Tuesday, July 29, 2008

 

Kinds of Allegiance

Last week, Presidential Candidate Senator Barack Obama made a speech in Berlin, Germany.

The Grand Revision on Iraq may be underway in earnest, but there were other revisions on display as well, when Presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama gave a grand speech in Berlin.

It is no doubt true that those who win wars get to write history, but it is just as true that just about anybody, from any political legacy, can attach themselves to a victory they did not foresee, in a struggle they did not support, for an objective they did not seek.

This is just as true when speaking of the Cold War, as when speaking of our emerging victory in Iraq. Sen. Obama, presumptive Democratic Party nominee for President, hails from a political tradition and party that devalued and obstructed both.

For many on the Left, the Cold War was an invention and a series of provocations; communism and socialism were appealing doctrines, marred only by unfortunate implementations. Such idealists, like those in public broadcasting, like to think of themselves as Citizens of the world. So does Obama:

I come to Berlin as so many of my countrymen have come before. Tonight, I speak to you not as a candidate for President, but as a citizen – a proud citizen of the United States, and a fellow citizen of the world.

In fairness to Obama, however much an internationalist, there’s no doubt Obama knows what side he needs to be on when it comes to the Cold War:

Ours is a partnership that truly began sixty years ago this summer, on the day when the first American plane touched down at Templehof.

On that day, much of this continent still lay in ruin. The rubble of this city had yet to be built into a wall. The Soviet shadow had swept across Eastern Europe, while in the West, America, Britain, and France took stock of their losses, and pondered how the world might be remade.

This is where the two sides met. And on the twenty-fourth of June, 1948, the Communists chose to blockade the western part of the city. They cut off food and supplies to more than two million Germans in an effort to extinguish the last flame of freedom in Berlin.

The way Obama spoke in Berlin was highly reminiscent of that Cold Warrior of the past, Ronald Reagan. He spoke of the fight of a generation, for freedom, with no allusions or ambiguity about the threat to freedom posed by Soviet Communists. Would that his allies of a previous generation saw the threat as clearly. Obama this week remembered the desperate heroism of the Berlin Airlift, and what was at stake for Berliners. The iconic JFK, who Obama sought to emulate, harkened to it when he spoke in Germany. Twenty years ago, Reagan did as well, and challenged Mikhail Gorbachev to tear down the wall Obama tried so hard to evoke as central imagery for his speech.

In the 1980’s, however, many of Obama’s Democratic Senate colleagues thought Reagan irresponsible, bellicose, antagonistic. They, like Obama in recent months, insisted that jaw, jaw, jaw, was better than war, war, war. Yet in less than a decade, Reagan’s challenge was met, with the USSR’s release of Eastern Europe, and in the remarkable series of events that won the Cold War, a war only barely begun with the Berlin Blockade.

Along the train of thought Obama pursued in his speech in Berlin, he suggested that while the fall of the Iron Curtain “brought new hope,” the bringing of East and West together somehow left us more vulnerable to new dangers.

Obama then juxtaposes two very different threats, represented by the “terrorists of September 11th” training globally, and automobiles and factories “melting icecaps” and “shrinking coastlines.”

Obama is certainly not alone in displaying hysteria over what he perceives as the “grave threat” of anthropogenic global warming (AGW). However commonplace this view of AGW, in politics or media, emerging science is acknowledging the gross distortions, faulty data models, exaggerated projections, and flat out bad pseudo-science pervades global warming hype from Al Gore, Obama, and other AGW shills.

Nor is Obama the first Democrat to equate or compare AGW as a threat with radical Islamic terrorism. But by definition, such a view minimizes terrorism while it grossly inflates any actual danger from a warmer climate.

Later in his speech Obama sucks up to his green-fetishist European audience by insulting America:

Let us resolve that all nations – including my own – will act with the same seriousness of purpose as has your nation, and reduce the carbon we send into our atmosphere.

By all means, we should resolve such a thing: the rate of US CO2 emissions is lower than any country in Europe, and we are the only country not increasing such emissions at a dramatic rate. Europe is entirely unserious about reducing carbon emissions, and that ought to suit the US as well.

Others have also remarked on Obama’s odd locution of how 9/11 terrorists killed “thousands from all over the globe on American soil.” While a slight number of foreign victims are counted within those lost at the World Trade Center on 9/11, they’re a very small minority compared to the actual Americans killed on 9/11. The terror plotters sought to destroy Americans, an American landmark, and harm the American economy.

