Globalist Perspective

Obama in Berlin and a Global Transatlantic Agenda

How does Barack Obama's visit to Europe frame the transatlantic agenda?

Takeaways


  • Obama's Berlin visit shows Americans his determination to engage with the international system, with friends as well as with enemies.
  • Surprising as it may seem, Americans welcome Europe taking more military responsibilities through deployments in the Balkans and in Afghanistan.
  • If our common history has taught us anything, it is that we meet our mutual challenges best when we meet them together.
  • Whether McCain or Obama, the next American president will face immediately the question of integrating American leadership back into global affairs. And they both agree on that goal.
  • Americans are now pulled in two directions, with visions of America isolated from entangling alliances but engaged in an integrated world of globalization.

Obama’s speech in Berlin — an appropriate city in which to celebrate the U.S. commitment to Germany and to Europe — is addressed to a global audience, not just to Europeans and Americans.

It is especially appropriate to speak from Berlin. After all, the modern transatlantic relationship is based on more than a half century of steadfast partnership that endured and won crises together — the Berlin Airlift, NATO, the Berlin Wall.

His message is that today’s challenges demand Europe and the United States continue this steadfast partnership to face down global challenges.

Whether McCain or Obama, the next American president will face immediately the question of integrating American leadership back into global affairs. And they both agree on that goal.

For Obama, what better place than Berlin to show that he knows we must use all elements of American power to defend our security and advance our interests — and that he has clear plans to do so.

Americans are looking for the most important quality in the Oval Office, and that is judgment. Senator Obama will offer Berliners and the world the opportunity to hear him explain how he has consistently demonstrated exceptional judgment on matters of foreign policy — but he has to convince Americans of the same.

Obama knows that after Iraq, Americans will be tempted to turn inward. Some 80% of Americans believe the country is on the wrong track, but the new track is not yet clear.

True, the American unipolar moment has passed, and the Bush Administration National Security Strategy that emphasized a unilateral foreign policy, based on military strength, has lacked success.

Americans are now pulled in two directions, with competing visions a United States isolated from entangling alliances — and one engaged in an integrated world of globalization.

Obama’s Berlin visit underlines to Americans his determination to engage with the international system, with friends as well as with enemies. McCain also advocates working with our allies. If either of them will set a “new course” for the next 20 years, it will largely be with the return of close relations with our friends and allies.

The failed ideas of unilateralism and universality will be replaced. An opportunity exists for this generation of Americans to renew and integrate American leadership in the world.

The system is as straightforward as it is elegant. The world cannot meet the challenges we face without the United States — and the United States cannot meet them without our friends and allies in the world. Our destinies are intertwined, and we know we must forge a common approach to global challenges.

The transatlantic partnership is the indispensable ingredient in securing peace and prosperity in Europe. Surprising as it may seem, Americans welcome Europe taking more military responsibilities through deployments in the Balkans and in Afghanistan.

We believe that a stronger Europe need not become a counterweight to the United States. We know that terrorism borne of Islamic radicalism cannot be defeated by nations acting alone.

In a nutshell, integrating European and American soft and hard power means to take America’s global power, military strength and market economy, combine them with European democracy and its social market economies — and then frame these assets in our common commitment to the rule of law and human rights globally.

If we do that, we will have the strongest countervailing power to the geopolitical challenges facing us.

With that new, globally based transatlantic relationship, we can face historic tasks on the global agenda. Conflicts rage on with no end in sight, and not only in the Middle East. The rise of China, Russia and India presents many opportunities — but also some problems.

In the plethora of truly global issues, such as securing energy, confronting climate change and halting the spread of nuclear weapons, no one nation — no matter how strong — can conceivably deal with these issues alone. It is time for American and European pre-emptive diplomatic leadership to promote a global transatlantic agenda to meet these challenges.

Germany is central to this ambition. Germany has shown that it can debate and agree on use of force when necessary to defeat terrorism. It has shown that it can lead economic development and nation-building efforts through its success in Afghanistan’s Northern provinces.

This is the Germany, one that has accepted a more global role, one that Americans and NATO have come to expect from a democratically strong and militarily responsible partner.

The future of transatlantic relations is not predetermined — we will shape a new global transatlantic agenda or we will lose the strength to meet the global geographic challenges to our security and prosperity.

After Barack Obama’s speech in Berlin, will Americans and Europeans both hear the call that it is time for us all to set this global transatlantic agenda and to reinvent the transatlantic relationship? If our common history has taught us anything, it is that we meet our mutual challenges best when we meet them together.

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

About J.D. Bindenagel

J.D. Bindenagel is a former U.S. Ambassador and currently the Henry Kissinger Professor for Governance and International Security, University of Bonn. [Germany]

Responses to “Obama in Berlin and a Global Transatlantic Agenda”

If you would like to comment, please visit our Facebook page.