Jens F. Laurson and George Pieler: Trying To Make History In Berlin, Obama Fed The Germans Platitudes

Roundup: Media's Take
tags: Barack Obama, Germany, JFK, Berlin, Forbes

Jens F. Laurson and George Pieler are contributors to Forbes.

He didn’t call himself a jelly doughnut (neither did JFK actually, but let’s ignore that), but President Obama fell right into the I-must-make-history trap in his Brandenburg Gate speech. The problem is that the relevant history already has been made, as the President pointed out himself. Mr. Obama rightly lauded the determination of Germans to achieve their human aspirations as the reason the Wall no longer stands, but he confused the lessons of the postwar German recovery and the Cold War itself.

It is interesting that President Obama thought it important that he spoke from the eastern side of the plaza, and emphasized the efforts of East Germans to break through the wall. Well, yes, they were the ones confined by it. But all Germans were punished for the continuing western presence in Berlin through severe restrictions on movements east-west, and by forced separation of families, friends, and colleagues.

Lacking a grand challenge like communist dictatorship to address, President Obama settled for dishing out the standard modern feel-good nostrums: We must all get along, we must never discriminate, we should have less poverty and more jobs, we need to deal with climate change. As stated, wholly noncontroversial notions, and he didn’t even have to do much convincing: challenging Germans to tackle climate change is rather like challenging Beyonce to tour more often. It’s already way up on their respective agendas....

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