Obama then sets up another comparison of European and American attitudes towards each other:

In Europe, the view that America is part of what has gone wrong in our world, rather than a force to help make it right, has become all too common. In America, there are voices that deride and deny the importance of Europe’s role in our security and our future. Both views miss the truth – that Europeans today are bearing new burdens and taking more responsibility in critical parts of the world; and that just as American bases built in the last century still help to defend the security of this continent, so does our country still sacrifice greatly for freedom around the globe.

I offer a couple of observations. Obama remarks that in Europe, “the view that America is part of what has gone wrong in our world” is “all too common.” It’s just as common a view among University professors and academic elites, such as those from which both the Senator and his wife hail. I also question whether European commitment and support for peacekeeping and other international security initiatives around the world are increasing, rather than decreasing. I know that US military forces continue to serve around the globe, in Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East, and nowhere in such numbers as Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s ironic that Obama mentions “American bases built in the last century” and how we “still sacrifice greatly for freedom around the globe,” without mentioning the greatest of sacrifices we make today in Iraq.

But Obama is just warming up rhetorically. He then proceeds to equate the “wall” of European and US foreign policy differences to other kinds of barriers:

That is why the greatest danger of all is to allow new walls to divide us from one another. The walls between old allies on either side of the Atlantic cannot stand. The walls between the countries with the most and those with the least cannot stand. The walls between races and tribes; natives and immigrants; Christian and Muslim and Jew cannot stand. These now are the walls we must tear down.

How could anyone question the moral imperative of tearing down these walls? Wait a minute, what’s that about “countries with the most and those with the least?”

What kind of wall exists, that relates in even a metaphorical way, between “countries that have the most” (think America) and “those with the least” (think Africa)? Wall suggests something fabricated with intent. We can safely assume poor countries don’t build that wall (although an argument can be made that their despot kleptocrats do), so by default the rich ones are to blame. So poor countries are poor and rich are rich because somehow the rich built these walls to keep the poor poor, so they, of course, must pay.

Marxist economic theology, pure and simple. One has to wonder if Obama thinks of human wealth and poverty the same way. Moments later, Obama makes it certain:

This is the moment when we must build on the wealth that open markets have created, and share its benefits more equitably. Trade has been a cornerstone of our growth and global development. But we will not be able to sustain this growth if it favors the few, and not the many. Together, we must forge trade that truly rewards the work that creates wealth, with meaningful protections for our people and our planet. This is the moment for trade that is free and fair for all.

Any (well-informed) trade economist will tell you, free markets are inherently fair, to the extent that they are truly free, without internal subsidy or tariff. But that’s not what Obama thinks. He is describing here the Demon Globalization, Old World Colonialism in another guise. Note how trade and economic growth must somehow be constrained, or better, distributed in a fashion that rewards many, rather than a few.

This alludes to the classic Progressive (and Marxist) mythology that free market capitalism rewards the few at the very top of some economic pyramid, by exploiting all those at any level below the highest tier. When he demands that any economic policy must “truly reward the work that creates wealth,” Obama isn’t talking about entrepreneurs, but standard Marxist solipsism for the Means of Production, the Common Man of the masses.

Obama ended his speech with a call to action for the “people of the world,” declaring “this is our moment.” In doing so, Obama referred to an America that has spent more than two centuries striving to perfect an imperfect nation, in which we often did not “live up to our best intentions.”

That’s true, we often have not. But at several decades older than two centuries, America is the oldest Democracy in the world, and progenitor or protector to virtually all the others.

Obama’s witness of America is the hope of the Immigrant, expressed in the close of his speech:

Our allegiance has never been to any particular tribe or kingdom – indeed, every language is spoken in our country; every culture has left its imprint on ours; every point of view is expressed in our public squares. What has always united us – what has always driven our people; what drew my father to America’s shores – is a set of ideals that speak to aspirations shared by all people: that we can live free from fear and free from want; that we can speak our minds and assemble with whomever we choose and worship as we please.

Yes, America is that beacon of freedom, that promise of opportunity, that offer of living life more abundantly. But I would respectfully disagree, Senator, about that first bit about allegiance.

Without a doubt, immigrants and their cultures, languages, arts, ideas and ideals have greatly enriched our Nation, in fact made us who we are in every tangible and intangible way.

But we are a Nation with an allegiance to a very particular tribe and kingdom, that of Americans, and their United States of America.

Most of us – but not all, and perhaps not Sen. Obama -- grew up reminding ourselves of that allegiance, in the form of a pledge we recited every day in school, in classrooms, auditoriums, in stadiums, ballparks, village squares, and on holidays and civic remembrances (from Wikipedia):

“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

One nation, indivisible. Many of us still find that a worthy object of allegiance.

(Via Memeorandum)


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