George Handlery on the week that was. Obama in Berlin: what is in the package? Russia’s permission is needed to defend Europe. Negotiating by not talking. America as an ally. Leopards and their spots. A convenient pretense: both sides are right. Minority rights and majority protection.
1. Obama in Berlin. It is an attractive venue as Berlin is a symbol of hanging on tough in moments when surrender appeared to some to be the easy and wise choice. Watching the performance the excellent packaging makes a striking impression. Under the wrapper, a lot of space-filling Styrofoam. It protects a miniscule object. The hard-to-describe item has fuzzy contours. The crowd cheered loudly when fashionable slogans were fed to it. Especially the implied dropping of Iraq got approval. Notable is the reception of Obama’s inconsistent reference to “defeating terror’ in Afghanistan. The claim that America needs her European “partners” help there – to which Germany is officially committed – brings silence. This speaks loudly. It also lends credibility to the claim that Obama’s “wishy” instincts match Germany’s “washy” preferences. Great endorsement. Comforting reassurance for the correctness of the proposed path says the campaign. Poor America.
2. Obama’s popularity here comes from the fact that he is a surface upon which the desires of the historically protected and undeservedly lucky locals can be projected. What many Europeans want from Obama is something that even they, who are ignorant about free lunches, know cannot be gotten from McCain. The wish is an America that is an effective last resort guarantee of security while she, contradictorily, avoids confrontations by evading them through dexterous submission to pressures. The shadow of future disappointment darkens the anticipated end of the road. Even Obama is unlikely to be willing and able to practice as much appeasement as is expected of him.
3. Obama (July 15) called upon the US to end her single-minded “focus on Iraq.” Between the lines, this sounds like a first call to drop the entire Iraq project. The US might officially forget such retreats. Furthermore, her politically only temporarily interested citizenry could also fail to notice the facts and the implications of backing out of commitments. However, future friends and foes will be made to think. One result: friends will seek distance and the enemies will be emboldened by yet another self-willed defeat.
4. An insight generated through extensive Obama-watching. To be nominated you must proclaim how, if compared to all others, different you are. Once nominated you better prove that you will continue to manage things as before in the existing framework. Add that you will do this better than the other guys could. Leopards do not change their spots. Obviously, some of the candidates are not leopards.
5. A categorically reduced presence in Iraq has crept into the platform of a party that might win the US’ presidential contest. Through a withdrawal that is not warranted by earlier military success and Iraq’s ability to combat the Jihadists, America will be sending a message. The meaning of the smoke-signal: new challenges posed elsewhere will in the future not be met resolutely.
6. Something we know but have not learned. The simple solution that enables the voter instantly believe in it without thinking is not necessarily the best response to problems to be solved.
7. July 16. The US sent an envoy to Geneva to accompany the Solana-led Europeans in their talks with Iran. Meanwhile Iran held air power tests and announced that it is invulnerable. Conclusion: every effort to meet Iran halfway after one has already moved part of the way in her direction is met with new threats.
8. Regardless of the EU’s, and newly of the US’, concessions, Iran is unprepared to suspend the enlargement of her nuclear activities. Obviously, Iran regards (anticipating a new President and the promised stalemate in Iraq) military action against her nuclear project as unlikely.
9. Iran refuses to halt her enrichment program in exchange for material concessions by the EU and the US. Meanwhile, Iran wishes for the talks to continue. The question might be: what talks? Besides gaining time to complete ongoing projects, what purpose can talks, held merely to exchange noises, have? July 19. The meeting with the representative of the Great Powers plus the US’ Burns represented a major gain for Iran. So did the proposition that a “freeze for a freeze” be agreed to by Tehran. (Iran does not expand her ongoing enrichment activity. In exchange, the concerned Powers refrain from additional sanctions. Plainly put this means that Iran continues without accelerating while the Great Powers persevere in doing nothing.)
10. Iran calls the proposal rejected by her as being part of a “step forward”. Obviously, the purpose of this odd interpretation is to make the other side appear to be unreasonable once Tehran chooses to make it clear that she will not compromise diplomatically. A clear sign of this came on July 24. According to Iran’s interpretation, the IAEA’s attempts to control – as agreed earlier – her nuclear activities is an insult to her. Either the international nuclear watchdog cuts back on its aggressive sniffling or Iran might stop “cooperating” with the IAEA.
11. Russia is reluctant to accept a European anti-missile defense system. Is Russia’s disapproval of such a system of defense a greater danger than the peril implied if, deferentially, the continent is left indefensible. Precisely put, “indefensible” here pertains to having to obtain Russia’s approval for acquiring the relevant technology and then, logically, needing her permission to use it.
12. Labor unions and politicians try to maintain branches, firms and jobs endangered by modernization unchanged. That is easier than to advocate instead programs creating novel opportunities that are synchronized with new conditions. The votes come from the people locked in the threatened industries. The future beckons from the latter grouping.
13. We have the choice between temporary job-protection from the competition and adjustment to the challenge facing us. It is better to learn to compete effectively than to protect what has become redundant and unproductive.
14. There is some confusion about what liberal means. At least in the classical and unpolluted (and in the US out-of-use) sense of the concept, “liberal” is more than a commitment to listen critically, nevertheless attentively to both sides. It also implies that an informed decision will be the upshot of clear-headed evaluations. Properly, the genuine liberal might find in one side more merit than in the other. What unadulterated “liberalism” does not include is an obligation to proclaim that both diametrically opposed sides are equally valid.
15. Regardless of the positive or negative context of a story, the more you talk about the repulsive, the more acceptable the disgusting will become.