Yesterday, 25th July 2008, the streets of Berlin were lined with people wanting to hear Presidential candidate Obama speak.
He spoke of freedom, and of the need for American and German people to unite.
He spoke of duty and of victory over tyranny. He spoke of a common destiny and of our common humanity. He made reference to a new hope, and to the fall of the Berlin wall.
Senator Obama’s central message seemed to be that we need to unite in the fight against terrorism – get behind the armed conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. He was saying that wee are all together in this fight. He repeatedly addressed the “People of Berlin, people of the world”. I am sure he is eager to demonstrate his grasp of foreign policy.
However, his statement that the purpose of the NATO mission in Afghanistan was to “help them rebuild their nation” was, at best, disingenuous. It sounded very much like Bush and Blair’s justification for the invasion of Iraq. It made me wonder whether Obama's foreign policy will be "business as usual" if he is elected President.
In Britain, the U.S. is largely characterised as an invading and dominating force. The speech may have been meant to allay that perception, but if so, I am not clear about how far it went in achieving that aim.
I was heartened to hear the Senator speak of the need to tear down walls between Christians, Muslims and Jews.
I was also encouraged by his statement of the need to stop the spread of nuclear weapons and reduce the arsenals, and to bring the Iraqi war to a close. This was a dove message in what was largely a hawkish speech.
Although the candidate made repeated reference to the Berlin airlift, he only mentioned briefly and in passing the two world wars we fought against Germany. Living in London, I see nearly daily reminders of the Second World War and the devastation it caused. Work on construction sites still regularly unearths unexploded Nazi bombs that were rained down on the people of London and other British cities. Senator Obama’s speech contained only the briefest mention of that conflict.
The Senator used many of the right words, but I am not sure he conveyed a good grasp of the international situation. And although his speech was very idealistic, I did not personally find it particularly convincing.
To watch the video, go here: http://my.barackobama.com/page/content/berlinvideo/
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