Monday, July 21, 2008

Other Possibilities

My friend Byron chides me for the post immediately below this one where I said that: "By choosing this site for his speech Obama tacitly endorses the symbolism of the Victory Column and makes himself appear just as blissfully ignorant of European history and culture as the feckless tourist who speaks no French."

Byron correctly points out that I should not have said that Obama was "tacitly endorsing" the symbol since there are other posible explanations for his choice of this venue. For one, it's possible that Obama knows the history behind the Victory Column and is going to use this backdrop to somehow criticize the mindset which lies behind it.

It's also possible that he actually doesn't know the history of the Column and would not have chosen it if he had.

Of course, if the Senator doesn't know the history then the last clause of the passage quoted above obtains, and if he doesn't use the occasion to make a speech which "deconstructs" (to use Byron's word) this expression of German military power then it seems we're back to my original formulation.


Innocent Abroad

Having been rebuffed in his attempt to hold a rally at the Brandenburg Gate in Germany Senator Obama has settled on the Siegessaeule or Victory Column in the heart of downtown Berlin. This is an odd choice for the candidate who scoffed at American visitors to Europe who can only say merci beaucoup. The Victory Column celebrates German military victories over our allies (France, Denmark, and Austria) and was placed there by Adolf Hitler who looked at it as a symbol of German military prowess. By choosing this site for his speech Obama tacitly endorses the symbolism of the Victory Column and makes himself appear just as blissfully ignorant of European history and culture as the feckless tourist who speaks no French.

And why does he need such symbolic backdrops anyway? The man is a candidate, not a President. Is he hoping to draw huge crowds of enthusiastic Germans in order to convince undecided Americans that the Europeans would love us if only we elected him as President?

Ed Morrissey writes:

Hitler didn't just move the monument to its more central location. He had a taller column built for it as well, to emphasize its message of German military domination over Europe. He saw it as a message to Germans of their destiny - as well as to other Europeans as their destiny as well. It was never meant as a symbol of peaceful, multicultural co-existence.

Team Obama has outdone themselves on symbolism with this choice. They've managed to make their hosts uncomfortable for a second time with their choice of rallying point, and perhaps more so this time. If one wanted to talk peace, what worse location could one choose than Adolf Hitler's favorite monument to militaristic domination? One has to wonder how France, Denmark, and Austria will feel about Obama rallying German masses under the Siegess�ule. Deja vu?

Obama could be excused for his gaffe, except for two reasons. His team certainly understood the historical weight that the Brandenburg Gate would have lent his event, so why didn't they bother to ask the Germans about the Siegess�ule? Quite obviously, the Germans understand the meaning and subtext of the monument, and most of them wonder why Obama does not. Maybe this is a better example of clueless Americans traveling abroad than those who can only say merci beaucoup.

The more basic question is why Obama feels the need to conduct a campaign event among Germans. Meeting with foreign leaders makes sense for a man with no foreign policy experience whatsoever, but that doesn't require massive rallies among people who aren't voting in this election. In his rush to look impressive for no one's purposes but his own, Obama has made himself look ignorant and arrogant all over again.


Giving Peace a Chance

The Bush administration has taken considerable heat from the right for meeting with the Iranians to discuss their nuclear weapons program. I don't think this criticism is really warranted. Surely the administration anticipated that they would have near zero success persuading the Iranians to draw down, but they did the right thing by meeting with them for two reasons:

First, there was a vanishingly small chance that the Iranians would have a Libyan moment and decide that they couldn't sustain the opprobrium of the world nor the fear of U.S. military action. Too much is at stake for President Bush not to at least allow for the possibility that a face-to-face meeting might provoke Iranian second-thoughts.

Second, and more importantly, the U.S., if it's going to take more serious measures down the road, simply has to make every effort to settle this matter peacefully. To take more aggressive action against Iran without at least having tried face-to-face talks would have been precipitous and unforgiveable. Doubtless, too, some of our allies are insisting that their support for a strike on Iran is contingent upon our exhausting every other avenue first.

Now that the talks have come to naught the next steps will likely be deep sanctions and a blockade, either of which are likely to provoke an aggressive response from Iran and a consequent all-out massive retaliatory strike against their nuclear facilities, military, and government. The most likely window for an escalation is after the November elections but before the next president takes office.

We may have little choice in the end but to do what's necessary to prevent the Iranians from getting these horrific weapons, but we're not there yet. President Bush, in my view, did the right thing by giving peace a chance.


Facts and Theories

Casey Luskin at Evolution News and Views is beginning a five part series of posts on these five questions:

  1. Are Darwinists correct to define "theory" as "a well-substantiated scientific explanation of some aspect of the natural world" or "a comprehensive explanation of some aspect of nature that is supported by a vast body of evidence"?
  2. Under such a strong definition of "theory," does evolution qualify as a "theory"?
  3. Is it correct to call evolution a "fact"?
  4. Is it best for Darwin skeptics to call evolution "just a theory, not a fact"?
  5. "All I wanted to say is that I'm a scientific skeptic of neo-Darwinism. How can I convey such skepticism without stepping on a semantic land mine and getting scolded by Darwinists?"

His response to #1 can be read here.