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25 juil. 2007

Obama's European tour

Barack Obama delivered a much-awaited speech before the Column of Victory in berlin yesterday - nia wise decision, the German Chancellor dismissed the idea to have the speech given under the Brandeburg Gate, which is too high a symbol where only Presidents have addressed the Berlin people, JFK and Ronald Reagan.

The European press did not help Obama when it reminded the opinion of the youthful JFK's "Ich bin ein Berliner" of all memories, because that raised expectations tremendously in a country whose opinion is massively in favour of Obama.

Obama's visit in Germany was disappointing and that was to be expected. The situation is no way as dramatic as it was in 1961 when the berlin Wall was being built by the Soviets and the city divided, and so Obama could have hardly matched the emotion despite its widely recognized eloquence - which he proved time and again. As it turned out, his speech did not read such golden line as JFK's or Reagan's "Mr Gorbachev tear down this wall" that still resonates in German ears.

Obama's speech was eloquent nonetheless, evoking freedom and the great history of Euro-American relations over the past sixty years. There was a Reaganian accent to it, of optimism, confidence, and faith in freedom. It was, in short, an plainly American speech. The second part was somewhat a full bag of good intentions with a tag on it reading Obama the juvenile, however.

And indeed the specifics were short. Vagueness is acceptable, but then a catch-phrase must make for it. Or else a bold proposal. None of that was in for the Euros.

As a matter of fact, Obama is campaigning for US President and only Americans will decide who succeeds "W" in January. So Obama could not alienate some US voters by looking too Europhile or too multilateralist when it is America that is doing the job in Iraq and in Afhanistan for the most part. In the end, some Americans may think that Obama is too different after all and that he should seek making friends at home rather than hanging with Old Europeans.

Similarly, calls for more European efforts in the war on terror would not have gone down very well, and so the future Democratic candidate remained somewhat elliptic on that. Giving rise to fierce reactions from Euros unhappy about calls for more defnse spending and more troops would have clouded Obama's reputation-in the making on foreign affairs.

All in all, the mission is accomplished. Obama's profile was raised by his tour in the Middle East and Europe, but the German speech will not be remembered for long.

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