During the Berlin Airlift, U.S. Air Force Colonel Gail Halvorsen -- the original Candy Bomber -- dropped chocolates, chewing gun, and other treats for children on the streets of Soviet-blockaded West Berlin. Soon other U.S. air crews did the same and Halvorsen began to wiggle the wings of his airplane in order to stand out from other candy bombers (earning the sobriquet of “Uncle Wiggly Wings”). The feel-good campaign of candy drops for children was supported by large donations from the Confectioners Association of America and by thousands of American school children who volunteered to attach candies to little parachutes.
Would something like that work in the changed circumstances of today -- with Berliners (and other Europeans) besieged by a terrible sense of their own inadequacy… knowing that they have no real answers to the problems of high unemployment, zero or minimal economic growth, the unsustainable growth of government and entitlements, and the growing menace and ubiquitous threat (at home and abroad) of Islamic extremism?
Barack Obama was willing to give it a try.
In his speech last week in front of the Brandenburg Gate, the president candy-bombed Berlin with old-fashioned goodies on the wish list of every true-believing liberal, or of every doe-eyed-and-damn-the-consequences progressive.
Among the sugar plums pushed out the window in rainbow-colored parachutes by the president were promises to close Guantanamo… limit the use of drones in targeting terrorists… promote massive increases in wind and solar energy… create “the world’s first AIDS-free generation”… look for ways to more evenly distribute wealth around the globe… and work toward a goal of “a world without nuclear weapons.”
That last promise is a bit breath-taking. Does anyone other than the current “leader of the free world” seriously believe that U.S. and European security would be enhanced by trying to create a world in which we all of our nuclear weapons and assumed that we could persuade or cajole every other nuclear-armed nation -- from Russia and China to Israel and the U.K., and from Pakistan and North Korea to Iran (the next in line for membership in the club) -- to join with us in forswearing nuclear arms?
Obama said that he will work to reduce the U.S. strategic nuclear arsenal by up to a third through “negotiated cuts” with Russia. On this issue, it appears that he is prepared to lead from the front -- not from the rear -- which is to say, he may be willing to cut the U.S. nuclear stockpile even without any matching cuts from Russia or other nations. In its lead editorial this weekend (“The Obama Age of Proliferation”), the Wall Street Journal noted:
Even if Russia won’t go along, Mr. Obama’s new nuclear strategy says the U.S. has more warheads, missiles and submarines than it needs. The White House can invoke this conclusion to prune the arsenal through budget cuts or executive orders. This way he can also impose changes to America’s missile defenses sought by the Russians without direct Congressional approval.
In candy-bombing Berlin, Obama called climate change “the global threat of our time.” That’s climate change -- not terrorism, not chaos in the Middle East, not the imminent spread of nuclear weapons to a terrorist state; and not the broad and probably growing appeal of Islamic fundamentalism to millions of young people around the globe who have nothing but hatred and contempt for Western ideas of freedom, democracy, and protection under law of all people from the scourge of religious persecution, including women and gays.
Those are some of the realities that the president wishes to ignore. What action would he take to stop Iran from gaining nuclear weapons? He had nothing to say on that score in his speech in Berlin.
Instead, he talked once again about how “we must move beyond a mindset of perpetual war.” Kudos to William Kristol at the Weekly Standard for his pungent response to that line in the latest issue of the magazine (“Ich bin ein Big Talker”):
How nice it must be to believe in mind over matter, and in mindsets over reality. We can be exhorted to move beyond a mindset, but there is a reality out there, and we are being mugged by it. Barack Obama is remarkably impervious to this. Or perhaps he’s simply one of those liberals who, when mugged by reality, has no interest in pressing charges. Pressing charges would mean seeking victory. Needless to say, the word victory never appears in Obama’s Berlin speech. After all, victory would mean one country or one set of countries -- the free world, perhaps? -- prevailing over others.
To this day, the Berlin Airlift stands as one of the signature events in world history in the defense of freedom. President Harry S Truman threw the full weight of his presidency behind the airlift after the Russians closed all rail, road, and water access to West Berlin on June 24, 1948. The Russians hoped to gain control of the whole city by making it impossible for the allied powers to supply their sectors of the jointly occupied city with food and fuel.
During the airlift, U.S. and allied cargo planes broke the blockade by delivering thousands of tons of daily necessities. On May 12, 1949, the Russians reopened roads and rail routes to West Berlin. Thus, the Russians were thwarted in their desire to gain full control of city -- and the rest of western-occupied Germany.
The candy bombers played a part in keeping up spirits in the city and in helping to turn part of a divided city into an island of freedom deep within Soviet and communist territory.
By contrast, Mr. Obama struck a dispiriting note in his recent address -- in largely ignoring the need for more of the same tenacity and fighting spirit that defined Berlin in 1948 (and on other notable occasions between then and the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989) in our own time.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons