Foreign Policy Blogs

Yes, The New Yorker

Although I disagree with The New Yorker's recent taste in cover art, I do think Hendrick Hertzberg is one of America's best political commentators. Until we have some reliable polls on how Americans feel about Obama's recent foreign travel, Hertzberg has the next best thing: how Americans ought to feel:

There has been much discussion of whether it will prove politically advantageous for Obama to have addressed a mile-long crowd of two hundred thousand happy Berliners in the golden early-evening sunlight. Berliners are Germans, and Germans are foreigners, and since well before John Kerry was demonized for knowing how to speak French it has been axiomatic that heartland Americans don't like foreigners piping up about our elections, however much brainland Americans may disagree. Obama gained nothing in the polls during his nearly flawless, arguably triumphant grand tour. Still, after seven years during which, even among our closest allies, contempt for Bush bled into resentment of the country that returned him to office, one would have to be an awful grouch not to be gratified by the sight of a sea of delighted Europeans waving American flags instead of burning them and cheering an American politician instead of demonstrating against one.

Obama may yet gain some advantage in the U.S. from being the toast of Berlin. He hasn't had much opportunity yet to tell Americans about his travels. He may find it useful to explain to voters what he saw and heard, and the advantages to Americans of having more of the world on our side. Barring other improvements, we should at least remember that there are some 6 million Americans residing outside the United States. In the past, these Americans tended not to vote, but even if only half of them wind up registering and voting this year, the impact would be significant. My hunch is that Obama's message was not lost on them.



Mark Dillen

Mark Dillen heads Dillen Associates LLC, an international public affairs consultancy based in San Francisco and Croatia. A former Senior Foreign Service Officer with the US State Department, Mark managed political, media and cultural relations for US embassies in Rome, Berlin, Moscow, Sofia and Belgrade, then moved to the private sector. He has degrees from Columbia and Michigan and was a Diplomat-in-Residence at the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies at Johns Hopkins. Mark has also worked for USAID as a media and political advisor and twice served as election observer and organizer for OSCE in Eastern Europe.

Areas of Focus:
US Government; Europe; Diplomacy