In a continuation of the new trend in US foreign policy “protocol”, US President Barack Obama, greeted Japan’s Emperor Akihito with a full Obama bow down from the waist, when they met in Tokyo on November 13, 2009.
This bow refueled the controversy in the circles of US international diplomacy both in the USA and abroad over the appropriateness and the necessity of that bow from the US President to the Japanese Emperor.
The reactions to that bow ranged from utter outrage, considering it to be undignified for the US President to bow to the head of any State; some commentators even went as for as considering it to be insulting to Americans and injurious to US international status.
On the other end of the spectrum, some commentators considered this bow to to be a welcomed sign of a new era of American graciousness, modesty and reaching out to allies with grace.
President Obama started the “bow” as a new trend in US international diplomacy when he greeted King Abd Allah of Saudi Arabia with a similar full Obama bow down from the waist when they met on April 9, 2009. This first bow started the controversy and was received with more outrage in many US circles than the second bow.
It was noted that when President Obama met other Monarchs, such as UK Queen Elizabeth, there was no such bow, which raises some questions of whether the bow was only appropriate for a King and an Emperor but not for a Queen, and why the King of Saudi Arabia and not the other kings that President Obama met.
Granted that the issue here is just a formality and a ceremonial gesture, but bearing in mind the US global standing and the role of the new US President in today’s world affairs, such formalities and gestures could be revealing.
M. Alaadin A. Morsy
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