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Obama, US Politics, and Transatlantic Relations

Change or Continuity?

Series:

Giles Scott-Smith

In November 2008 Barack Obama was elected as President of the United States after a campaign that promised change and renewal. Many in the United States – and Europe – hoped for a new beginning. But what has been achieved?
The nineteen essays in this book provide a timely assessment of the ‘Obama Effect’ in transatlantic relations during the first years of his administration. Ranging from Obama’s importance within US domestic politics to his impact on specific policy areas (national security, international law, the environment) and regions (Middle East, South Asia), the book combines perspectives from the United States and across the European continent to present a unique multi-layered assessment of Obama’s political influence and the current state of play within US-European relations.

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PART IV. VIEWS FROM WESTERN EUROPE

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PART IV VIEWS FROM WESTERN EUROPE 185 The End of a Special Relationship Why There Was No “Obama Effect” in Dutch Afghanistan Policy, 2009-2010 Ruud VAN DIJK University of Amsterdam Assessing the state of transatlantic relations one year into the presi- dency of Barack Obama, former US Ambassador to NATO, Kurt Volker, wrote that “one of the major effects of the Obama presidency is that by taking the Bush Administration out of the equation, some uncomfortable truths have been exposed”.1 The Dutch decision a few months earlier to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan in spite of the Obama administration’s new strategy is a case in point.2 Despite the President’s popularity among the Dutch, and notwithstanding repeated official and informal American appeals, the government in The Hague proved incapable of agreeing on an extension of the Dutch mission in the province of Uruzgan beyond its projected end-date of 1 August 2010. A popular, new American President in the end proved to be no match for long-standing political divisions over the so-called War on Terror as a whole and the participation in the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in particular, lukewarm public support for both, and widespread questioning of the value of the transatlantic alliance.3 1 “The ‘Obama Effect’ Has Been to Lay Bare Deep Transatlantic Tensions”, Europe’s World, Spring 2010, (accessed 24 August 2011). 2 Remarks by the President in Address to the Nation on the Way Forward in Afghanistan and Pakistan, 1 December 2009, (accessed 12 April 2011). 3...

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