Published November 6, 2009
The following appeared as part of the National Review Online Symposium, “Forgetting the Fall.”
It’s a very big deal, because the president’s absence bespeaks a woodenheadeness about the history of our times: a woodenheadness likely influenced by the classic left-liberal notion that the Cold War was just an action-reaction cycle between two “great powers” (“two scorpions in a bottle,” as a Jimmy Carter appointee notoriously put it), not a moral contest for the human future between imperfect democracies and pluperfect dictatorships.
There have been few moments in modern history when the good guys won, cleanly, and without mass violence; Americans had a large role in creating the conditions for the possibility of that. The fall of the Wall was the symbolic centerpiece of the Revolution of 1989 — it’s shameful and, frankly, embarrassing that an American president is not in Berlin to celebrate the implosion of the worst tyranny in human history. But it’s hardly surprising, given the president’s performance before Russian students earlier this year.
The politics of national self-deprecation — moral blindness wrapped in moral sanctimony — continues.
George Weigel is Distinguished Senior Fellow of Washington’s Ethics and Public Policy Center, where he holds the William E. Simon Chair in Catholic Studies.