Remember Barack Obama’s promise early in his presidency to repair the U.S.’s reputation abroad? Remember how he reneged on that vow — that by a year into his first term, America’s oldest and dearest allies were feeling uniformly slighted? A reminder can be found in a March 2010 Washington Post column by Robert Kagan, a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace:
The president who ran against ‘unilateralism’ in the 2008 campaign has worse relations overall with American allies than George W. Bush did in his second term.
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Israelis shouldn’t feel that they have been singled out. In Britain, people are talking about the end of the ‘special relationship’ with America and worrying that Obama has no great regard for the British, despite their ongoing sacrifices in Afghanistan. In France, President Nicolas Sarkozy has openly criticized Obama for months (and is finally being rewarded with a private dinner, presumably to mend fences). In Eastern and Central Europe, there has been fear since the administration canceled long-planned missile defense installations in Poland and the Czech Republic that the United States may no longer be a reliable guarantor of security. Among top E.U. officials there is consternation that neither the president nor even his Cabinet seems to have time for the European Union’s new president, Herman Van Rompuy, who, while less than scintillating, is nevertheless the chosen representative of the post-Lisbon Treaty continent. Europeans in general, while still fond of Obama, have concluded that he is not so fond of them….
But Obama’s failure as a diplomat on the world stage was not limited to his own self-importance or aloofness. It was also evident in his betrayal of the first rule of espionage. Never let them see you coming.
A report from Agence France Presse suggests the U.S. president not only spied on foreign heads of state, but lied this past week when asked whether he knew about the operation. According to the article:
Obama was personally informed of mobile phone tapping against German Chancellor Angela Merkel, which may have begun as early as 2002, German media reported Sunday as a damaging espionage scandal widened.
Bild am Sonntag newspaper quoted US intelligence sources as saying that National Security Agency chief Keith Alexander had briefed Obama on the operation against Merkel in 2010.
‘Obama did not halt the operation but rather let it continue,’ the newspaper quoted a high-ranking NSA official as saying.
News weekly Der Spiegel reported that leaked NSA documents showed that Merkel’s phone had appeared on a list of spying targets since 2002, and was still under surveillance shortly before Obama visited Berlin in June.
European leaders are now demanding a new deal with Washington on intelligence gathering that would maintain an essential alliance while keeping the fight against terrorism on track. The suggestion is ludicrous for several reasons. First, spying on friendly nations is as old as Sahara. No treaty is going to impede future clandestine operations out of and into Washington and other world capitals. What makes the current situation scandalous is the administration’s bungling of its espionage efforts and Obama’s getting caught lying about them. Second, the revelation adds to the unrest here at home about widespread NSA snooping, the irony of which is underscored by Obama’s now-laughable claim to running the most transparent administration in history.
As for Obama’s personal standing in the world, his street cred may be beyond repair. A poll conducted for Bild am Sonntag found that 76% of Germans believe Obama should apologize for the alleged spying on Merkel, and 60% said the scandal had damaged or badly damaged German-U.S. ties.
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