President Obama Says America Has Shown 'Arrogance'
"America is changing, but it cannot be America alone that changes."
STRASBOURG, France, April 3, 2009 -- At a town hall meeting before a mix of French and German citizens, President Obama said he came to Europe to "renew partnerships" and repair relations between the United States and its allies that had been damaged because of the Iraq War.
"We must be honest with ourselves," the president said. "In recent years, we've allowed our alliance to drift."
Obama said the United States was partly to blame because "there have been times where America's shown arrogance and been dismissive, even derisive" toward Europe. But he said Europe had to accept responsibility and make changes too.
"In Europe, there is an anti-Americanism that is at once casual but can also be insidious. Instead of recognizing the good that America so often does in the world, there have been times where Europeans chose to blame America for much of what's bad," Obama said.
Both of these attitudes "do not represent the truth," Obama continued. "America is changing, but it cannot be America alone that changes."
A day after working with his fellow G-20 leaders to reach an agreement on a strategy for dealing with the global recession, Obama arrived in France today for a NATO summit to seek help in battling Islamic militants in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
The war in Afghanistan and the situation in Pakistan will be at the top of the president's agenda over the next few days when he sits down with NATO allies at a summit jointly hosted by France and Germany, in the Rhine River cities of Strasbourg, France, and Kehl, Germany.
At the town hall meeting, Obama took a wide range of questions from the audience, who wanted to know what support he expects from European countries in the fight against global terrorism, if there are any updates about the first family's dog and whether he regrets running for president.
Obama warned that the threat from al Qaeda still exists.
"I think that it is important for Europe to understand that even though I'm now president and George Bush is no longer president, al Qaeda is still a threat and that we cannot pretend somehow that because Barack Hussein Obama got elected as president suddenly everything's going to be OK," he said.
Obama said all nations have a role to play in the fight against al Qaeda and preventing future attacks. He said that after NATO's initial engagement in Afghanistan, the war in Iraq "sidetracked" the U.S. and its allies
"We have not fully recovered that initial insight, that we have a mutual interest in ensuring that organizations like al Qaeda cannot operate," he said.