Friday, July 25, 2008

Hope, Global Edition

I think that Barack Obama's speech in Berlin yesterday was a mark of how much things have changed for the worse in the eight years since George W. Bush was elected president. It was a fine speech, though I don't think it was a knockout. What made it remarkable for me was how unremarkable it would have been about a decade ago.

There was a time, not too distant in the past, where if a president had gone to Europe and essentially said, "We're allies and we're going to work together on common problems," everyone would have said, "Well, duh!" But no more. After eight years of unilateral treaty withdrawals and the occasional unilateral, "preventative" war it's an applause line to say that we're going to work with our allies. This is actually what things have come to.

Obama made the point that the problems in New York aren't confined to New York and the problems in Berlin aren't confined to Berlin. He had a great line that problems aren't confined within a country's borders anymore. Again, a decade ago the idea that the global community faced certain shared threats and challenges wasn't exactly news. It certainly wouldn't have been news if a presidential candidate had said that we should work with our allies to addrss those threats and challenges. So what changed? Bush happened.

On the whole, Obama gave a solid speech that likely will play well in Europe (and hopefully here). What he didn't do was offer any particularly new ideas. The ideas just seemed new because for the last eight years the administration has tried to ignore the rest of the world. Obama is promising to change that. No wonder the rest of the world likes him.

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