Now that the Nuclear Security Summit is successfully over and DC can get back to normal again, all attention has turned to the assessments of the outcomes of this event. The reflections seems to be positive so far, and although most of the "diplomatic" dances and premeditated announcements were by no means a surprise, it is noteworthy that Obama's image - together with that of the United States - got a major boost as a result.
Yes, the actual outcome might not have proved to be really substantial (i.e. in terms of agreements reached during the summit, and not pre-planned or pre-staged ones), except for, perhaps, the communique that promises stronger action against "non-state actors" seeking nukes for "malicious purposes". And yet, having convened such an "unprecedented" gathering of 47 leaders from around the world, Obama clearly showed his commitment to multilateralism and the recognition of the need for cooperation (which comes as a stark contrast to the approach of his predecessor).
In a post this January, I was rather skeptical about Obama's public diplomacy achievements over his first year in office. There was quite a lot of disappointment in the air then, and - still - confusion over his Nobel Prize. And yet, over the past few months, he seems to have been proving himself to the world.
It is really interesting to look back at the reasons cited for his Nobel Peace Prize: "...for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples. The Committee has attached special importance to Obama's vision of and work for a world free from nuclear weapons." Seems like the success in this one summit hit both marks (following the signing of the new START Treaty in Prague last week, of course)!
And yet, this is just the beginning. Not only does Obama already face a fierce battle at home on many of his "oh-so-brilliant" foreign policy initiatives, but he also has to make sure to follow up on some of his other promises: namely, to close Guantanamo, really improve the relations with the Muslim world (yes, the touchy Israeli issue needs to be dealt with), and make substantial progress on Climate Change.
It may be a tough battle, but the returns are more than just worth it. In the increasingly "flat" world, going it alone is not only difficult, but also counter-productive. And certainly, the best image the U.S. can put out there is that of a truly engaged and committed President, who keeps his promises, and genuinely tries, at least, to achieve them. Another major step forward!
Just don't back down, Mr. Obama. Keep walking, please.