Dashed Hopes

President Barack Obama visits Berlin on Tuesday and Wednesday next week for the second time. Five years ago the then campaigning presidential hopeful gave one of his numerous “historical” speeches in front of the Victory Column (commemorating the Prussian victory in the Franco-Prussian war of 1870-71. By the way, Chancellor Angela Merkel had discouraged the young candidate to speak at the similarly deeply symbolic Brandenburg Gate).

Meanwhile, Obama has revealed his true colors. Anyway, it might be interesting to have a look at the transcript of his July 2008 Berlin speech, just when the Financial Crisis was underway and people were tired of an endless War on Terror. The Euro was still a stronger currency and the Eurozone crisis unthinkable. Israel’s assault on Gaza (Operation “Cast Lead”) immediately after the American election was still unimaginable. So were Obama’s personal kill list (called, in Orwellian jargon, Disposition Matrix), the enhanced drone war which has meanwhile been described as Global Assassination Campaign, the assassination of so far three American citizens on foreign territory, WikiLeak’s Afghanistan and Iraq War Logs, and the Cablegate, the surveillance state which has surfaced after recent leaks of NSA activities and Obama’s relentless persecution of whistle-blowers.

As so often, at the end of his speech Obama evoked a new era.

“This is the moment when we must defeat terror and dry up the well of extremism that supports it. This threat is real and we cannot shrink from our responsibility to combat it. If we could create NATO to face down the Soviet Union, we can join in a new and global partnership to dismantle the networks that have struck in Madrid and Amman; in London and Bali; in Washington and New York. If we could win a battle of ideas against the communists, we can stand with the vast majority of Muslims who reject the extremism that leads to hate instead of hope.

“This is the moment when we must renew our resolve to rout the terrorists who threaten our security in Afghanistan, and the traffickers who sell drugs on your streets. No one welcomes war. I recognize the enormous difficulties in Afghanistan. But my country and yours have a stake in seeing that NATO’s first mission beyond Europe’s borders is a success. For the people of Afghanistan, and for our shared security, the work must be done. America cannot do this alone. The Afghan people need our troops and your troops; our support and your support to defeat the Taliban and al Qaeda, to develop their economy, and to help them rebuild their nation. We have too much at stake to turn back now.

“This is the moment when we must renew the goal of a world without nuclear weapons. The two superpowers that faced each other across the wall of this city came too close too often to destroying all we have built and all that we love. With that wall gone, we need not stand idly by and watch the further spread of the deadly atom. It is time to secure all loose nuclear materials; to stop the spread of nuclear weapons; and to reduce the arsenals from another era. This is the moment to begin the work of seeking the peace of a world without nuclear weapons.

“This is the moment when every nation in Europe must have the chance to choose its own tomorrow free from the shadows of yesterday. In this century, we need a strong European Union that deepens the security and prosperity of this continent, while extending a hand abroad. In this century – in this city of all cities – we must reject the Cold War mind-set of the past, and resolve to work with Russia when we can, to stand up for our values when we must, and to seek a partnership that extends across this entire continent.

“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.

“This is the moment we must help answer the call for a new dawn in the Middle East. My country must stand with yours and with Europe in sending a direct message to Iran that it must abandon its nuclear ambitions. We must support the Lebanese who have marched and bled for democracy, and the Israelis and Palestinians who seek a secure and lasting peace. And despite past differences, this is the moment when the world should support the millions of Iraqis who seek to rebuild their lives, even as we pass responsibility to the Iraqi government and finally bring this war to a close.

“This is the moment when we must come together to save this planet. Let us resolve that we will not leave our children a world where the oceans rise and famine spreads and terrible storms devastate our lands. 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. This is the moment to give our children back their future. This is the moment to stand as one.

“And this is the moment when we must give hope to those left behind in a globalized world. We must remember that the Cold War born in this city was not a battle for land or treasure. Sixty years ago, the planes that flew over Berlin did not drop bombs; instead they delivered food, and coal, and candy to grateful children. And in that show of solidarity, those pilots won more than a military victory. They won hearts and minds; love and loyalty and trust – not just from the people in this city, but from all those who heard the story of what they did here.”

One can easily regard most of this as empty promises. I remember a party-like spirit of maybe one hundred thousand mainly moved people. Obama has given proof before and afterwards of his great talent to speak. But it had turned out that his visions won’t result in expected acts. Rather the opposite.

When he returns to Berlin next week, the city will definitely be sealed off. Maybe not as much as in February 2005 when his predecessor in office, George W. Bush, had visited Mainz which was in a state of emergency.

13 June 2013 @ 6:05 pm.

Last modified June 15, 2013.

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