Commentary Magazine


Contentions

How to Win Friends and Influence Nothing

Can we finally acknowledge the inutility of Barack Obama’s “international appeal”?

AFTER repeated rebuffs, America is preparing to abandon its insistence that Nato allies commit more combat troops to Afghanistan, despite fears the Taliban are gaining strength.

[...]

President Barack Obama’s administration announced last week that it was sending an extra 17,000 troops to join 32,000 already in Afghanistan, but European countries have yet to pitch in more than a few hundred.

So there’s the much anticipated result of America being “liked” again. The man who promised to restore the U.S.’s image in the world has met with “repeated rebuffs” from our NATO allies and is hanging it up. (Just wait until he tries to cash in his good-guy chips in the Muslim world.)  This marks Obama’s second failure to elicit new international help: European countries have dashed all administration hopes of taking in Guantanamo detainees.

It was always the height of silliness to suppose that leaders would readily send their countries’ citizens to fight alongside Americans if only America would ask more nicely. Other countries will fight with us when they believe our cause is their own, and when it comes to the War on Terror, there was never much hope of convincing an increasingly Muslim Europe to publicly join the U.S. in fighting jihadists.

Other Western countries desperately want America to get the job done; they just don’t want to risk the domestic upheaval that would come should they join in the fight. The die was cast in March of 2004 when Spain — a country whose leadership could not have had a more cordial relationship with George W. Bush — did an about-face and pulled out of the Iraq War after al Qaeda blew up commuter trains in Madrid.

One of George W. Bush’s biggest failings was that he let his critics convince Americans that European ambivalence was a response to American arrogance. That hobbled our effort further by draining domestic support for the War on Terror. That Bush was succeeded by a president who’s building his foreign policy around this ahistorical delusion is frightening.