Sen. Obama’s Berlin speech got plenty of coverage and much of it
fawning praise. Some of the world’s serious journalists have actually
plucked a few lofty lines out of it and grinned about how ‘Pollanyish’
they may be, though they’re still praising the candidate and the
message of world peace and unity all around.
John Bolton isn’t a journalist, he’s a former United Nations
ambassador who worked in a great hall with representatives of that
world looking for strategic steps toward that elusive peace. He’s concerned with the lack of scrutiny the man who may be president of the US is enjoying.
Although well received in the Tiergarten, the Obama
speech actually reveals an even more naive view of the world than we
had previously been treated to in the United States. In addition,
although most of the speech was substantively as content-free as his
other campaign pronouncements, when substance did slip in, it was truly
radical, from an American perspective.
These troubling comments were not widely reported in the generally
adulatory media coverage given the speech, but they nonetheless deserve
intense scrutiny. It remains to be seen whether these glimpses into
Obama’s thinking will have any impact on the presidential campaign, but
clearly they were not casual remarks. This speech, intended to generate
the enormous publicity it in fact received, reflects his campaign’s
carefully calibrated political thinking. Accordingly, there should be
no evading the implications of his statements.
Here’s one example:
Obama said, “The burdens of global citizenship continue
to bind us together.” Having earlier proclaimed himself “a fellow
citizen of the world” with his German hosts, Obama explained that the
fall of the Berlin Wall and the reunification of Europe proved “that
there is no challenge too great for a world that stands as one.”
Perhaps Obama needs a remedial course in Cold War history, but the
Berlin Wall most certainly did not come down because “the world stood
as one.” The wall fell because of a decades-long, existential struggle
against one of the greatest totalitarian ideologies mankind has ever
faced. It was a struggle in which strong and determined U.S. leadership
was constantly questioned, both in Europe and by substantial segments
of the senator’s own Democratic Party.
Jeff Jacoby says, the leadership of Democratic president Harry Truman
that was formidable in that struggle wasn’t even referenced in the
Berlin speech. Which is amazing, given how glaring that omission was to those who know history.
The Soviet Union had blockaded western Berlin on June
24, 1948, choking off access to the city by land and water and
threatening 2.5 million people with starvation. Moscow was determined
to force the United States and its allies out of Berlin. To capitulate
to Soviet pressure, as Obama rightly noted, “would have allowed
Communism to march across Europe.” Yet many in the West advocated
retreat, fearing that the only way to keep the city open was to use the
atomic bomb – and launch World War III.
For President Truman, retreat was unthinkable. “We stay in Berlin,
period,” he decreed. Overriding the doubts of senior advisers,
including Secretary of State George C. Marshall and General Omar
Bradley, the Army Chief of Staff, Truman ordered the Armed Forces to
begin supplying Berlin by air….
Yet the pressure to abandon Berlin persisted. The CIA argued that
the airlift had worsened matters by “making Berlin a major test of
US-Soviet strength” and affirming “direct US responsibility” for West
Berlin. The airlift was bound to fail, the intelligence analysts
warned. Truman didn’t waver. “We’ll stay in Berlin – come what may,” he
wrote in his diary on July 19. “I don’t pass the buck, nor do I alibi
out of any decision I make.”
It would take nearly a year and more than 277,000 flights. But in
the end it was the Soviets who backed down. On May 12, 1949, the
blockade ended – a triumph of American prowess and perseverance, and a
momentous vindication for Truman.
But not once in his Berlin speech did Obama acknowledge Truman’s
fortitude, or even mention his name. Nor did he mention the US Air
Force, or the 31 American pilots who died during the airlift.
This says a lot……Obama’s omission, and Jacoby’s great piece about
that airlift and Truman’s fortitude. Read the whole thing. You aren’t
likely to hear about it from many others in the media.