Barack Obama, hailed in 2008 as the new Jesus, is now the malefactor in the Middle East and Latin America. Russia and China are laughing at him; Africa is disappointed. Leftist groups in the European Parliament want to summon Obama to Strasbourg. They demand an apology. They also want to invite 'whistle-blower' Edward Snowden, and offer him asylum plus a Freedom Prize. Obama on trial in a kangaroo court of his ex-devotees. Who would have thought?
Until recently, criticizing Obama was a solitary activity. In Belgium, I was allegedly the only politician who would not have voted for Obama last year, and I had to defend myself on television. Since then, it's not just a few individuals who have caught up, but busloads of them. Malte Spitz, a member of the German Bundestag for the Greens, wrote in the International Herald Tribune, in late June: "No American political debate got so much attention in Germany as did the spy scandal. It changed our confidence in Obama. As a green politician, I am not impressed by his focus on global warming. He cannot just change the subject." In 2008, Obama drew a crowd of 200,000 admirers in Berlin. Last month there were 6,500 people, which included protesters. Would he visit Berlin again there would once more be 200,000 people on the streets: to protest against him.
The criticism is so intense that I have to defend Obama somewhat. He lacked any administrative experience for the hardest job in the world. His ex-devotees should therefore take a closer look at themselves. They cannot simply project their own ideals on an American president. Machiavelli has already pointed out that many are cheating, but countless want to be deceived. The Obama myth was self-deception.
What went wrong? On June 30, 2009 Obama hosted a dinner at the White House with nine historians who wrote books about American presidents, including Robert Caro, Robert Dallek and Douglas Brinkley. Obama asked the historians what he had to do to earn a prominent place in history. According to Dallek he showed no interest in the details. He wanted to do 'great things'. There were three such dinners. Historian David M. Kennedy said afterwards: "It's almost as if he wants to write the history book about himself". Historian H. W. Brands said: "Obama is impatient with the inability of people to think in the long term".
Obama is a president who muses about himself and has no interest in details. Those details, however, come naturally, while the president has no concept of foreign policy, no experience, and no working method. First 'detail': the Arab Spring. During the Libyan revolution, America remained in the background. The White House called it leading from behind. America, with the largest economy and the strongest military force in the world, cannot afford that, even if it wanted to. Leading from behind leads to running after the facts.
And that's exactly what happened. Egyptian President Mubarak was (according to Hillary Clinton) a 'family friend'. During the removal of President Morsi, under pressure from a huge mass of people, America called on the army to leave Morsi in place. The protests thereon focused on Obama. The Syrian leader Assad was first recognized as a 'reformer'. Obama has little interest in the Syrian civil war. Before his re-election he did not even mention it. The chance of a no-fly zone, or at least humanitarian corridors, which Senator John McCain insisted, was missed. The 100,000 deaths are apparently a detail for Obama, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. The only guideline in Obama's foreign policy is his election cycle: withdrawal from Iraq before his re-election and withdrawal from Afghanistan before the Congressional elections of 2014. The consequences are 'details' on the altar of the Obama symbol.
In the Middle East, U.S. influence has not been so weak in 30 years. Iran dominates Iraq. The Taliban are back in Afghanistan. Russia dominates Syria. Putin used Snowden as a PR pawn against America in a way he never would have dared with George Bush. Obama travelled to Africa, but Africans are disappointed that he came so late. Most popular in Africa is the anti-AIDS program, set up by George Bush. The Washington Post wrote: "Obama in the shadow of Bush".
As an act of desperation Obama announced a major climate change policy. Even his ex-devotees in Europe do not believe him. In Berlin, he should have said: Ich bin ein Big Talker.