At the heart of President Obama's approach to foreign policy has been a promise to end the "unilateral" strategies of his predecessor and heal bruised relations with America's allies.
But as Obama makes his presidential debut on the diplomatic stage at the Group of 20 summit in London this week, he faces leaders from both Europe and Asia who have rejected some of his most important proposals for rescuing the global economy, including his call for more stimulus spending.Despite the diplomatic niceties, that means Obama's vision of himself as a conciliator will face challenges from the start.
In many ways, Obama is the president that world leaders have been saying they wanted. He has reversed some of President George W. Bush's most controversial policies, ordering the shutdown of the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba and ending aggressive interrogation of terrorism suspects.
And Obama has made it clear that he supports a much more multilateral approach to world problems than Bush, breaking with his predecessor's notion of "a coalition of the willing," which in practice often meant a coalition of those who followed the U.S. lead with a minimum of criticism."The president and America are going to listen in London, as well as to lead," White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said. "Many of the things that we've done over the past couple of weeks . . . demonstrate that America is leading by example. We've taken key steps to restore economic growth in this country, to save and create jobs and to put money back in people's pockets."
Across Europe, Obama's poll numbers are as high or higher than his substantial approval ratings at home. But neither popularity nor a more conciliatory approach has prevented some foreign leaders from brushing off Obama's proposals for recovery.
German and French leaders have shunted aside the president's call for increased government spending to stimulate their economies. The Czech Republic's prime minister even characterized the U.S. proposal as charting "the road to hell."