Danke Schoen, Obama

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Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Senator Barack Obama spoke at the Victory Column in Berlin's Tiergarten today, to a sea of people numbering in the tens of thousands. The speech was only one part of his itinerary in a week-long tour of Europe and the Middle East. In it, Obama summoned a cross-Atlantic alliance, in which he called on Europeans and Americans, together, to "defeat terror and dry up the well of extremism that supports it." He went on to say, "The walls between old allies on either side of the Atlantic cannot stand." Today we'll talk to NPR's Ron Elving, and to the director of the German Marshall Fund in Berlin, Constanze Stelzenmuller, about what the speech means, and how Obama's image is shaping up abroad.

If you heard the speech, or have questions about how it was received here or in Europe, leave your comments here.

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Obama speaks as a citizen of the world. He speaks like me, yearning for a better life and a better world.
Good speech!

Sent by Meme Wells-Suznavick | 3:44 PM | 7-24-2008

What to make of this? I have received e-mail from Euro friends, asking about the American candidate's first and last name. Understandable, when just yesterday I heard a US announcer inappropriately refer to the candidate by his first name!

Sent by Jenna | 3:49 PM | 7-24-2008

I have been an Obama supporter throughout the primaries and have enjoyed the change in rhetoric that is occurring with media coverage of his speeches. And I don't believe he is a liberal man that has decided to turn a blind eye to the problems of the middle-east. (promising the retraction of troops) But, I do wish that all listeners of this show and anyone interested, read his speech from start to finish. Pay close attention to how he frames the issues of today and how will the World prevent terrorism.

The more I listen to Barack the more inspired I become and I am very curious to see how the debates go later on in the year. McCain is an experienced and smart man, one that will give opportunity for many great responses.

Sent by Joseph | 4:37 PM | 7-24-2008

I hung on every word as did every one fortunate enough to attend in person. He is the man, no doubt about it!

McCain who??

Sent by george | 4:58 PM | 7-24-2008

Senator Obama is a dangerous man. Moving the war on terror to Pakistan could have disastrous consequences on both the political stability in the region, and in the broader balance of power. Scholars such as Richard Betts accurately point out that beyond Iran or North Korea, "Pakistan may harbor the greatest potential danger of all." With the current instability in Pakistan, Betts points to the danger that a pro-Taliban government would pose in a nuclear Pakistan. This is no minor point to be made. While the Shi'a in Iran are highly unlikely to proliferate WMD to their Sunni enemies, the Pakistanis harbor no such enmity toward Sunni terrorist organizations. Should a pro-Taliban or other similar type of government come to power in Pakistan, Al-Qaeda's chances of gaining access to nuclear weapons would dramatically increase overnight.

There are, of course, two sides to every argument; and this argument is no exception. On the one hand, some insist that American forces are needed in order to maintain political stability and to prevent such a government from rising to power. On the other hand, there are those who believe that a deliberate attack against Pakistan's state sovereignty will only further enrage its radical population, and serve to radicalize its moderates. I offer the following in support of this latter argument:

Pakistan has approximately 160 million people; better than half of the population of the entire Arab world. Pakistan also has some of the deepest underlying ethnic fissures in the region, which could lead to long-term disintegration of the state if exacerbated. Even with an impressive growth in GDP (second only to China in all of Asia), it could be decades before wide-spread poverty is alleviated and a stable middle class is established in Pakistan.

Furthermore, the absence of a deeply embedded democratic system in Pakistan presents perhaps the greatest danger to stability. In this country, upon which the facade of democracy has been thrust by outside forces and the current regime came to power by coup, the army fulfills the role of "referee within the political boxing ring." However, this referee demonstrates a "strong personal interest in the outcome of many of the fights and a strong tendency to make up the rules as he goes along." The Pakistani army "also has a long record of either joining in the fight on one side or the other, or clubbing both boxers to the ground and taking the prize himself" (Lieven, 2006:43).

Pakistan's army is also unusually large. Thathiah Ravi (2006:119, 121) observes that the army has "outgrown its watchdog role to become the master of this nation state." Ravi attributes America's less than dependable alliance with Pakistan to the nature of its army. "Occasionally, it perceives the Pakistan Army as an inescapable ally and at other times as a threat to regional peace and [a] non-proliferation regime." According to Ravi, India and Afghanistan blame the conflict in Kashmir and the Durand line on the Pakistan Army, accusing it of "inciting, abetting and encouraging terrorism from its soil." Ravi also blames the "flagrant violations in nuclear proliferation by Pakistan, both as an originator and as a conduit for China and North Korea" on the Pakistan Army, because of its support for terrorists.

