Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Obama's Poland Jaunt: Low Marks Overall

See the latest op-ed published by yours truly at on US President Barack Obama's recent trip to Europe and specifically his jaunt in Poland. 

Obama started strong just by virtue of being in Europe, and stopping in Poland helped provide a badly needed shot in the arm for US public diplomacy and strategic relations in the former Communist bloc. 

But he flailed on Israel -- a poignant subject for Poland, the home of Auschwitz, in which masses of Jews perished at the hands of the Nazis -- offering a dubious "I will always be there for Israel" in response to a question from a concerned Polish Jew. Obama's statement would have been more convincing if he hadn't just been snubbed big-time during Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's visit to Washington, who called Obama's plan to return to Israel's 1967 borders "indefensible."

Nor did Obama do much better on the military dossier. He highlighted plans to house a squadron of US fighter jets in Poland in 2013, which did generate some positive echo in the national and regional press. Yet the US squadron's presence in the country would have been more significant had these same arrangements not been already scheduled, well in advance of the President's trip.

For these reasons and more, Obama's European tour was more style than substance.