Europe wants a strong US lead – as long as it's in the 'right' direction.
It's time to revise the revisionist European view of President Barack Obama.
Conventional wisdom first had it – as attested by the 200,000 ecstatic Germans who cheered on the presidential candidate in Berlin last summer – that the charmed Mr. Obama could do no wrong.
Yet well before their favorite candidate got elected, European pundits changed their minds.
Obama would be really hard to deal with, many agreed, because he would be so nice. European governments might say no when a confrontational George W. Bush leaned on them to send a few thousand more troops to Afghanistan. They could hardly refuse, however, when Obama earnestly solicited ideas from his transatlantic partners – and then smiled and invited them to send those thousands of soldiers to the Hindu Kush to implement their own ideas.
Now, a month after the inauguration, European policymakers who have been dealing with the new American team are arguably closer to the first than to the second view.
No, they don't trust Obama to be infallible any more than they trust themselves to be infallible. But by all indications, they are persuaded that their recommendations are taken seriously in the White House. And they are convinced that the joint wisdom of the transatlantic crowd will lead to rather better policies in the crises of 2009 than would solo decisions by what is still the world's only superpower.