Obama Does Berlin

Reflecting the increasing Americanization of their continent’s politics [1], “progressive” European commentators and politicos have been gushing over U.S. Senator Obama’s (D-IL) speech before 200,000 people in Berlin.  Never mind that the speech called for increased European commitment to the criminal U.S. attack on Afghanistan – a colonial war most Europeans do not support – and was otherwise loaded with reactionary content. 





Speaking of Europe in the aftermath of World War Two (WWII), Obama recalled how “the Soviet shadow had swept across Europe, while in the West, America, Britain, and France took stock of their losses and pondered how the world might be remade.” 


This comment suggested that the U.S. had wartime losses that could be remotely compared with those of Europe (it didn’t) and that America’s Allied partners had remotely equal influence with the U.S on the postwar world system (they didn’t). It deleted the fact that U.S. imperial architects consciously exploited WWII as a great opportunity for an “American Century.” They made the sure that “the world” was “remade” in such a way as to guarantee U.S. hegemony and built up the supposed Soviet menace to further that agenda. (For what it’s worth, those nasty Soviets did more than any other nation to defeat the Nazis, losing 25 million lives in the struggle with the Third Reich). 


Obama made reference in his Berlin speech to “the generosity of the Marshall Plan.”  This omitted the fact that the United States’ post-WWII European reconstruction program was designed to serve U.S. corporate and imperial self-interests in numerous ways. 




After the collapse of the Berlin Wall (of “communism”), Obama told Berlin, "the doors of democracy were opened. Markets opened too, and the spread of information and technology reduced barriers to opportunity and prosperity." 


Not exactly. U.S.-imposed capitalist “shock therapy” devastated Eastern populations, leading to shocking levels of poverty, inequality and corruption in the former Soviet Union and much of the former Eastern bloc. The spread of “markets” meant the expanded reach and power of multinational corporations and capital, forces that are deeply subversive of democracy.  Inequality sharpened around the world and at home too, consistent with the anti-egalitarian character of the profits system. Basic social supports and protections were blown away in the formerly socialist world.  South Africa got  rid of apartheid but fell under the savage yoke of neoliberal capitalism along with much of the rest of the world (see Mike Davis, Planet of Slums [London: Verso, 2006])





"In Europe,” Obama claimed, “the view that America is part of what has gone wrong in the world….has become all too common." 


This supposedly terrible view happens to be accurate on numerous levels. The hyper-consumerist automobile-addicted U.S. is home to 5 percent of world’s populations but generates a quarter of the planet’s climate-baking carbon emissions. Add in 720-plus U.S. military bases stationed in nearly country on Earth, the threat and recurrent reality of U.S. military assault, the U.S.-spread mass culture of commodified nothingness and the dedicated U.S. advance of a negative (corporate) globalization model that consigns billions to extreme poverty while the ever richer planetary Few enjoy spectacular opulence (and related political hyper-power) and you begin to get a sense of why many world citizens might think “America is part of what has gone wrong in the world.”


Obama did not merely defend the U.S. against the widespread (and highly understandable) charge that it is the leading source of difficulty in the world. No, he had the nationally narcissistic chutzpah to oppose even the modest notion that America is merely “part of what has gone wrong in the world.”