Picture: German Chancellor Willy Brandt at the Warsaw memorial for the Ghetto Uprising
“The American people don’t have to guess whether I understand the issues or whether I will need a foreign policy instruction manual to guide me through a crisis or rely on advisers to advise me on foreign affairs,” (Hillary Clinton)
“We need to rediscover the power of diplomacy. So I said very early on in this campaign that I will meet not just with our friends but with our enemies, not just the leaders I like, but leaders I don’t,” (Barack Obama)
Senator Barack Obama’s foreign policy platform was harshly criticized by Senator Clinton yesterday. In answer to that, let me tell you about another man in another time in another country in a no less difficult situation and his audacity to talk to what you would call rogue states today:
World War II has left Germany a divided nation and the tensions among the former allies and Russia developed into a cold war which left the country with the iron curtain right through the middle of the nation. Two inimical ideological systems met in the very city, that used to be the nation’s capital and made Germany into the frontier of this cold war. Having the threat of the opposing regime right on your doorstep made Western Germany into a staunch ally in the American “War on Communism”. To Germans the Soviet Union was the ultimate evil empire, long before Ronald Reagan coined the phrase. Diplomatic relations with the second German State were out of the question.
In 1969 the ruling Christian Democrats lost their majority to a coalition of Social Democrats and Liberals under chancellor Willy Brandt. A year later only, Willy Brandt was visiting Warsaw and had started his Ostpolitik which led to a very decidedly improved situation at the frontier of the cold war and earned him the Nobel Peace Prize in 1971. Political prisoners had a chance to be extradited from communist Germany to the Federal Republic, there was suddenly a restricted but still existant possibility to travel to and fro.
The political system of the Federal Republic of Germany was a democracy, but could German citizens be trusted with a really liberal society? Willy Brandt’s idea was “to chance democracy”, giving Germans civil liberties they have not experienced in a long time, if ever before.
It goes without saying that there were many who decried Willy Brandt as a traitor for dealing with communists and for his humble gesture of apology and respect to the victims of the German atrocities in the Warsaw ghetto (see picture above). The civil liberties given to the Germans left the right wingers foaming at the mouth. But Willy Brandt had the audacity to do something to relieve the strain on a torn nation. He gave hope to the citzens of the other Germany and the feeling that they still belonged. He changed the society and the foreign policies of Germany to a degree that ultimately earned us the respect and the status of a mature democracy that was unthinkable only 25 years before.
For bold policies like these, there is no instruction manual, Senator Clinton, there is only the good judgment necessary of what is right and needs to be done!
“In times of profound change, the learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.” (Eric Hoffer)
“Europeanview” wishes you all a happy and healthy Tuesday, take care.