Europe

Florida Pundit is catching up on the news after two and a half weeks in Central Europe with very limited internet access. Quite a bit has happened here that doesn’t get covered by European newspapers.

The Obama administration was afraid of letting the Arizona immigration law go into effect and got a liberal judge to suspend most of it. Bacteria breaking down oil seem to be attacking the Gulf oil spill a lot faster than anyone but Rush Limbaugh predicted. An agriculture department employee has been fired over racist remarks and then was offered her job back (I still have to catch up on the details of this one).

GM will be selling a “green” car whose main virtue seems to be that it has a gas-based backup engine that ensures that you won’t be stranded when the battery is exhausted after just forty miles. It takes ten hours to recharge the battery for another forty mile trip. I wonder how much coal is burned in power plants to provide the electricity to charge the battery and how that compares to the one to two gallons of fuel that would be burned by a regular gasoline engine for a forty mile drive. We’ll need to follow up on this one.

A lot more has happened, but I also have collected interesting stories from my trip that I will cover over the next couple of weeks. Here are some highlights:

1. If you think we have a lot of “green” initiatives here, Western Europe is much more extreme and believe in global warming is unquestionable dogma in the media. What is interesting though is that despite a heat wave that brought 95 degree heat for more than half my trip in places with no air conditioning, no one I talked to ever linked the heat wave to global warming.

2. There is a demographic revolution occurring in big cities causing an rise in an increasingly radicalized Muslim population. Locals seem to believe that all the women in burkas (head to toe black dress covering the entire face but the eyes) are all rich Saudi Arabian tourists. This is certainly a factor, but I find it hard to believe that it is the whole story. I will provide pictures, plus the surprisingly frank comments of a monk given during a guided tour through a monastery.

3. While Western Europe is declining in political and economic power, life during this decline can still be pleasant especially if you have no children or grandchildren to worry about.

4. A visit to Prague, which Florida Pundit first visited shortly after the fall of communism twenty years ago, illustrates how the future of Europe lies in what former Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, called “new Europe”, i.e. in the former communist states stretching from Lithuania to Slovenia.

5. The European Union has brought changes that make travel a lot easier. You don’t have to worry about changing currencies when traveling between countries using the Euro and crossing the border between many countries is like crossing the state line between Florida and Georgia. The only thing that remains are the abandoned border posts. Positive developments, but a lot of these changes are imposed by a European elite and, with crises like the Greek economic collapse, one has to wonder about the long-term stability of these arrangements.

Europe is a continent with a rich history, but it is in decline and faces enormous demographic changes. It is great for many Europeans to take a month vacation in summer and a couple of weeks in winter, but they are spending at the expense of future generations. When conservative governments take over from socialists all they can really do is slow the decline. The potential exceptions are some of the former communist countries of Eastern Europe where flat taxes and less regulations have created an economic boom.

President Obama is the most European president the United States has ever had. This statement probably puzzles the American left. It is not Obama’s race that is relevant, but rather his ideas. Obama is steering the US toward policies that Europe has been implementing since World War 2 and we need to reverse this direction in the 2010 and 2012 elections.

It is good to be home. More on all of this in future posts.

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Vice President Joe Biden, addressing the European Parliament got a little carried away in being polite to his host by saying that maybe Brussels, not Washington should be considered the capital of the free world.

An innocent gaffe from the gaffemeister? Maybe. But this deference to socialist Europe is also in line with the Obama administrations’ continuous denial of American exceptionalism and with the direction Obama’s expansion of government is taking the United States.

With Greece on the verge of insolvency despite a $1 trillion bailout and European countries like Italy, Spain and Portugal facing similar dangers, it is time to wake up to where socialism will lead. The economic situation is Europe poses the threat of pushing the world into another recession or even a major depression.

Freedom and socialism are not compatible and to call a city in which thousands of European bureaucrats work on “perfecting” their socialist system can hardly be called the capital of the free world. Obama and Biden haven’t gotten America to the same point, but if they are not stopped in the 2010 elections and retired in 2012, we may get to the point where Washington as the capital of the free world is as ridiculous a notion as Brussels.

