Sunday, June 23rd 2013
The President's speech in Berlin has come in for criticism on many levels, but experienced public diplomatists seem to agree that this was a public diplomacy opportunity misspent. The pictures of the President speaking behind large sheets of bulletproof rang particularly off key.
Patricia Lee Sharpe judged that the picture "doesn't make him look like a world leader to be taken seriously." John Brown, a Council member, asked: "Glass walls? Is that the USA message to the world?" These are warning signs for those advancing the upcoming Africa trip.
One of the Council's most senior members and foremost expert on U.S.-German relations, Hans "Tom" N. Tuch, agreed that the visuals were terrible and offered this blog a broader and sobering assessment of the U.S.-German public diplomacy challenge that needed to be met. Tom writes:
"The qualitative changes in attitude of Germans vis-a-vis the United States, as reflected in Alison Smale's reporting (NYTimes 6/19) appear similar to those in earlier times with similar deleterious results in our overall relationship.
"Today, Smale writes that Germans' reception of President Obama's arrival in Berlin was far more restrained than was his euphoric greeting by the German people when he spoke at the Siegesaeule in 2008. The reason for this diminution in enthusiasm include, reportedly, the president's inability to close the prison at Guatanamo Bay, continued killing by American drones and the disclosure of the extensive surveillance program of foreigners. In the 1950s many Germans, rightly or wrongly had considered the U.S. their Camelot. In the mid-1960s a significant number of young Germans turned against America for various reasons: U.S. involvement in Vietnam, the upheavals of the civil rights revolution in America, the assassination of JFK, Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King all contributed to a conviction that America was no longer a model society but the enemy of society. Not that the current disenchantment of the German people with President Obama need to have as negative an impact on U.S. German relations as those that affected the close relationship in the 1960s, but one might note the parallels and be concerned."Read More