Roger Cohen has written an odd op-ed on the missile defense matter. I call it odd because Cohen is unusual among New York Times columnists for not simply swallowing every conventional idea on foreign policy without protest. On occasion, he has even been known to question common assumptions, but not in this case. It is also strange that he gauges the Polish view of the Obama administration by the reaction of some Polish military and political figures rather than searching out what most Poles think. For example, Cohen states:
Poland is now one of the very few places in Europe that prefers former President Bush to Obama.
This is not true. It is not even remotely true. As that Economist article I mentioned the other day told us, Obama has a higher approval rating in Poland than Bush did last year. As I noted Saturday, almost half of Poland welcomed Obama’s decision to scrap the proposed missile defense program. Less than a third opposed the decision. No doubt the 31% that had a negative reaction looks back at the Bush years more fondly, but it is simply untrue that Poland as a whole prefers Bush to Obama. It’s as if a foreign columnist based his analysis of American public opinion regarding the Iraq war in 2006 on what top officials at the Pentagon were saying. When less than a third of the population opposed Obama’s decision and less than half of Poland viewed Bush favorably, it is ridiculous to speak as if most Poles loathe Obama or suddenly long for his predecessor. Cohen makes this mistake because he confuses a certain segment of Polish elite reaction for the views of all Poland. He accuses Obama of snubbing Poland, but most Poles do not feel slighted.