Among the most annoying claims of candidate Barack Obama in 2008 was the promise that he would give America "smart diplomacy." Coming from an amateur dependent on the advice of academic theoreticians like Susan Rice, the hubris was overwhelming.
Three years later, Obama is turning out to be a diplomatic disaster, alienating key allies, encouraging disasters like the "Arab Spring" (in reality, "jihad spring"), embarrassing the country with gimmicks like the mistranslated "reset" button for Russia (about to slip even further in the direction of Soviet-style tyranny as Putin plans a return to direct leadership), and indulging in his habit of arrogantly lecturing others on topics where his understanding is at best shallow.
Berlin was the site of his largest campaign address, attended by perhaps a quarter million Germans. It was the moment in which he could bask in the (phony) image of a world citizen about the halt the rising of oceans. So it is particularly karmic in flavor that Obama is sparking a backlash in Germany for his arrogant lecturing of Europe on fiscal matters.
Der Speigel, the German newsweekly, surveys German press reaction to the messiah-wannabe's unsolicited advice to Europe, and it ain't pretty. A sample:
Europeans are well aware of the seriousness of their ongoing debt crisis. But they don't, it seems, like to receive lectures from other countries -- especially the United States, which is struggling to deal with its own mountain of debt.
On Tuesday, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble curtly rejected recent American criticism of Europe's approach to solving its debt crisis. "I don't think Europe's problems are America's only problems," said Schäuble, who has becomeincreasingly sharp-tongued as the euro crisis deepens. "It's always easier to give other people advice." (snip)
German observers have reacted angrily to the comments, saying that the US is in no position to criticize other countries, given its own $14-trillion pile of national debt and ongoing wrangling over the country's debt ceiling. Others claim that Obama is just trying to distract attention from the US's problems and point out that the US president was in California to raise funds and voter support ahead of his reelection campaign next year. (snip)
The mass-circulation Bild writes:
"Obama's lecture on the euro crisis ... is overbearing, arrogant and absurd. ... In a nutshell, he is claiming that Europe is to blame for the current financial crisis, which is 'scaring the world.' Excuse me?" (snip)
The center-left Süddeutsche Zeitung writes:
"One needs to remember the context within which Obama's scolding of the Europeans took place. It was an event where the president was raising money for the Democrats and where he wanted to explain to voters why the US economy is much worse off than he and his economic experts had believed until recently. Hence his criticism of the EU was simple electioneering."
The worst aspect of Obama's condescension is that he has no clue about his ignorance. He is not a self-reflective man, capable of learning from his mistakes. In Donald Rumsfeld's perceptive comment, he is running afoul of "unknown unknowns." A leader with less hubris would learn from these missteps. Don't count on Obama to suddenly learn the virtues of humility, though.