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Jewish World Review
March 27, 2009 / 2 Nisan 5769
Rebooting America's Global Image Not Going Well
One of President Obama's signature boasts was that his election would,
to use his term, "reboot" America's image in the world. Addressing
thousands of Germans last summer, Obama said, "In Europe, the view that
America is part of what has gone wrong in our world rather than a force
to help make it right has become all too common." His election, he
promised, would transform America's global image.
How's that project going? On the occasion of the Persian New Year,
President Obama delivered a video message to the Iranian people and
government, advisedly using the term "the Islamic Republic of Iran." The
U.S., declared the president, desired a "new beginning" in relations
with Iran, and would no longer engage in "threats" but seeks engagement
that is "honest" and based upon "mutual respect." While cautioning that
Iran could not assume its "rightful place in the community of nations"
through "terror or arms," the president's message was otherwise strewn
with rose petals.
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's response was, well, a little
less than enthusiastic. While the crowd chanted "Death to America,"
Khamenei demanded: "Have you released Iranian assets? Have you lifted
oppressive sanctions? Have you given up mudslinging and making
accusations against the great Iranian nation and its officials? Have you
given up your unconditional support of the Zionist regime?" Besides, the
SL continued, "we don't know who is making decisions in America is it
the president, the Congress, or some unknown people who pull the
strings?" Khamenei further suggested that some American leaders have
"demanded that our great and honorable nation be wiped out." President
Obama might want to begin this "honest" dialogue by pointing out that it
was Khamenei who spoke to a crowd chanting "Death to America." We don't
do that sort of thing. In fact, they chant "Death to America" when their
national soccer team scores a goal or when they've particularly enjoyed
a concert. Their kids learn it in school rather as ours learn the
Pledge of Allegiance. No American leader has ever called for Iran to be
wiped out. But Iran's president has a little list of nations he
threatens with genocide on a regular basis. The list consists of Israel,
with the U.S. getting honorable mention from time to time.
President Obama wasn't fazed by Khamenei's response. At his news
conference on March 24, he cited the Iranian reaction as a reason to be
The new dawn for relations with Europe is slow to materialize, too.
There was that unfortunate business with the prime minister of Great
Britain, in which the president's team seemed unaware that Britain
enjoys special status as primo inter pares of American allies. After
British officials expressed dismay about the cool reception their leader
received by the White House (and the tacky gift of DVDs), an unnamed
administration official reportedly chided the British saying: "There's
nothing special about Britain. You're just the same as the other 190
countries in the world. You shouldn't expect special treatment."
Nor is the new administration making a hit with the current president of
the European Union. Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek told the
European Parliament that President Obama's economic policies represent
"the road to Hell. ... Americans will need liquidity to finance all
their measures and they will balance this with the sale of their bonds
but this will undermine the liquidity of the global financial market.
... We need to read the history books and the lessons of history and the
biggest success of the EU is the refusal to go this way." Other European
leaders have pointedly declined President Obama's invitation to bankrupt
their treasuries with deficit spending.
Secretary of State Clinton presented a cutesy "reset" button to the
Russian ambassador. But apparently the State Department had gotten the
Russian word wrong. Instead of "reset" it said "overcharge."
The North Koreans seem ready to launch a new long-range missile. And the
Chinese, according to the Washington Post, have "the most active
land-based ballistic and cruise missile program in the world." Recession
notwithstanding, China is very aggressively increasing its military
spending. Even by China's acknowledged account, military spending has
increased 18 percent in the past year. But the Pentagon estimates that
China spent twice as much between $105 billion and $150 billion on
its military in 2008. In addition to missiles, China is pouring money
into cyber warfare, a fleet of attack submarines, research and
development on aircraft carriers, and a naval base on the southern
island of Hainan, which would give the Chinese navy "direct access to
vital international sea lanes ..." all while speculating about replacing
the dollar as the world's reserve currency.
Perhaps we misunderstood Obama. Maybe instead of a reboot, we're just
getting the boot.
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