Monday, July 21, 2008

Kristol: A Nostalgic Touch

William Kristol is feeling nostalgic for the Cold War.

When President Kennedy spoke to a huge crowd in front of West Berlin’s city hall in June 1963, victory in the cold war seemed a distant hope. The Soviets had crushed the East German uprising of 1953 and the Hungarian rebellion of 1956. Castro had taken power in 1959. The Berlin Wall had gone up in 1961. The Cuban Missile Crisis had brought the world to the brink of war less than a year before. There were many, in Europe and elsewhere, who wanted to find a way out of the struggle.

Speaking on behalf of “the world of freedom,” Kennedy challenged the anti-anti-Communists and the peaceniks. He chastised the “many people in the world who really don’t understand, or say they don’t, what is the great issue between the free world and the Communist world.” He rebuked those “who say in Europe and elsewhere we can work with the Communists.” To all of them, Kennedy memorably said: “Let them come to Berlin.”

Perhaps Obama — with the Victory Column at his back — will also challenge those who think it impossible to imagine victory today. Perhaps Obama will also warn of the temptation of assuming we can somehow avoid confronting the terrorists and jihadists, and those who support them.

And perhaps Obama will quote Kennedy to the effect that “freedom is indivisible, and when one man is enslaved, all are not free.” Surely he will express pride — whatever his judgment as to the prudence of the effort, and whatever his judgment as to whether it has been worth the cost — in the efforts of American servicemen and women, and those from our coalition partners, who have fought and sacrificed, along with countless Afghans and Iraqis, against those who would kill and subjugate their fellow human beings. And surely he will pledge our continued commitment to the cause of victory in this struggle.

Mr. Kristol is forgetting that at the time President Kennedy delivered his speech in Berlin in 1963, Mr. Kristol’s predecessors in the ranks of the hawks dismissed it as idealistic rhetoric and mocked him for the famous Ich bin ein Berliner line which colloquially compared the president to a pastry item (an urban legend that has since been debunked), and was accused of saber-rattling by the left. Oh, well; history has a way of turning things rosy. But then he concludes with an interesting paragraph:

The front lines are elsewhere today, in a struggle against a different enemy. We don’t know whether jihadism will turn out to be a less or more formidable foe than Communism. But at least Obama can say what Kennedy did not live to see: that just over a quarter-century after Kennedy spoke, after much controversy, and despite many mistakes, and thanks to considerable sacrifice, the world of freedom could take sober satisfaction in a remarkable victory.

Wow; jihadism isn’t the worst threat to the world since the Black Plague and gay marriage? Is Mr. Kristol getting soft? He’s allowing that all-out war might not be the way to defeat Islamofascism, and that Mr. Obama might be worthy of leading the nation if he can pull off a stem-winder in Berlin? He may have to turn in his neo-con secret decoder ring for that.