The fact that there is no real news after President Obama’s trip through Europe, Turkey and Iraq is itself worthy of discussion. After former President Bush’s speeches, there always seemed to be immediate media fallout, followed by a period of White House containment and rephrasing. When President Bush traveled abroad, there always seemed to be a number of angry protesters greeting him, with a certain world culture of disapproval toward the United States.
In stark contrast to Bush’s poor reception abroad, President Obama was greeted, in the majority of circumstances, with rock star status. After his speeches, there was no debate over what President Obama might have intended by what he said, nor was there talk about the possible negative reception of the President’s “tough talk” in Europe.
Instead, President Obama’s speeches were inclusive and conciliatory. In London, he said, “Ultimately, the challenges of the 21st century can’t be met without collective action. Agreement will almost never be easy, and results won’t always come quickly. But I am committed to respecting different points of view, and to forging a consensus instead of dictating our terms.” In Turkey, he talked about the fact that the United States “is not and never will be at war with Islam,” and that America wishes to have an open dialogue with Muslim countries.
On Sunday morning, North Korea launched a missile in direct violation of a United Nations resolution banning the country from performing missile ballistics tests. President Obama took this opportunity while he was in Prague to talk about his hope for a future world free of nuclear weapons.
He said, “Some argue that the spread of (nuclear) weapons cannot be stopped, cannot be checked — that we are destined to live in a world where more nations and more people possess the ultimate tools of destruction. Such fatalism is a deadly adversary, for if we believe that the spread of nuclear weapons is inevitable, then in some way we are admitting to ourselves that the use of nuclear weapons is inevitable.”
I am an optimistic person, especially when it comes to the power of politics and human determination to solve world problems. However, my optimism stops at the elimination of nuclear weapons in the world. I feel that, contrary to President Obama’s statement, I can be strongly against the use of nuclear weapons, but remain realistic about the proliferation of nuclear weapons.
Why? Because you can’t “un-know” anything. Once a country obtains the knowledge of how to enrich uranium and develop a nuclear weapon, that knowledge — even if untapped — will always be on the sidelines whenever a circumstance arises. If the world collectively decided to destroy all nuclear capability in every country, there would be even greater possibility that a country like Iran or North Korea would use a nuclear weapon because they would have no fear of annihilation.
It’s safe for me to say this because I’ll never be a Miss America contestant: Achieving world peace is impossible.
Other than this one point of disagreement, I was proud of President Obama’s work to restore the world’s perception of the United States, and I am thankful that he is interested in reaching out to the world. For the first time in many years, the United States is emerging as a true world leader. Over the past week, President Obama set an example of leadership that is open to ideas, as opposed to browbeating other nations into submitting to our policies.
Did the president gain foreign troop commitment to Afghanistan and persuade our allies to pour money into their economies — the two goals he had reportedly hoped to achieve? No, but he made a huge leap in improving our relationship with the world and, perhaps most importantly, improving the Islamic world’s perception of America.
Stephanie England is an English junior and a Mustang Daily political columnist.