the democratic power will peak midway through Obama’s 2nd term. Only then will the GOP have a shot at any kind of power. Until then, their only play is to remain as obstructionist as possible, and with McConnell, Boehner and Cantor leading the way, that’s all they know what to do.

    Comment by buckeyenutlover — April 4, 2009 @ 12:53 pm - April 4, 2009

  8. What does he mean when he says “The United States of America did not choose to fight a war in Afghanistan”? Surely he knows better. Every war involves a choice. Either you give in or accept bad treatment, or you fight back. Bill Clinton mostly chose not to respond to Al Qaeda’s provocations in the 1990s. Bush chose to fight back. Although the media has tried to whitewash all domestic opposition to the war in Afghanistan out of existence, the fact is that there were plenty of leftists (such as Michael Moore)–who are now among Obama’s most vocal supporters–who were opposed to the idea of a war in Afghanistan. Likewise, there were leftists like Bill Maher and Susan Sontag who were defending the “courage” of the 9-11 terrorists.

    The fact is that every war involves a choice, and the choice Bush made against many European wishes in Iraq was to stop looking the other way and making excuses for Saddam Hussein’s reckless behavior and repeated violations of the cease fire and numerous U.N. Resolutions.

    Comment by Kurt — April 4, 2009 @ 1:41 pm - April 4, 2009

  9. “Eurpean Anti-Americanism is a serious problem and it precedes George W Bush”

    You are right!. Even as far back as 1946 as you traveled over Europe you’d see scribbled on walls and steps
    Yankee Go Home”. I did not see any in England though.

    Comment by John W — April 4, 2009 @ 1:42 pm - April 4, 2009

  10. Thank God some leftists finally showed up to explain the bizzare Obamateleprompter behavior in Europe. Guys, why didn’t Obama get his new european friends to commit to ANY combat troops in Afganistan. That was his goal, he failed. Could you guys please hire a protocol expert for the new President and first lady. So they don’t go molesting the Queen again. And why did an American President BOW to the King of Saudi, in public, where it could be taped? So far his main accomplishment during this trip is to apologize for the “arrogance” of his country, you know America. This from a man who struts and swaggers on stage like he owns the place.

    Comment by Gene on Pennsylvania — April 4, 2009 @ 1:45 pm - April 4, 2009

  11. buckeyenutlover, I am laughing so loud right now, I hope I’m not disturbing my neighbors. Here you ignore my praise of the president for suggesting he will lose in 2012! WOW! You Bush-haters really are angry.

    Not only did you guys never find anything good in his actions, but you find ways to downplay his successor’s critics any time they do what you fail to do, acknowledge that man’s good points–and good actions.

    Delusional? Obama sweep to a greater landslide in 2012? Give me a break. GOP numbers have been climbing pretty rapidly. Unless the economy recovers rather rapidly, people will forget Bush, especially if Obama keeps blaming him.

    As to Republican obstructionism, well, isn’t that what Democrats did for the better part of the last eight years? I take it you were criticizing them as harshly as you are criticizing Republicans now?

    And yes, Republicans do have some new ideas. Just read some of the conservative blogs instead of using them as a forum to vent your spleen.

    Your prejudice is pretty powerful. And your hatred. What compels you to such vitriol?

    And now will you please acknowledge my praise of the president? 🙂

    Thanks for the laugh.

    Comment by GayPatriotWest — April 4, 2009 @ 1:47 pm - April 4, 2009

  12. boob – I can’t sat that I heart Obama (I don’t have much respect for the man). But he is president and if his Teleprompter makes him say the right thing now and then, I acknowledge it (while still questioning whether or not he means it).

    He managed to get the Gitmo and extraordinary rendition decisions right (for the time being) and I’m glad of that.

    Comment by SoCalRobert — April 4, 2009 @ 2:15 pm - April 4, 2009

  13. You ever notice that Barack Hussein Chavez never stutters or “uhs” his way through a denunciation of America?

    Comment by V the K — April 4, 2009 @ 2:28 pm - April 4, 2009

  14. Of course, when the Dear Leader is Off-Teleprompter, he’s far more entertaining.

    Comment by V the K — April 4, 2009 @ 2:42 pm - April 4, 2009

  15. We’re acutely aware of the cost it has taken to reach stability and are determined to ensure that terrorism does not affect the way that our society functions.

    Also, you Eurotopians have a set a course for Demographic oblivion, so you really can’t be bothered to fight for Western Civilization. Civilization is a gift that is bequeathed from one generation to the next and you have largely chosen not to have a next generation. You don’t really care if Europe falls under shari’a in forty years. Most of you will be gone, anyway. And in the meantime, you’d rather have your three-month vacations, pornography, and lush welfare states than put up a fight against your enemies.

    Comment by V the K — April 4, 2009 @ 2:47 pm - April 4, 2009

  16. We’re acutely aware of the cost it has taken to reach stability and are determined to ensure that terrorism does not affect the way that our society functions.

    Also, you Eurotopeans have a set a course for Demographic oblivion, so you really can’t be bothered to fight for Western Civilization. Civilization is a gift that is bequeathed from one generation to the next and you have largely chosen not to have a next generation. You don’t really care if Europe falls under shari’a in forty years. Most of you will be gone, anyway. And in the meantime, you’d rather have your three-month vacations, pornography, sissy sports like soccer, and lush welfare states than put up a fight against your enemies.

    Comment by V the K — April 4, 2009 @ 2:48 pm - April 4, 2009

  17. As an American living in Europe for over 30 years I’m constantly amazed by the petty island mentality of its citizens (I mean Americans) who insist on living in the past of post WW2 even though most weren’t there anyway. Get over it already and wake up to the coming world order or miss the boat. I’ve never been so proud to be an American as today. No country in the world is so capable of adapting as we are as we so recently proved.

