It was fitting that warmonger Obama should make his speech in front of the Siegessaule. This ugly monument to Prussian militarism was moved to its current place and enlarged by the Nazis at the end of the 1930s. The Goddess of Victory sports wings, as if from the Imperial Habsburg eagle. They formed the backdrop to Obamaâ€™s message that the American eagle now needs German military support for its wars in Afghanistan and into Pakistan.
It was typical of the Europeans that they welcomed this man on an electoral mission as if he were a cross between a peacenik and a pop star after the warlike Bush years. They were with their media taken in by the show, and failed to listen to the substance. In a way the speech was a studied slight to Germany, as it was clearly intended for American eyes and ears, not for those patiently listening beneath the Victory column. It was understandably critical of the lack of German support for NATO in Afghanistan to impress the Republicans back home, on the basis that the alliance is committed to this long and difficult war, but it is mainly American and British troops who are dying there. It set out to show Americans that the Senator can draw a crowd of seemingly friendly Europeans, after the Bush years of tension with the leftwards inclining chattering classes of the EU.
To me it revealed how Obama will not be a force for change , despite the promises. He came over as a cynical politician speaking above an audience so his spin doctors could project him in the way they choose to the folks back home. He made it clear he is as committed to war in the Middle East as Bush, and wishes to draw more troops and more countries into the conflict. There was no statement of war aims, no understanding of how they might win, no recognition that trying to contain a terrorist movement by occupying successive countries where they might hide is not necessarily to way to stop them. In short there was no new thinking, and no hint that lessons had been learned.
Many in the German audience heard the bit they wanted to hear â€“ withdrawal from Iraq â€“ whilst ignoring the rest of the message â€“ the war goes on elsewhere as if nothing had changed. To those of us who think the whole war on terror was misconceived, this was not the message of change we wanted. This was another politician from the age of spin who may be good at that, but who has nothing new to offer that will help the world he claims to love. I felt all that was lacking was a cue for the American eagle to join him beneath the Golden Goddess of war, and for the Pentagon endorsements to roll as the film came to an end.