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Obama the strategician

Justin Webb | 15:41 UK time, Saturday, 4 April 2009

Having been so sniffy about the gifts I am forced to eat my words. The French excel themselves with the provision of free food - to such an extent that my celebrated and cerebral colleague Ed Luce (read his thoughts here )seriously toys with the idea of making himself vomit back the White House's inferior lunch (chilli con carne, since you ask) in order to come and enjoy the taxpayer-funded version round the corner. The unluckiest man in Strasbourg is my good friend Robert Moore of ITV News: anarchists have burned down his hotel, or the bit of it where he was staying. Further proof that staying inside the White House bubble is always the safest option.

One matter of substance: to understand Obama you must study strategy. For tactics he cares nothing. Whether a few more continental gendarmes with feathers in their caps go to Afghanistan or don't go is not a matter he will care about. What he wants at this summit is to lay the ground for Europe to commit over time and as the circumstances become propitious, with elections over etc. He will do his best to help with that brutal reminder - imagine the upset it would have caused if it had come from George Bush - that the terrorists in Afghanistan threaten Europe more than they do America. But he will wait as well. Actually that is what diplomacy is. It is not one-to-one friendship or one-to-one falling out. It is a process of achieving long-term goals through persuasion and pressure. So this summit will not fail or succeed on the numbers. As with impact of the French Revolution, it is way to early to judge whether it has been successful.


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