Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Barack Obama: Trojan Horse or the Anti-Bush?

A recent report by the Real News network reveals some interesting intellectual conflicts underlying Barack Obama's recent visit to Berlin.

The UK's The Guardian reported that Obama recieved a "rock star welcome" in what one German government employee described as "an anti-Bush rally."

The Guardian reported that Obama recieved the greatest applause when he followed a brief listing of some of the world's pressing problems by asserting that "no one nation, no matter how large or how powerful, can defeat such challenges alone."

Some people have read into that statement a promise of an American return the world of true multilaterialism -- a necessary ingredient if potent internationalism is to blossom.

Yet the Financial Times Deutslachland wrote that the speech was an "ad for the war on terror", and decried that despite being poised to ask the German government to deploy troops in the "dangerous South" of Afghanistan, Obama was being treated "like a teddy bear".

Like most of Obama's message, how one interprets it seems to depend on whether one is predisposed toward hope or pessimism. For hopeful Europeans, Obama represents a new era of cooperation and collaboration between the United States and Europe, and a blissful end to the confrontationalism so often practiced by George W Bush.

But for the pessimistic, such as those at the Berliner Zeitung, Obama represents little more than a trojan horse, smuggling a Bush-esque foreign policy centred around the war on terror under a much more pleasing and inspiring guise.

Like George W Bush, Obama is very aware of his base, and he knows how to speak to them.

But like Bush, many of those who may otherwise be predisposed toward being part of that base have seen their hopes dashed before. Obama's language has an inspirational quality to it, but it's of limited effect on those who have had such dashed hopes turn to cynicism.

Speaking to 200,000 supporters in Berlin is an accomplishment that should not be discounted. But the inherent pessimism slowly bred into the global political system may explain why Obama's European trip has yet to have a significant impact on his polling numbers.

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