Michael Barone looks at today’s headlines —an Olympics in Beijing, an invasion in Georgia, a speech in Berlin—and is reminded of 1936 and 1948 and 1963 and 1989.
His excellent column —“Echoes of Berlin”— draws parallels between the Russians and Tbilisi and the Soviets and Berlin.
There’s a parallel here to the situation in Berlin in June 1948, when the Soviets cut off land access to West Berlin. Harry Truman’s top civilian and military advisers told him there was no way to supply the city by air and that we could not win a land war with the Soviets. But Truman said, “We’re staying in Berlin,” and the American military made the airlift work. The Soviets could have wiped out the Allied garrison, but they dared not do so.
He is critical of Senator Obama’s Siegessaule speech, which celebrated the Berlin Airlift as an example of American generosity —“which it was”— but ignored the fact that it was also, and in fact primarily, an unsubtle demonstration of American military strength.
Whatever could or should or might have been done in the past vis a vis the Russians and the Georgians, the situation is what it is and that’s what we must deal with. Mr. Barone views our options from the perspective of history.
Some say we never should have encouraged Georgia by offering NATO membership, which was sidetracked by Germany; others say if NATO membership had been extended, Russia would not have invaded. Perhaps and perhaps. In June 1948, some said we should have withdrawn from Berlin, while others said we should have negotiated land access to Berlin in 1945. We are where we are, as we were where we were then. The question is whether we have the nerve and the ingenuity and the persistence to stay. Truman’s America did. Does ours?