After his surprise visit to Baghdad, Barack Obama is heading home to rising approval ratings after a week of showing all the symbolic talents he brings to the White House with both rhetoric and body language.
On the weekend in Istanbul, he affirmed US-Muslim relations and wowed young Turks in a town hall but, to balance any adverse reaction by hardliners back home, stopped off in Iraq to demonstrate his commitment there and award medals to the troops.
Skeptics may view all this and Obama’s week-long performance in Europe as “too clever by half,” but the mission of repairing America’s reputation in the world does not allow for much subtlety.
“From the Thames to the Bosporus, and at several landmarks in between,” according to a New York Times analysis, “Mr. Obama spoke softly without even hinting that he might ever reach for the big stick. Barely mentioning his predecessor, he emphasized one of their main differences: that the United States planned not only to give greater authority to international institutions that George Bush often shunned, but also to embrace the creation of some new ones…
“But with the notable exception of his approach to nuclear disarmament and countering proliferation–where radical shifts appear to be under way–what Mr. Obama described in public veered more toward a restoration of the old order than a vast strategic realignment. ‘There will be a moment for that,’ one of Mr. Obama’s senior advisers said…’This trip was more about reattaching all the cars on the train, and convincing them other leaders that we’re no longer headed for derailment.’”