Obama’s sermon to the Germans has been much discussed in the blogosphere. In this post, I’d like to focus on one thread of the speech: Obama’s words about the Berlin Airlift:
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.
Actually, of course, a very large number of bombs had been dropped on Berlin and other German cities, just a few years earlier. Americans were in Berlin at all only due to the application of military force, without which, Berlin would have continued to be a Nazi city–and one in which a Barack Obama, if he were allowed to continue living at all, would certainly not have been allowed to give a political speech.
And Berlin–along with the rest of West Germany–avoided Soviet invasion and domination only because of American military force. The unarmed transport planes that supplied Berlin would not have survived had the Soviets not been aware of the armed fighters and bombers–and nuclear weapons–that were in American possession.
What Obama is clearly attempting to do in this speech is to paint the Berlin Airlift as successful example of the one-world/kumbaya strategy favored by “progressives,” here as well as in Europe. It wasn’t. The Berlin Airlift succeeded because of Harry Truman’s toughness and resolution, backed by American military power.
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.
Indeed, Obama seemed to go out of his way not to say plainly that what saved Berlin in that dark time was America’s military might. Save for a solitary reference to “the first American plane,” he never described one of the greatest American operations of the postwar period as an American operation at all. He spoke only of “the airlift,” “the planes,” “those pilots.” Perhaps their American identity wasn’t something he cared to stress amid all his “people of the world” salutations and talk of “global citizenship.”
The West’s victory in the Cold War, (Obama) said, proved that “there is no challenge too great for a world that stands as one.”
This will come as a surprise to anyone who lived through the Cold War or has even read about it. The thing about wars, even cold ones, is that the world doesn’t stand as one; that’s why there’s a war. And in the Cold War the Soviet side was as united as the West; more so, probably. Left out of Obama’s history was any mention of the ferocious demonstrations against the United States in the streets of Paris and West Berlin during the 1960s and 1980s, when American presidents were routinely depicted as priapic cowboys and psychopaths. Probably a fair number of the older members of Obama’s audience had been hoisting those banners themselves 25 years ago.
If Barack Obama rather than Harry Truman had been President of the United States at the time of the Soviet blockade of Berlin, can anone seriously think he would have prevented a Soviet takeover of that city, or indeed of all West Germany? A sustained U.S. presence in Europe was by no means unaminously popular at the time–indeed, the Progressive Party candidate of 1948, Henry Wallace, opposed both the Airlift and the Marshall Plan–see also here. (Wallace’s slogan, “one world,” sounds a lot like something Obama would say.)
In his speech, Obama referred to the planes that “delivered food, and coal, and candy to grateful children,” and went on to say, “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.”
Do you think maybe Obama could tell his wife this story? Might it possibly get her to rethink her conclusion that America is country that is “just downright mean?”