One year after his election as president, Barack Obama has reached out to America's enemies and critics, improving the popular standing of the United States in many countries. Ironically, though, relations between Obama and the leaders of countries closely allied to the U.S. have turned rather frosty, particularly in Europe. If the first foreign policy chapter of the Obama presidency was marked by engagement with America's foes, the next chapter may well require improving ties with its friends.
Tension between Obama and friendly world leaders is particularly striking, because the "No Drama Obama" White House tries to avoid what it considers unseemly displays of emotion. And yet, despite the best efforts of the president's media management professionals to conceal the chill, the signs of tension have come to light.
The most visible trouble emerged in what is arguably America's closest friendship, the proverbial "Special Relationship" with the United Kingdom. The signs of impending strife surfaced only weeks after the election. In a puzzling move, the new White House team returned to the British a bust of Winston Churchill that had stood in the Oval office during the George W. Bush administration. British Prime Minister Tony Blair had loaned the statue to the White House after the Sept. 11 attacks.