Accepting President John F. Kennedy’s challenge to “Let them come,” Senator Barack Obama will descend upon Berlin – a Phoenix of Freedom – to lecture the world on the state of the Transatlantic relationship. Such a speech is ironic, for Senator Obama has yet to show any understanding of the fundamental truths that have linked the Transatlantic Alliance through time and tribulations.
As recently practiced by Chancellor Angela Merkel who, defying pressures from the Communist Chinese, chose to meet with the Dalai Lama in her offices, or as expressed by President Ronald Reagan in the shadows of the Brandenburg Gate, Europe and America’s unbreakable bond of belief is this: We understand “the practical importance of liberty…that freedom and security go together, [and] that the advance of human liberty can only strengthen the cause of world peace.”
No people can understand this better than the Germans of Berlin, who saw the strength of this bond in the Berlin Airlift, as Americans stood shoulder to shoulder with their West German counterparts along that bleak scar of a Wall that divided the city and represented the enslavement of a people, and as two generations of American Presidents and German Chancellors stood together to demand freedom and unity when others in Europe and elsewhere were not so willing.
Standing near the hallowed ground where past “Free World” leaders refused on principle to sacrifice the liberty of Berliners at the popular altar of pragmatism, Senator Obama will, it is hoped, intuit our shared bond, and, consequently, further “refine” his shifting positions regarding our nations’ shared sacrifices to win the Free World’s unsought, trans-national struggle against terrorism.
Perhaps, strolling down the Unter den Linden, the erstwhile chair of the European Subcommittee of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee will realize how, in daunting times, human nature has a dangerous instinct to abandon immutable principle for injurious pragmatism; but that while pragmatism may temporarily mask the danger of the moment, principled acts practically advance the cause of human freedom.
Maybe, while listening to JFK’s “Ich Bin Ein Berliner” speech on his I-pod beneath his safety helmet as he pedals past the Reichstag, Senator Obama will recall how, throughout the Cold War, the leaders of the Transatlantic Alliance resisted the siren song of popular pragmatism and, through the practical effects of principled policies, emancipated tens of millions of people from the shackles of the Soviet Union.
Perhaps Senator Obama will take the time to tour a united Germany to see that what President Reagan deemed “the practical importance of liberty” is manifest upon a free European continent, whole, peaceful, and prosperous. But that is probably too much to expect from a man who is taking the, “If-it’s-Thursday-it-must-be-Berlin” approach to foreign policy.
Indeed, what can anyone expect from Senator Obama, whose pragmatic populist approach to the advancement of human liberty led him 18 months ago to oppose the surge in Iraq; to later arbitrarily declare “the surge is not working”; and – even after Osama bin-Laden declared Iraq a “central front” in his war against freedom – to continue to assert Iraq is a “distraction” that he (Obama) “would end as President.”
Yes, of late Senator Obama has been responding to realities on the ground: within the last month, he has ended his criticism of the surge and now acknowledges its success; and is further advocating a surge against al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, though he never quite manages to commend the courageous sacrifices made in Afghanistan by allies such as Germany.
The frustrating crux of the Senator’s chaotic politics is this: nowhere in Mr. Obama’s pragmatic, politically expedient pronouncements is there a fundamental affirmation of the Transatlantic Alliance’s unbreakable bond of belief that expanding human liberty will defeat its enemies.
This explains how Senator Obama can one day arbitrarily oppose the surge and callously condemn Iraqis to a living death or worse beneath al-Qaeda, and the next day dismiss the surge’s success as a “distraction.” It explains why so many Americans, Europeans, other free peoples, and those yet to be free, are so dismayed at the prospect of Senator Obama’s potential elevation to the Leader of the Free World during a trans-national war against terrorism.
Thus in Berlin no one knows which Obama will show. Will it be the ideological left-wing Democratic primary candidate who vowed to “end” the war rather than win it, or the Democratic nominee who dismisses the progressing coalition victory as a “distraction”? Will it be the American populist who has told supporters in the United States that he will demand more from our allies in Europe and get it, or the liberal internationalist hell-bent on being liked in Europe’s salons?
To be sure, Berliners may expect a peppy performance Senator Obama. But what Berliners should not expect from the man reaching for the mantle of Kennedy is the courageous and defiant moral clarity he exhibited most obviously in Berlin:
“Freedom is indivisible, and when one man is enslaved, all are not free,” President Kennedy said. “So let me ask you as I close, to lift your eyes beyond the dangers of today, to the hopes of tomorrow, beyond the freedom merely of this city of Berlin, or your country of Germany, to the advance of freedom everywhere, beyond the wall to the day of peace with justice, beyond yourselves and ourselves to all mankind.”
Bluntly, if his past decisions are any guide, Berliners should not expect to hear Senator Obama affirm the unbreakable bond of belief cementing our eternal Transatlantic Alliance: the universality of human freedom. And no carefully choreographed picture of Obama worth a thousand words from a fawning media can compensate for the deafening absence of this one enduring truth.