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The opposition to President Obama’s leftist policies consist of people that agree on a lot, but who also differ in some respects. The rational opposition consists of conservatives, libertarians and American centrists. Many in the Tea Party movement never were involved in politics before Obamacare and other plans to increase the power of the federal government motivated them to speak up.

If we are going to defeat Obama and the Left, we will need to be able to unite around the common goal to return government to its legitimate limited role. But we will also need to accept that we disagree in some areas and not everyone will be happy with every decision in a post-Obama American government.

We agree in many areas: lower taxes, less spending, taking the limitations the Constitution puts on government power serious again. The libertarian influence on conservatives is positive in areas like free trade.

One area where conservatives have a serious legitimate disagreement with many libertarians is foreign policy.

We all agree that national defense against external threats is a fundamental legitimate role of the federal government. We disagree whether this should include a forward posture that includes stationing American troops in areas of US interest throughout the world or whether defense should strictly start at our border.

I disagree with a lot of the discussion in the video below except for Deroy Murdock’s comments. We cannot expect to live safely in this world by withdrawing behind our borders. Our economy is linked to the rest of the world and we will not be able to maintain peace and prosperity in the United States if we abandon our legitimate interests in the rest of the world.

We have to learn from history. America’s isolationist posture in the 1930s delayed our entry into World War 2 until we were unprepared for an attack on Pearl Harbor. Our weakness emboldened the Nazi and Japanese militaristic enemies and prolonged the war and the resulting destruction. We recovered from the biggest catastrophe of the 20th century, but we could have done better.

After 9/11, we have had to learn to deal with new asymmetrical threats from Islamic terrorists that were supported by government like the Taliban in Afghanistan.

The people in this video with a different view are rational people, but I disagree with their understanding of the world and some of their policy ideas. Barack Obama’s new policy of abandoning nuclear weapons development and promising rogue nations (other than Iran and North Korea) that we won’t use nuclear weapons to retaliate against a non-nuclear attack makes it important that we listen to our libertarian friends and stay united as much as possible on supporting a strong defense of America.

I present this video with the goal of helping to achieve clarity on our disagreements. We should listen to valid criticism, but also should try to persuade libertarians that the American consensus on much of foreign policy since World War 2 should continue to be our position.

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Obama’s Absence in Berlin

November 8, 2009

President Obama is not attending the celebrations in Berlin commemorating the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989. For a president that has extensively traveled during his first year in office and who even chose Berlin for a major, if problematic, speech during his campaign, this seems strange at first glance. Consider that he even went on a last minute trip to Copenhagen to make a narcissistic plea for bringing the 2016 Olympics to Chicago. And he will go to Oslo in December to accept the Nobel Peace Prize which even he admits he doesn’t deserve.

But upon some reflection, it actually is very consistent for Obama not to attend the event that more than any other one symbolizes the triumph of capitalism and limited government. When candidate Obama spoke in Berlin in 2008 he talked about the fall of the Wall as an event where the “world came together as one.” This statement didn’t make any sense. The fall of communism was an unambiguous triumph of freedom over 20th century totalitarianism. We won. They lost. Of course, West Berliners welcomed their fellow citizens from the East with open arms, but they were welcomed because they embraced Western freedom, not because everyone was coming together regardless of their beliefs. East German Politburo members were not welcomed.

President Obama today advocates a radically different approach to government and to international relations than the policies of President Reagan that led to the fall of communism, policies that were continued in varying degrees by his successors George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. What are these differences?

In relations with governments hostile to Western freedom, the approach starting with Reagan was a strong national defense and an unwillingness to compromise on basic principles. Bush 41 continued this in Kuwait, Clinton to some extent in Kosovo and Bush 43 in the fight against Islamist fanatics after 9/11. Yes, there were failures by Clinton to react to the growing attacks from al-Qaeda and by both Clinton and Bush 43 to effectively contain North Korea. However, throughout the 28 years from 1981 until 2009, the responsibility of the United States as the world’s leading (and after 1989 only) superpower to stand up to threats against freedom and to intervene when our interests where threatened was never fundamentally questioned.

