Barack Obama, the John Lennon Candidate

Obama’s speech in Berlin is a perfect complement to John Lennon’s loopy song, Imagine: soft millennial musak.

Sixty years after the airlift, we are called upon again. History has led us to a new crossroad, with new promise and new peril. When you, the German people, tore down that wall – a wall that divided East and West; freedom and tyranny; fear and hope – walls came tumbling down around the world. From Kiev to Cape Town, prison camps were closed, and the doors of democracy were opened. Markets opened too, and the spread of information and technology reduced barriers to opportunity and prosperity. While the 20th century taught us that we share a common destiny, the 21st has revealed a world more intertwined than at any time in human history.

You’ll notice that the one place no walls came down was in the Arab world. Anomaly? How serious? Obama does acknowledge there’s a problem…

The fall of the Berlin Wall brought new hope. But that very closeness has given rise to new dangers – dangers that cannot be contained within the borders of a country or by the distance of an ocean.

The terrorists of September 11th plotted in Hamburg and trained in Kandahar and Karachi before killing thousands from all over the globe on American soil.

As we speak, cars in Boston and factories in Beijing are melting the ice caps in the Arctic, shrinking coastlines in the Atlantic, and bringing drought to farms from Kansas to Kenya.

Poorly secured nuclear material in the former Soviet Union, or secrets from a scientist in Pakistan could help build a bomb that detonates in Paris. The poppies in Afghanistan become the heroin in Berlin. The poverty and violence in Somalia breeds the terror of tomorrow. The genocide in Darfur shames the conscience of us all.

Oh yes, poverty breeds terrorism, not well-educated ideologues driven by hate-mongering apocalyptic religious beliefs. That must be why the Magnificent 19 of 9-11 fame “lacked empathy.” They were too poor.

The genocide in Darfur (thanks for the right word), does shame us all; and part of the reason that it does is that it’s committed by racist Arab Muslims and no one wants to say that lest we offend the Arab League.

In this new world, such dangerous currents have swept along faster than our efforts to contain them. That is why we cannot afford to be divided. No one nation, no matter how large or powerful, can defeat such challenges alone. None of us can deny these threats, or escape responsibility in meeting them. Yet, in the absence of Soviet tanks and a terrible wall, it has become easy to forget this truth. And if we’re honest with each other, we know that sometimes, on both sides of the Atlantic, we have drifted apart, and forgotten our shared destiny.

Excellent point. When he says “we” here, he’s speaking of the USA and its (should be) European allies… not the whole world.

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.

This is breathtakingly naive. The walls between Europe and the USA (walls built with bricks of resentment), should indeed come down. Of course that will take a little self-criticism on the part of the Europeans, which I don’t think we can expect to see anytime soon. But barriers between races and tribes, between north (rich) and south (poor), between religions… maybe in the USA, but surely not worldwide. If we can take Nicholas Kristof as an example of this kind of thinking, I think it’s safe to say that it doesn’t have a clue. What may work for those committed to civil polities — trust and an opening of boundaries — can backfire when applied to people committed to more zero-sum principles. The notion that we can and should throw open our doors, hearts and minds to everyone is so loopy as to defy belief. Only John Lennon at his doped out worst could come up with such an idea.

We know they have fallen before. After centuries of strife, the people of Europe have formed a Union of promise and prosperity.

After a terrible “thirty-years war” (1914-45) that killed tens of millions.

Here, at the base of a column built to mark victory in war, we meet in the center of a Europe at peace.

Nice finesse of a bizarre choice.

Not only have walls come down in Berlin, but they have come down in Belfast, where Protestant and Catholic found a way to live together; in the Balkans, where our Atlantic alliance ended wars and brought savage war criminals to justice; and in South Africa, where the struggle of a courageous people defeated apartheid.

Huh? Belfast walls have come down? Rather, since “peace” they’ve gotten more numerous.Neocon has more to say on the Belfast issue. South Africa is a model of success? (And let’s not forget what the end of apartheid walls in Zimbabwe has produced.) What are Obama’s speech writers smoking?

So history reminds us that walls can be torn down. But the task is never easy. True partnership and true progress requires constant work and sustained sacrifice. They require sharing the burdens of development and diplomacy; of progress and peace. They require allies who will listen to each other, learn from each other and, most of all, trust each other.

War in not the answer.

Change you can believe in?

5 Responses to Barack Obama, the John Lennon Candidate

  1. […] – Barack Obama, the John Lennon Candidate (Richard Landes) – Obama promises to “tear down walls” between Muslims and the rest of […]

  2. US News says:

    It’s so hard to know what to do when one wishes earnestly to do right.GeorgeBernardShawGeorge Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman

  3. Lynne T says:

    Globe & Mail op-ed columnist Rex Murphy finds that Mr. Obama suffers from the audacity of hubris. One of the few clear and unambiguous policy stands he took was his opposition to the troop surge in Iraq as he insisted it would be a wasted effort, where as poor dumbass George Bush was proven right.

  4. Eliyahu says:

    did you read that the so-called theft of the note that Obama left at the Western Wall was a set up?? the Obama campaign wanted that note to be publicized. The campaign minions may even have given a copy of the note to Ma`ariv and other press outlets themselves.

  5. […] her “bien pensants” can pretend we’re all one happy family of moderates — bring down the walls between religions — then things are fine, right? In your new book, you write about the Muslim presence in […]

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