    Comment by Dean Glandon — April 4, 2009 @ 3:17 pm - April 4, 2009

  18. A co-worker told me he went with a tour group to France in the 70´s. The tour guide told the group, if asked to deny they were Americans and say they were Canadians becasuse of the anti-American sentiment in France.

    When I meet another guy, I want to be loved and not necessarily respected but I prefer to have my country respected rather than loved.

    Comment by Roberto — April 4, 2009 @ 4:53 pm - April 4, 2009

  19. I was touring in France 4 years ago in Normandy during the height of the politically generated France hate craze. This was on the 60th anniversary of the invasion. You couldn’t drive through a town there that didn’t have American flags waving. These people have never forgotten what the American people seem to have at times–that they are truly loved and respected. Obama is simply trying to tap into that source.

    Comment by Dean Glandon — April 4, 2009 @ 9:43 pm - April 4, 2009

  20. Livewire, the IRA didnt get a ‘pass’. There was a painstaking almost decade long process of decommissioning weapons so that good faith negotiating could take place, beginning in 1998. the political wings of the troubles (Sinn Fein and the DUP) have far too much established and grassroots support to be dissolved or discounted. the process of reconciliation is still ongoing and very precarious, with some ‘continuity’ IRA groups carrying out targeted assasinations to protest continuted British military intelligence operations. This stuff is HARD.

    V the K – Associated Football, otherwise known to you as ‘sawker’ or somesuch, is awesome. And I think that your demographic paranoia is interesting, as it is a mantra that has been adopted by, amongst others, the neo nazi far right in England and beyond. While I am in no way suggesting that you share the views of organizations such as the BNP, it’s too reductive an arguement to make, as it undermines other principles of the European system, particularly freedom of movement. Aren’t free markets based on free movement of labour, any how?

    As for Sharia law, I think it’s entirely appropriate for individual communities to have their own sets of customs, and a form of sharia judicial decision making in SOME legal decisions is not morally or legally abberant. I would take a very dim view of someone going after Jewish Beth Din courts, for instance.

    Comment by scottland — April 5, 2009 @ 6:12 am - April 5, 2009

  21. […] The Strong Points in Obama’s Strasbourg Speech […]

    Pingback by GayPatriot » The Hypocrisy & Hubris of Obama’s “Responsibility” Rhetoric — April 5, 2009 @ 7:37 am - April 5, 2009

  22. scottland,

    I never said they ‘got a pass’ I’m just reporting what some people said. They wanted to know why we went after Al Quada with such vigour, when we didn’t stomp out the IRA.

    (and, why we (meaning the US) didnt’ crush the funding of the IRA coming from over here. Something I agree with)

    Comment by The_Livewire — April 5, 2009 @ 11:10 am - April 5, 2009

  23. Soft historial support for the IRA appears to be a bi-partisan crime, as this profile of GOP Rep. Peter King highlights:

    It’s a weird one, but I’d imagine that funding for Irish causes is a difficult one to police because you have such a significant Irish-American constituency, who may have a vested interest in the social, political and economic makeup of their country. Americans who give money to an Irish charity dont have significant control over whether or not that money will be spent on political activism or weapons from Libya. They’ll still want to support the organizations that have positioned themselves as the group that reflects their particular interest. Kinda like those muslim charaties that were funneling money to training camps and the like. It’s a little different because there are populist political parties involved in this, and im sure that some donors supported the platform of Sinn Fein or the DUP, even if they didn’t support the violence that their politics fomented.

    What the ‘war on terror’ did was make terrorism an incredibly unpopular means to a political end, and the powers in Ireland understood that. While the celtic tiger is sagging economically, the political development that investment was based on is still impressive.

    A difficult subject to reach a satisfying conclusion over, as suggested in the enduring nature of the struggle…..

    Comment by scottland — April 5, 2009 @ 12:38 pm - April 5, 2009

  24. The Yankee Go Home lines were probably written by correspondents for the NY Times and Wash ComPost. Even back then these papers were against the Marshall Plan, whose anniversary occurred while Mr. Obama was in Europe but which no participant in the G-20 mentioned even passingly. I am sure if Reagan or Bush were in office that would have been a prominent part of their speeches. They might have even visited a military cemetery or two to lay a wreath. But not Mr. ‘antiarrogant’ Obama. That would have been too provocative a thing to do. Better to bend and scrape to a Dark Age Country dictator, then do anything like remind Europe why they’ve been free (mostly against their governments’ wills) these past sixty five years or even why they have a European Union in the first place.

    Comment by eaglewingz08 — April 5, 2009 @ 1:11 pm - April 5, 2009

  25. Didn’t Mr. Obama just restate Pres. Bush’s, ‘If we don’t fight them there (Afghanistan-Pakistan), then you will have terrorists fighting here (Europe)’, which advocacy, the left and democrats have mocked and ridiculed for the past five years or so? Yet I haven’t seen one leftist or democrat call Mr. Obama to task for that statement.

    Comment by eaglewingz08 — April 5, 2009 @ 1:35 pm - April 5, 2009

  26. It’s a good thing Obama wasn’t the first President of the USA. There would still only be 13 Colonies – wouldnt want to displace the indigenous population. Whew!!!

    Comment by Duffy - Native Intelligence — April 6, 2009 @ 12:24 am - April 6, 2009

  27. […] The Strong Points in Obama’s Strasbourg Speech […]

    Pingback by GayPatriot » Unifying Leaders Don’t Blame their Predecessor . . . . . . or attack their political adversaries — April 6, 2009 @ 3:45 am - April 6, 2009

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