Barack Obama, on the other hand has traveled around the world apologizing for America’s actions before his ascent to power. He did this in 2008 in Berlin, in his speech to Muslims in Cairo and most recently at the United Nations General Assembly to name just a few. Towards Iran he has adopted a policy of appeasement reminiscient of British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s “peace in our time” policy towards Hitler in the late 1930s. Obama has fully bought into the stereotypes of America as the world’s bully that became popular among the global left during the Bush administration. Of course, President Reagan was attacked in the same way as a warmonger who would cause a nuclear holocaust. Once his policies resulted in victory for the Western world and the end of 40 years of Cold War, the left’s hatred of Reagan and the US was largely forgotten and President Clinton had the fortune of governing during an exceptional period of history.

President Obama advocates appeasement toward Iran and wants to shift power to international bodies such as the IMF on economic and monetary policies and the UN to redistribute wealth under the pre-text of “fighting global climate change.” These policies are ultimately a violation of US sovereignty and for our Constitution.

What role would Obama have in Berlin given his policies? He has repudiated the approaches that led to the triumph of Western freedom. European politics have recently moved away from the leftist ideology advocated by Obama. If he repeated his pronouncements from other global events in Berlin, he would be a nuisance at best. He can’t give credit to America’s policies that led to the fall of communism without undermining his own policies. And there certainly would be no forum for his narcissism promoting himself as the new great hope of the world. It makes perfect sense, for Obama not to go to Berlin. He wouldn’t be welcome.

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berlin_wall_0417

November 9, 2009 is the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, one of the most joyful historical events in my lifetime. It happened during an amazing series of events in the fall and winter of 1989 when the people of Poland, Hungary, East Germany, Checkoslovakia, Bulgaria and Romania overthrew over 40 years of Soviet Communism with hardly any bloodshed. I grew up less than 50 miles from the “Iron Curtain”, a phrase Winston Churchill first coined in 1946:

Where it not for some small adjustment of the Iron Curtain that occurred 9 years later, I too would have been born on the totalitarian side of this curtain. Instead I came as a teenager from socialist, but democratic Western Europe to America where President Ronald Reagan was in the midst of destroying the Soviet Union by unleashing the power of American ingenuity in economic growth and military power. In 1987, he gave a speech in Berlin calling on Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear down this wall”:

Speechwriter Peter Robinson decided to include the famous “tear down this wall” after talking to Berliners. President Reagan overruled his advisors who tried to remove it:

Referencing Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev’s refusal to remove the Berlin Wall, the speech, delivered by Reagan at the Brandenburg Gate in West Berlin on 12 June 1987, contained the sentence

“Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”

On arrival in the city before authoring the speech, Robinson was warned by US diplomats to avoid Cold War rhetoric and that Berliners had adjusted to the presence of the Berlin Wall. However, after consultation with local Berliners, he found them deeply wounded and concerned about the wall; in many instances it had separated families and represented an intrusion of a police state into daily life. Returning to Washington D.C., Robinson’s phrase became controversial with the State Department and other staff members, including Chief of Staff Howard Baker and National Security Advisor Colin Powell. Repeated attempts were made to remove it from the speech, but Reagan overruled them, wishing to communicate not only with West Berliners but with East Germans on the other side of the wall.

Less than two and a half years later the events of November 9, 1989 unfolded. Mikhail Gorbachev did not tear down the wall, but, to his credit, he did not stand in the way and two years later was forced to accept the peaceful dissolution of the Soviet Union. Anyone who would have predicted this 10 years earlier would have been declared insane or hopelessly naive.

On the evening of November 9, Günter Schabowski, member of the East German politburo, mistakenly stated at a press conference that an order to lift border restrictions that was supposed to take effect the next day was effective immediately (German, NO subtitles):

Then West German television, which was secretly watched in East Germany and had credibility among East Germans that their government’s TV broadcasts lacked, reported that East Germany had announced that all its borders are open immediately:

The same evening pressure against the urban border grew and East German military fortunately stepped aside although there were plenty of tense moments and temporary setbacks. Watching this is a lot better than anything you will watch on TV. Enjoy!

The opening of the Berlin Wall 1989 / Reichstag:

The opening of the Wall at Berlin Bornholmer Strasse 1989:

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