February 23, 2005

DER SPIEGEL: “Could George W. Bush be right?”

President Ronald Reagan’s visit to Berlin in 1987 was, in many respects, very similar to President George W. Bush’s visit to Mainz on Wednesday. Like Bush’s visit, Reagan’s trip was likewise accompanied by unprecedented security precautions. A handpicked crowd cheered Reagan in front of the Brandenburg Gate while large parts of the Berlin subway system were shut down. And the Germany Reagan was traveling in, much like today’s Germany, was very skeptical of the American president and his foreign policy. When Reagan stood before the Brandenburg Gate — and the Berlin Wall — and demanded that Gorbachev “tear down this Wall,” he was lampooned the next day on the editorial pages. He is a dreamer, wrote commentators. Realpolitik looks different.

But history has shown that it wasn’t Reagan who was the dreamer as he voiced his demand. Rather, it was German politicians who were lacking in imagination — a group who in 1987 couldn’t imagine that there might be an alternative to a divided Germany. Those who spoke of reunification were labelled as nationalists and the entire German left was completely uninterested in a unified Germany. . . .

When the voter turnout in Iraq recently exceeded that of many Western nations, the chorus of critique from Iraq alarmists was, at least for a couple of days, quieted. Just as quiet as the chorus of Germany experts on the night of Nov. 9, 1989 when the Wall fell.

As the article notes, German foreign policy is based on differentiating itself from the United States. Sounds a bit adolescent to me. (Via TKS).

And lots of people are making that Berlin Wall comparison today. Meanwhile, Arthur Chrenkoff has a roundup of Lebanon / Syria news that’s worth your time.