From the east side of the Brandenburg Gate, President Obama gave an extraordinary speech yesterday sketching out his plans for a new global order in which traditional national security interests will be replaced by a collective approach to everything from global warming to nuclear weapon capability.
In celebration of the “universal declaration of human rights,” the President called upon the world to “care more about just our own self comfort, about our own city, about our own country,” and demanded “we embrace the common endeavor of all humanity.” For “we are not only citizens of America or Germany,” the President declared. “We are also citizens of the world.”
The President went on to insist that before we try to impose anything on the rest of the world, America has a moral obligation to clean up its act “here at home,” noting that “as long as walls exist in our hearts to separate us from those who don’t look like us, or think like us, or worship as we do, then we’re going to have to work harder.”
This obligation begins, we were told, in “pursuing the security of a world without nuclear weapons,” and the President recommended a further reduction of our nuclear arsenal to 1000 warheads—a cut of about 1/3 from our current levels. Furthermore, the President promised to “build support in the United States to ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, and call on all nations to begin negotiations on a treaty that ends the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons.” The President asserted that “these are steps we can take to create a world of peace with justice.”
The irony, of course, is that President Obama was free to stand on the formerly-Soviet side of the Brandenburg Gate and opine about global peace with justice because of the strength of the very nuclear arsenal he now proposes to dismantle. While the President claimed today that at the end of the Cold War, “Openness won. Tolerance won. And freedom won here in Berlin,” the reality is that the United States of America won. The Berlin wall did not come down simply because the German people dreamed of freedom. The Berlin came wall down because an American President distilled his policy towards the Soviet Union into a simple formula: “We win, they lose.”
That President had the courage to go to West Berlin and demand a totalitarian power tear down the wall with the firepower to back up his demand, and he won the Cold War without firing a shot.
Obviously geopolitical circumstances have changed in the years since President Reagan spoke in front of the Brandenburg Gate, but it is fair to wonder if the totalitarian aspiring nuclear states from Iran to North Korea are philosophically all that far removed from the Soviet Union? Are 21st century tyrants fundamentally different? Will they be persuaded, as President Obama suggests, to reject their ambitions and instead embrace the “new international framework for peaceful nuclear power” he wants to establish?
Or might they be more effectively deterred by an American military that maintains a fully modernized and operational arsenal of nuclear weapons?
If history be our guide, although the notion of “peace with justice” that the President mentioned ten times in his speech may sound appealing, we will be far better served by President Reagan’s policy of “peace through strength,” which cannot be achieved by appeasement or yet another round of nuclear cuts by the Obama administration.