World Citizen: Obama Must Parlay Soft Power Gains into Real Results

World Citizen: Obama Must Parlay Soft Power Gains into Real Results

Anyone who hoped President Barack Obama would return to Washington with a suitcase full of gifts from his mostly European tour will find the souvenirs largely disappointing. While Obama managed to bring back some important achievements, most of them came in the form of warm feelings. Those are hard to gift-wrap.

Following his maiden overseas voyage as U.S. president, Obama arrived home to find the same urgent crises he had left behind, compounded by new foreign policy challenges that had arisen during his absence. Making matters worse, the trip itself, while undeniable fruitful, produced few tangible results.

When viewed through a wide lens, the tour looks like a success. America's ambassador-in-chief received a hero's welcome everywhere he went, even if his most celebrated attribute remains simply not being George W. Bush. Becoming the object of adoring throngs and fawning heads of state may seem meaningless fluff to some, but in today's world, it falls squarely in the category of "soft power." And soft power is, after all, real power. Obama has become America's soft power H-bomb. The new president -- who came to office, in many respects, as the Un-Bush -- is hard at work reshaping the country's standing, battered during the tenure of his predecessor.

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