OFF THE GRID

It’s Not Obama’s World

Jun 29, 10 | 7:49 AM   byMichael Wolff
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The world seems to be running away from the president.

Pakistan, our ally (with a little critical interpretation), is pushing to undermine or sideline or ignore our presence and interests in Afghanistan by negotiating a separate peace among the Afghan government, various Taliban forces, and itself—which would make our mission there extremely odd (we would be fighting our allies) and likely untenable.

Europe has bolted from the president (and Paul Krugman) in its determination to pay down debt rather than continue to invest in the still-fragile recovery, forcing the US to actually endorse (or stand out in the cold) the European plan to cut debt loads in half by 2013—a move the president’s intellectual ally, Krugman, says means a long depression.

How did the president, this man of dialogue, willing to negotiate with any and all, opposed to going it alone, find himself pretty much without international friends and supporters on two of the most critical efforts of his presidency?

It’s actually reasonable to assume this is even more serious than it seems because a big point about having allies is that they fudge differences for each other so that, even in times of high stress and profoundly divergent opinion, everybody can still avoid public humiliation and get a positive press release.

Seems like we’re very close to humiliation.

Afghanistan is not only resistant—as most people with a background in the region said it would be—to everything we do, but we appear to be so irrelevant and incompetent that our enemies have started to talk to our allies, who have stopped talking to us. The old adage of declaring victory and going home is going to be turned on its ear when everybody else declares victory and kicks us out.

The president intended to lead the global economy out of deep recession, but that isn’t how it’s working out at all. Europe has a vast and stubbornly different idea than ours (in addition to much larger debt loads) which has substantially shifted the balance of power. Instead of us being able to pull them out of the dumps, they turn out, in their efforts to save themselves, more likely to pull us down.

Is this an Obama thing? Is this about management and expertise—or lack there of? Or temperament? He’s just not leader enough to impose himself.

Or is this the world view we voted for? No more kick-ass from the White House. Neither leader nor bully. This is, after all, what many of us wanted: a more modest America. Indeed, the world turns and we’re tumbling along.

More of Newser founder Michael Wolff's articles and commentary can be found at VanityFair.com, where he writes a regular column. He can be emailed at michael@newser.com. You can also follow him on Twitter: @MichaelWolffNYC.
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