Obama: from grand tour to grand strategy?

by | Apr 7, 2009

President Obama’s grand tour of Europe may rank as one of the most remarkable diplomatic forays since Nixon’s trip to China, but David Sanger of the New York Times points out the visit’s limits:

So, 77 days into his presidency, is there an emerging Obama Grand Strategy?

Not yet — but some outlines are emerging that may hint of what lies ahead.

From the Thames to the Bosporus, and at several landmarks in between, Mr. Obama spoke softly without even hinting that he might ever reach for the big stick. Barely mentioning his predecessor, he emphasized one of their main differences: that the United States planned not only to give greater authority to international institutions that George Bush often shunned, but also to embrace the creation of some new ones. Not surprisingly, these were the applause lines of his journey across the continent.

But with the notable exception of his approach to nuclear disarmament and countering proliferation — where radical shifts appear to be under way — what Mr. Obama described in public veered more toward a restoration of the old order than a vast strategic realignment. “There will be a moment for that,” one of Mr. Obama’s senior advisers said in London, Mr. Obama’s first stop. “This trip was more about reattaching all the cars on the train, and convincing them other leaders that we’re no longer headed for derailment.”

In other words, Europe may be swooning for Mr Obama, and Mr Obama seems to quite like Europe, but don’t assume he’s going to concentrate on the Old West from here on.


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    <strong><a href="http://www.globaldashboard.org/author/richard-gowan/">Richard Gowan</a></strong> coordinates the International Security Institutions program at the <a href="http://www.cic.nyu.edu">Center on International Cooperation</a>, New York University. He is also the UN Policy Fellow at the <a href="http://www.ecfr.eu">European Council on Foreign Relations</a> and an associate of the <a href="http://www.fpc.org.uk">Foreign Policy Center</a> (London).

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