Obama's Naive Berlin Speech

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    Obama's Naive Berlin Speech


    Obama's Naive Berlin Speech
    Dennis Prager
    Tuesday, July 29, 2008

    To better understand Sen. Barack Obama, his speech before 200,000 Germans in Berlin is one good place to start. As we shall see, however, it does not leave one secure as to the senator's understanding of history, of America's role in the world, and what to do about evil, among other important issues.

    Obama: "At the height of the Cold War, my father decided, like so many others in the forgotten corners of the world, that his yearning -- his dream -- required the freedom and opportunity promised by the West."

    Promised by the West? Or promised by America? It wasn't "the West" that Obama's father went to; it was America. During the Cold War, it wasn't "the West" that led the fight to preserve Western freedom; it was America. Obama concedes this point in his next sentence: "And so he wrote letter after letter to universities all across America until somebody, somewhere answered his prayer for a better life."

    Obama's speech was a paean to the West and especially to Germany in fighting for freedom during the Cold War. Throughout his speech he equated the German contribution to defeating Communism with that of America

    Obama: "And you know that the only reason we stand here tonight is because men and women from both of our nations came together to work, and struggle, and sacrifice for that better life."

    It is understandable and even expected that an American speaking in Germany will praise Germans. But even so, it is quite an exaggeration to state that the "only reason" he and they are standing in a free Berlin is because men and women from both countries sacrificed for that better life. Americans sacrificed far more than Germans. The sad truth is that, with some heroic exceptions, Germans on the right supported Hitler, and during the Cold War, Germans on the left fought the Unites States more than they fought the Soviet Union. When Ronald Reagan came to Berlin, tens of thousands of Germans -- many of them, one would surmise, of a similar mindset to those who came to hear Barack Obama -- protested his visit.

    Obama: "The size of our forces was no match for the much larger Soviet Army. And yet retreat would have allowed Communism to march across Europe."

    Isn't this exactly where we are regarding the retreat from Iraq that Obama and the Democrats have advocated? Wouldn't retreat from Iraq allow militant Islam to march across the Middle East and beyond?

    How is one to explain this? I have long believed that many liberals recognize evils only after the evil has been vanquished. Today, Democrats like Obama in his speech, regularly revile Communism. But from the late 1960s until the end of the Cold War they rarely judged Communism. They judged anti-Communists. Liberal Democrats routinely call Communism evil today, but when it was actually a threat, they reviled those who called Communism evil. Again, recall Ronald Reagan and the virtually universal liberal condemnation of his calling the Soviet Union an "evil empire."

    So, too, now, regarding today's greatest evil, to cite but one example, not one Democrat in any of their party's presidential primary debates used the term "Islamic terrorism."

    Obama: "Where the last war had ended, another World War could have easily begun. All that stood in the way was Berlin."

    In his attempt to exaggerate the role of Berlin before his large Berlin audience, Obama made a claim that simply makes no sense. "Berlin stood in the way" of another World War beginning? How? If anything, Berlin was the flash point of East-West tension and therefore could have triggered a war.

    Obama: "People of the world -- look at Berlin! Look at Berlin, where Germans and Americans learned to work together and trust each other less than three years after facing each other on the field of battle."

    Germans and Americans "learned to work together and trust each other" only thanks to the fact that America and its allies vanquished Germany, overthrew its Nazi leadership, imposed democracy and freedom on Germans, and kept plenty of soldiers in Germany. Why does Obama not apply this lesson to Iraq? If Americans and Iraqis learn to work together and trust each other, it will also be thanks to America and its allies vanquishing the Islamic terrorists, overthrowing the Nazi-like regime of Saddam Hussein, imposing democracy and freedom on Iraqis, and keeping soldiers in Iraq for as long as needed.

    Obama: "Look at Berlin … where a victory over tyranny gave rise to NATO, the greatest alliance ever formed to defend our common security."

    Obama did not want to offend his hosts by inserting an element of reality here: Many of America's NATO partners have been largely worthless in confronting evils from Communism to al-Qaida to the Taliban. A few weeks ago, leading German newsweekly Der Spiegel reported that German forces in Afghanistan are under strict orders not to shoot any Taliban forces unless shot at first. As a result, they refused to shoot a major Taliban murderer whom they had in their sights because his forces had not shot at the Germans and therefore allowed him to escape.

    Obama: "People of the world -- look at Berlin, where a wall came down, a continent came together, and history proved that there is no challenge too great for a world that stands as one."

    The wall came down because America stood strong, not because the world stood as one. What he said here is John Lennon-like fantasy, the opposite of reality, and as such, coming from the man who may well be the next president of the United States, a bit frightening.

    Obama: "While the 20th century taught us that we share a common destiny, the 21st has revealed a world more intertwined than at any time in human history."

    Of all the lessons taught by the 20th century, that we share a common destiny is not among the top 10. It is not even among the top 100. It is actually untrue and meaningless. Just to cite one obvious example, did those who lived under Communism and those who lived under democratic capitalism "share a common destiny"? What is he talking about?

    If the 20th century did teach something, it taught that evil must always be fought.

    The speech reveals a man who has good will and noble desires, but who may be dangerously naive regarding the lessons of history and what to do about evil.
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    Obama: "And you know that the only reason we stand here tonight is because men and women from both of our nations came together to work, and struggle, and sacrifice for that better life."

    Obama: "The size of our forces was no match for the much larger Soviet Army (Terrorist Camps/Dictatorship). And yet retreat would have allowed Communism (Terrorism) to march across Europe (Middle East) ."

