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Obama Keeps it Global

One of the first things I picked up in the audience after Obama's speech was 'fast genau eine halbe Stunde' (almost exactly half an hour). The audience was keeping time. After many had waited for two hours or longer, they were perhaps expecting more? Certainly, it took some time to get the people around me to warm up beyond 'polite applause'. About halfway in some big applause lines came on seeking a nuclear free world, taking responsibility to fight climate change and ending the war in Iraq. Of those, only putting the idea of a nuclear free world in the spotlight might be unexpected.

Newsworthy on the side of the audience would be that there was quite some applause for Obama's lines about fighting together in Afghanistan, and even roaring applause for his line 'Will we stand for the human rights of the dissident in Burma, the blogger in Iran, or the voter in Zimbabwe? Will we give meaning to the words "never again" in Darfur?'. The liberal internationalist sentiment championed by Joshka Fischer has clearly not yet perished in Germany.

Overall, the speech was mainly built on an argument and narrative arch that stressed the global. Although Obama touched upon Europe being the best partner of the US, the need for a strong European Union, and the significance of NATO, the larger frame was constructed around global problems, global solutions, and a shared global destiny.

This was initiated right at the outset, when Obama called himself a 'citizen of the world'. Eventually, it was also how he cast the story of Berlin: as a story of universals that the entire world could connect to. Those expecting in-depth proposals on the transatlantic relationship were probably disappointed, again.

However, there is some value in bringing a more global focus into the politics of both the US and Europe.

There are also unsolved questions. In promising a common way forward based on shared values, and conceiving them as universals that the entire world aspires to, Obama is still skirting the issue of how to forward these values where they are not accepted, either by those in power, or by the broader culture of a country. This is not merely a theoretical debate: it ties in with the question how Obama expects us to 'stand for human rights' along the world's periphery.

The full text of Barack Obama's speech can be read here


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Reid of America on :

As Monty Phython used to say, "Now for something completely different". Obama is lightweight who is going to get rolled big time.

David on :

Nanne, I think he did point to the possibility of bringing these values from the "periphery". I really liked the way the he grounded the speech on the postwar history of Berlin - pointing to one of America's finest hours: the Berlin Airlift: "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."

Kevin Sampson on :

'Citizen of the world'? He actually said that? That's gonna cost him.

Fuchur on :

Ronald Reagon said the same thing: But then again, as some have already pointed out here: It seems that different standards are being applied to Democrats than to Republicans...

VinceTN on :

There is no doubt in any American's mind that in a choice of "the World" and the US that Reagan would never fail to choose correctly (US). We are not so sure about Obama. The same "double standard" that gets him attacked about world citizenship is the same standard that allows him to talk extensively about religion without being considered threatening. There's no point in even speaking about double-standards. The world is eaten up with it. Who here isn't guilty of it at least occasionally?

Nanne on :

Yes, but perceptions form a domain of political contention as well. So saying 'we' are 'not sure' of his patriotism is a political statement of sorts. Who is this 'we' and how do you know this?

Joe Noory on :

Are someones' perceptions worth an iota of American effort or a drop of Amerian blood? Nope. Don't forget that realpolitik means Amarica's allies will always be willing to throw her under the bus when it seems convenient, but that the inverse may never happen due to the need to maintain "perceptions" that European never obliged to genuinely reciprocate. What delusion of entitlement is there out there that imagines that America is to accept that kind of asymetry forever from an EU - the single wealthiest, best shielded entity on earth?

Nanne on :

My comment pertained to the U.S. political arena. As in, conservatives in the U.S. are trying to paint Obama as unpatriotic, stating that a given 'we' are 'not sure' of Obama's patriotism ties in to that endeavour. What Europe perceives Obama to be does not come in to this. The contention is between U.S. conservatives and liberals.

Kevin Sampson on :

It seems that different standards are being applied to Democrats than to Republicans... No kidding. Which is why Obama was able to successfully divest himself of Jeremiah Wright and Michael Pfleger while keeping his campaign intact. Something McCain would never have been able to do had the roles been reversed.

Zyme on :

"Those expecting in-depth proposals on the transatlantic relationship were probably disappointed, again." Exactly, expecting something on this would make you feel of having wasted your time by watching the speech. Which was my feeling. "However, there is some value in bringing a more global focus into the politics of both the US and Europe." Apart from one-world illusionists, who here in Germany is affected by this approach? The speech was clearly directed to the American audience at home. It was full of sentimentalism and American backslapping, as if he would said "Just listen to my list of what all good we brought to you". Apart from that, a speech reaching the hearts and minds of Germans needs to have far less hollow idealism and to be more playing with traditional resentments - just listen to CSU election speeches at the party congress in Nuremberg and how the people react upon them. There is far more concern in this country with illegal immigration, legal immigration concerns and getting the financial sector back on track rather than with nation-building or terrorism fighting abroad.

Joe Noory on :

Oh please. There was nothing substantively global about his speech. He evasoively touched on things like the US not retreating in the face of the Soviets to evade DOMESTIC notice of his position on wanting to abandon the Iraqis, and then working the rhetoric to abandon the Afghans. All American issues with a little bit of puffery about "working together" with the Europeans who want a symbolic but substantive looking involvment in these things. As it always is with Democrats, they can't just back their candidate running on a position, they have to break out into song. They parrot on and on about their guy being able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, being the essence of all meaning in the universe, etc., etc. It's ridiculous. They try to make him out to be so many things he isn't that it becomes maudlin. Suddenly he's the greatest orator since Cicero, the greatest strategic thinker since Napoleon. In reality all he is, is a pedestrian cypher from the [url=,0,1843097.story]graft and class warfare bubble[/url] of Chicago who was in the senate for 143 days before becoming a full time candidate.

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