July 25, 2008
Obama's European Love Parade
More than 200,000 Germans turned out in Berlin on July 24 to hear a carefully stage-managed Barack Obama tell them exactly what they wanted to hear: If he becomes US president, America will become a whole lot more like Europe.
Amid roaring applause, Obama told the assembled masses that he shares Europe's utopian globalist worldview. The junior senator from Illinois promised to beat American swords into European plowshares, and American spears into European pruning hooks. Obama declared that the world should be rid of nuclear weapons, the war in Iraq should end, and that the world should join together to confront global warming, reject torture and welcome immigrants. Under Obama, nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.
Obama was also careful to indulge German narcissistic anti-Americanism by criticizing the United States on foreign soil: "I know my country has not perfected itself," he said. "We've made our share of mistakes, and there are times when our actions around the world have not lived up to our best intentions." Germans are loving it.
And especially the German news media, which has taken upon itself the task of elevating Obama into a cult-like figure. The leftwing magazine Der Spiegel says Obama would make a good "President of the World." The mass circulation tabloid Bild calls Obama a "political pop star."
Obama's Berlin speech followed weeks of controversy surrounding the appropriate venue. German Chancellor Angela Merkel successfully prevented Obama from using the symbolic Brandenburg Gate for "electioneering" purposes. Her thinking is that only sitting presidents should be afforded that honor; anything else would be presumptuous rather than presidential.
As a result, Obama ended up delivering his address at the Prussian-era Siegessäule (Victory Column), a militaristic monument that celebrates the founding of the German Empire in 1871, as well as the concomitant conquest of other American allies in Europe.
Are there any historians among Obama's 300-plus foreign policy advisors? The Siegessäule was moved to its current location by Adolf Hitler in 1939 to make way for his planned transformation of Berlin into the Nazi capital "Germania." Hitler saw the column as a symbol of German superiority.
Or did Obama deliberately choose the Siegessäule venue because in recent years it has served as ground zero for the Love Parade, an annual dance festival/political demonstration for love, peace and international understanding?
Is Obama a "Blame America First Democrat"?
Obama's image advisors hope his trip to Germany will bolster his foreign policy and national security credentials with American voters. After all, Obama has rarely traveled to Europe and he has convened no policy hearings since becoming chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee's Subcommittee on European Affairs.
But what are Obama's views on Europe? Given his lack of foreign experience, Obama's views on Europe may be easier to discern by examining what some of his foreign policy advisors are saying about Europe.
Take, for example, Denis McDonough, Obama's chief foreign policy advisor and a former legislative aide to former Senator Tom Daschle (D-ND). He believes the new mission for the transatlantic alliance should be the pursuit of low-carbon energy alternatives. Like Europeans, he also wants US foreign policy to be more Iran-friendly.
Then take Philip Gordon. A senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, Gordon is an (unpaid) advisor to Obama on European affairs. Like much of the American foreign policy establishment, Gordon believes that further European integration, which implies the counter-balancing of American power, is in the US national interest. Gordon also believes that the creation of a European army, one which may undermine NATO, is good for America.
No big surprise, then, that Obama says he supports "Europe's strategy of enlargement, which has been history's most successful democratization strategy and has brought peace, stability and prosperity to millions."
As any honest observer of contemporary European politics will acknowledge, the European Union is not a democratic project, as the ratification process of the Lisbon Treaty proves. Moreover, the United States, not Europe, is responsible for the peace, stability and prosperity that millions of Europeans have taken for granted since the end of World War II.
More perplexing is Obama's outdated notion that further European enlargement is somehow in the US national interest. Although the European Union started out in the 1950s as a benign economic bloc, in recent decades it has morphed into a complex political project that seeks to turn Europe into a global superpower that can counterbalance the United States on the world stage.
The biggest barrier to European superpowerdom, however, is its lack of a credible military capability. As a result, Europeans are working assiduously to balance the geopolitical scale with the United States by establishing a system of international law that de-legitimizes the use of military "hard power." The European objective is to make it increasingly difficult for the United States to use its military might to resolve international problems. It is the Lilliputians tying down Gulliver.
The problem for the United States is that Obama says he supports the European project. This implies that he either does not fully understand the ramifications for the United States of further European enlargement, or that as a "global citizen" Obama wants to replace American exceptionalism with a post-modern globalist agenda of saving the planet from, well, America.
This, in any case, was the thrust of Obama's pandering of German public opinion in Berlin. Indeed, the very fact that Europeans are so captivated by Obama should be a warning to Americans: Beware.
Soeren Kern is Senior Fellow for Transatlantic Relations at the Madrid-based Grupo de Estudios Estratégicos / Strategic Studies Group