    Obama: "People of the world -- look at Berlin (Baghdad)! Look at Berlin (Baghdad), where Germans (Iraqis) and Americans learned to work together and trust each other less than three (ten) years after facing each other on the field of battle."
    Sounds to me like he changed his mind and realizes the importance of the Iraq War and why we should NOT pull out so soon.

    If I was McCain's camp I would eat this up like a Chinese Buffet
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    Here's another good one.


    Obama Should Stand Up to Russia's Regime
    By GARRY KASPAROV
    July 29, 2008

    Berlin is an ideal place for an American president, even a would-be president, to speak to the world about freedom and shared values. Barack Obama's recent visit evoked the famous speeches of John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan that defended the U.S. stance against the Soviet Union and tyranny in Eastern Europe. Both the Berlin Wall and the Soviet Union are now gone, but dangerous, nuclear-armed dictatorships are not. Sadly, Mr. Obama declined to mention this in Berlin.

    The stage for his disappointing performance was set several weeks ago, when the Illinois senator rejected John McCain's proposal to eject Russia and exclude China from the Group of Eight (G-8). Mr. Obama's response during a July 13 interview on CNN -- "We have to engage and get them involved" -- suggests that it is impossible to work with Russia and China on economic and nuclear nonproliferation issues while also standing up for democracy and human rights.

    It has repeatedly been shown that the exact opposite is true.

    The U.S. does not cede leverage with authoritarian governments when it confronts them about their crimes. Instead, the U.S. increases its credibility and influence with foes and friends alike. Placating regimes like those in Russia and China today only entrenches hostile, antidemocratic forces.

    Commercial agreements, arms control and other mutually beneficial projects can be pursued without endorsing dictatorship. During the same interview, Sen. Obama spoke of enlisting China to help write the "international rules of the road." This is the same logic that led the United Nations to place China, Cuba, Russia and Saudi Arabia on its current Human Rights Council. Do we really want to live under rules created with the approval of such regimes?

    While Mr. Obama talked about the importance of receiving Russia's help in containing Iran's nuclear ambitions, Reuters reported that Tehran is acquiring advanced S-300 surface-to-air missiles from the Kremlin. This is the cooperation the West has earned by including Russia in the G-8.

    In Berlin, Mr. Obama repeatedly mentioned the 1948 Berlin airlift. On CNN, he said he would like to "bring back the kind of foreign policy that characterized the Truman administration with Marshall and Acheson and Kennan." A strange statement, since President Harry Truman fought against giving up an inch to the communists on any front around the world. Not only did Truman save West Berlin; South Korea, Taiwan and Western Europe also have much to thank him for. By contrast, in their July 9 op-ed in the Los Angeles Times, Obama advisers Madeleine Albright and William Perry, secretaries of state and defense under Bill Clinton, criticized Sen. McCain's proposal to respond to major powers' human-rights abuses with more than lip service.

    Mr. Obama also asked if the West would stand up for "the human rights of the dissident in Burma, the blogger in Iran, or the voter in Zimbabwe." Commendable, but what about the political prisoner in China and the recently convicted blogger in Russia? Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe and Russia's Dmitri Medvedev both came to power in blatantly fraudulent elections. The hypocrisy of condemning one while embracing the other destroys American and European credibility, and undermines any attempt at global leadership. Those of us living behind the Iron Curtain at the time were grateful Ronald Reagan did not go to Berlin in 1987 to denounce the lack of freedom in, say, Angola.

    In short, the candidate of change sounds like he would perpetuate the destructive double standards of the current administration. Meanwhile, the supposedly hidebound Mr. McCain is imaginative enough to suggest that if something is broken you should try to fix it. Giving Russia and China a free pass on human rights to keep them "at the table" has helped lead to more arms and nuclear aid to Iran, a nuclear North Korea, and interference from both nations in solving the tragedies in Darfur and Zimbabwe.

    Would all of this have occurred had the U.S. and Europe threatened meaningful reprisals? At least Mr. McCain wants to find out.

    Reagan's Berlin speech is remembered for his command: "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" But he also made a critical point about negotiating from strength, a point Mr. Obama seems to be missing. Reagan knew that if the U.S. backed down on the Strategic Defense Initiative, his speech would just be pretty words the Soviets would ignore.

    Reagan avoided the mistake John F. Kennedy made when he met with Nikita Khrushchev in 1961. After the Bay of Pigs disaster, Kennedy was weak in Khrushchev's eyes and keen to make a deal, and the Soviet premier bullied him mercilessly in Vienna. The Berlin Wall and the Cuban Missile Crisis were soon to follow.

    Today, instead of communists there are deal-making capitalists and nationalists running the Kremlin and China's National People's Congress. They, and blowhards like Hugo Chávez, hardly represent the existential threats faced by Truman, Kennedy and Reagan. Yet Mr. Obama still is reticent to confront them, saying in Berlin that "we must reject the Cold War mindset of the past and resolve to work with Russia when we can, to stand up for our values when we must." But the Cold War ended and democracy became the global standard not because Western leaders merely defended their values, but because they projected them aggressively.

    On Sept. 11, 150 years ago, another Illinois politician to run for president, Abraham Lincoln, said: "Our defense is in the preservation of the spirit which prizes liberty as the heritage of all men, in all lands, everywhere." Not where it's convenient. Not in countries lacking large energy reserves. Everywhere, Mr. Obama, everywhere.

    Mr. Kasparov, leader of The Other Russia coalition, is a contributing editor of The Wall Street Journal.
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