Saturday, July 26, 2008

# Posted 7:39 AM by Patrick Porter  

THE SCENE IS BERLIN, but this reflects Europe's general reaction to an American Presidential candidate who backs wiretapping and bombing targets within a volatile, nuclear state.

This reinforces the view that politics is often not about the content of policy. It is about who you want to conduct that policy.

Dismantling civil liberties is not necessarily an unpopular move in Europe (viz. widespread surveillance and preventive detention), and a tough stance on Al Qaeda is not an electoral liability, as the recent election of solidly Atlanticist governments proves.

But I would guess that Europeans are drawn to Obama more because of his overarching symbolic status (what he seems to represent) than his stance on specific issues. His fame as the unifying, visionary progressive overrides his increasingly centre/centre-right policy positions.

True, many of those in the crowd may not know in detail about Obama's record on policy. But given that their enthusiasm is likely to be based on Obama's image and brand, the fact that he is the 'anti-Bush', and the celebrity vibe around the occasion, we may doubt whether they would change their mind if they knew more about his record.

Obama is a skilful exponent of images. He deliberately plays to the affectionate memory of John F. Kennedy, the charismatic and youthful man of the future.

But he is like Kennedy in less obvious ways. His global brand may be one of cosmopolitan multilateralism, where the United States restores itself as a good international citizen. But like Kennedy the Cold Warrior, beneath that aura there is not only a political opportunist, but a hawk who is willing to outflank his enemies to the right.

A few years ago, Robert Kagan argued that America and Europe were drifting apart into different moral worlds, where power and weakness respectively gave both sharply different outlooks on force, diplomacy and world order. But a President Obama may reveal that things are trickier and more interesting than that.
(2) opinions -- Add your opinion


Beer, Bratz and a band will get them in any time. After all, what else is there to do in Berlin now the Socialists are back in power.
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