David Vickrey, a volunteer for Senator Barack Obama's campaign and editor of the Dialog International, wrote this guest post:
On July 24 Barack Obama will deliver a major speech in Berlin. Over the past week there has been a great deal of controversy on whether or not he should make the speech at the Brandenburg Gate (it now appears he will find a different venue). Nearly forgotten in all of the press coverage is the purpose of Senator Obama's speech: redefining transatlantic relations. Obama has been criticized by many (including Joerg in this blog) for not saying enough about America's relations with the European Union and for ignoring his duties as chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on European Affairs. So a speech in front of a large, cheering crowd in Berlin could burnish his foreign policy credentials.
Here is my take on what Senator Obama will say in his Berlin speech (note: although I am a volunteer foot soldier for the Obama Campaign, I have no advance knowledge of his speech other than what his aides have provided the media):
First, Senator Obama will express the desire to restore the historic alliance between the United States and Europe, and to turn the page from the acrimony of the Bush years. We are told he will use the German phrase "Ich kann zuhören" (I can listen) to indicate a radical shift in style from the current president.
Second, he will stress that close partnership with Europe is the best chance for tackling the biggest challenges facing the planet, such as climate change, poverty in Africa, the rising cost of food in developing nations, and the global threat of terror. He is likely to reiterate remarks he made last week in Dayton about Germany and clean energy:
Across the planet, countries like Germany and the United Kingdom have already implemented clean-energy polices that are reducing their carbon emissions right now, and leaders like Tony Blair and Angela Merkel have done a great job of raising the visibility of climate change within the G8.
But a true partnership can only be based on common values and shared commitment. Senator Obama will affirm his commitment to the universal human values enshrined in the US constitution and the EU charter. This means that an Obama administration will reverse the Bush Doctrine on issues of torture, rendition and unilateral preemptive war. But it also means that Europe must step up its commitment in Afghanistan to prevent that country from failing. This message will not go over so well in Germany, where the NATO mission in Afghanistan is extremely unpopular. Here I agree with Spiegel reporter Gregor Peter Schmitz that the message of "tough love" to Europeans will be for the benefit of voters back home, many of which are still deeply suspicious of Europe:
At the same time the senator from Illinois must take care not to seem overly pro-European. Many Democrats still recall how their presidential candidate John Kerry four years ago gushed about his good reputation in Europe only to be successfully and pejoratively labeled as "European" by the Republicans as a result.
Still, the sight of thousands of Germans enthusiastically listening to an American leader rather than protesting is bound to play well in America and Europe. When was the last time that happened?
My hope is that President Obama can return to Berlin some day and follow past US presidents by giving a speech at the Brandenburg Gate.
David Vickrey is the editor of Dialog International, a blog about German-American relations, politics and culture, and lives in Maine.
Endnote by Joerg: Spiegel International has another interesting article published today: Obama's Europe Trip: Conflict over Berlin Visit Becomes US Campaign Issue