The point to be made is that the stability of Pakistan depends upon maintaining the delicate balance of power both within the state of Pakistan, and in the broader region. Pakistan is not an island, it has alliances and enemies. Moving American troops into Pakistan will no doubt not only serve to radicalize its population and fuel the popular call for Jihad, it could also spark a proxy war with China that could have long-lasting economic repercussions. Focusing on the more immediate impact American troops would have on the Pakistani population; let's consider a few past encounters:

On January 13, 2006, the United States launched a missile strike on the village of Damadola, Pakistan. Rather than kill the targeted Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaeda's deputy leader, the strike instead slaughtered 17 locals. This only served to further weaken the Musharraf government and further destabilize the entire area. In a nuclear state like Pakistan, this was not only unfortunate, it was outright stupid.

On October 30, 2006, the Pakistani military, under pressure from the US, attacked a madrassah in the Northwest Frontier province in Pakistan. Immediately following the attack, local residents, convinced that the US military was behind the attack, burned American flags and effigies of President Bush, and shouted "Death to America!" Outraged over an attack on school children, the local residents viewed the attack as an assault against Islam.

On November 7, 2006, a suicide bomber retaliated. Further outrage ensued when President Bush extended his condolences to the families of the victims of the suicide attack, and President Musharraf did the same, adding that terrorism will be eliminated "with an iron hand." The point to be driven home is that the attack on the madrassah was kept as quiet as possible, while the suicide bombing was publicized as a tragedy, and one more reason to maintain the war on terror.

Last year trouble escalated when the Pakistani government laid siege to the Red Mosque and more than 100 people were killed. "Even before his soldiers had overrun the Lal Masjid ... the retaliations began." Suicide attacks originating from both Afghan Taliban and Pakistani tribal militants targeted military convoys and a police recruiting center. Guerrilla attacks that demonstrated a shocking degree of organization and speed-not to mention strategic cunning revealed that they were orchestrated by none other than al-Qaeda's number two man, Ayman Al-Zawahiri; a fact confirmed by Pakistani and Taliban officials. One such attack occurred on July 15, 2007, when a suicide bomber killed 24 Pakistani troops and injured some 30 others in the village of Daznaray (20 miles to the north of Miran Shah, in North Waziristan). Musharraf ordered thousands of troops into the region to attempt to restore order. But radical groups swore to retaliate against the government for its siege of the mosque and its cooperation with the United States.

A July 2007 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) concludes that "al Qaeda is resurgent in Pakistan- and more centrally organized than it has been at any time since 9/11." The NIE reports that al-Qaeda now enjoys sanctuary in Bajaur and North Waziristan, from which they operate "a complex command, control, training and recruitment base" with an "intact hierarchy of top leadership and operational lieutenants."

In September 2006 Musharraf signed a peace deal with Pashtun tribal elders in North Waziristan. The deal gave pro-Taliban militants full control of security in the area. Al Qaeda provides funding, training and ideological inspiration, while Afghan Taliban and Pakistani Tribal leaders supply the manpower. These forces are so strong that last year Musharraf sent well over 100,000 trained Pakistani soldiers against them, but they were not able to prevail against them.

The question remains, what does America do when Pakistan no longer has a Musharraf to bridge the gap? While Musharraf claims that President Bush has assured him of Pakistan's sovereignty, Senator Obama obviously has no intention of honoring such an assurance. As it is, the Pakistanis do just enough to avoid jeopardizing U.S. support. Musharraf, who is caught between Pakistan's dependence on American aid and loyalty to the Pakistani people, denies being George Bush's hand-puppet. Musharraf insists that he is "200 percent certain" that the United States will not unilaterally decide to attack terrorists on Pakistani soil. What happens when we begin to do just that?

Sent by John Maszka | 7:26 PM | 7-24-2008

obama has asked european allies what should have been asked for all along.

We should have always fought the war on terror not with the UN, not alone, but with Nato.

Obama is willing to tell people what they Need to hear, not what they want to hear. The cooperation of our allies would have been weel recieved after 9/11 if bush ahd not wasted the good will of the world.

That being past history the fact remains
that "acting on our own, by ourselves, we can not establish justice through out the world, or provide for its common defence, or promote its general welfare, or secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.

But joined with other free nations, we can do all this and more." - JFK

Nato should be the vehicle to secure loose weapons, holding nations accountable for terror w/in their borders, and pursuing terror elements where ever they seek refuge.

Sent by joe kavadas | 3:55 PM | 7-26-2008

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