Obama in Berlin: so much about the UK’s special relationship

The one thing you learn when you spend time around UK politics, is the never-ending talk about the alleged UK-US “special relationship”. Tony Blair sucked up to that with his uncritical support of the US invasion in Iraq and whenever the slightest doubt about European integration is voiced from US politicians, you can be sure that UK politicians take it up – and defend their “special relationship”. Obama’s great speech in Berlin yesterday should once and for all put things straight: If anyone then Germany is the US’s first partner in Europe. It is by far its biggest economy, it holds key positions both in NATO and the EU and it is at the heart of Europe. If any one country makes sense to be a broker for the US in Europe it would be Germany. But if I was US president, I would obviously let the Brits in their belief of the special bond. – Yo Brits, follow where we tell.

But besides the (right) symbolical choice for the delivery of Obama’s speech in Berlin, the speech itself was actually good. There are three things that I will keep remembering. First was his insistence on freedom. “Freiheit” is a notion that is unfortunately not a key value in German politics. There is too much talk of protection and too little insistence on the rights (and responsibility) of the individual. I hope that a future president Obama can convince the Germans (and Europeans?) of the greatness of freedom as a value. The second message which was going far beyong than what I had expected was his call to bury nuclear weapons. Obviously this was a key reference to the Iranian nuclear programme but he did not claim anywhere that the US was excluded from his goal. Thirdly, Obama was calling on all societies to value immigration. This is probably taken for granted in the US, but for (half of) the German psyche this idea is still to be swallowed. I hope that in particular Merkel’s CDU got this point – and new inspiration.

5 thoughts on “Obama in Berlin: so much about the UK’s special relationship

  1. ESLaPorte

    The Bush right-wing talking heads are complaining that Obama talked too much about the Berliners and their tribulations during the Berlin Airlift – and not enough about American military power. That’s punctuates the trouble with the Bush right-wing, looking down at others and only bring concern about the American end of the “partnership.” Barack should have gloated more about American power and less about our “allies.”

    Second – I am glad that Barack brought up immigration and his African father. He did this in the heart of Europe in the backdrop of the harsh and punitive “Return” Directive, which allows Member States to jail illegal immigrants for 18 months and the ban them European Continent for five years. Also, down in Italy, we are seeing the abuse of the Roma in a manner not witnessed since the end of WWII. Barack included this story about his father in the backdrop the building of Fortress Europe and the coming of harsh immigration policies sweeping the continent. This was a much needed part of Barack’s speech toward Europe.

    It is hoped that when President Obama takes office, he will challenge Europe on the growing number of harsh and punitive immigration policies…

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  3. Jon Worth

    Agh, you were taken in with the rhetoric too! 🙁 OK, Obama is a master speech maker, but the words struck me as being rather empty, don’t you think? Spend some time in the USA and then you’ll have a different conception of ‘Freiheit’ or the lack of it.

    As for the special relationship – I agree that the Brits have got it wrong for a long time.

  4. Frazer

    You are right – the Brits do need the comfort blanket of a US – UK special relationship, and they have for a long time not really appreciated that this “special relationship” might not necessarily be the most important European relationship for the USA. Mind you that’s not all the Brits (well most of my fellow countrymen and women) have got seriously wrong…

  5. EvilEuropean

    There is nothing ‘special’ about the special relationship. It has been a one sided affair for along time, one that helps keep Europe divided. The USA now uses NATO and the special relationship to divide and prevent a more constructive European defence policy.
    Ironically, its in the USA own intrest to have a strong Europe, but at the same time they have got use to having European nations follow its lead….a result of the Cold War.

    Saying that, the UK has alot more leverage that it realises. Alot of those US military bases around the world are on UK territory!

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