08/02/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Obama's "Disney" Realpolitik

In his column in today's New York Times, David Brooks argues that Barack Obama's speech in Berlin extolling unity and hope offered nothing more than "Disney" because it did not address "hard realities."

In fact, it is Brooks who cannot understand the hard reality -- that after eight years of George W. Bush, America's relationship with Europe and the world is critically strained. So strained, in fact, that before the U.S. can start telling them what's good for them, it must first establish trust. And that requires exactly the kind of diplomacy Brooks dismisses merely as "saccharine" fairytales. Ironically, Obama's speech was necessary precisely because the U.S. has spent the last eight years pompously dictating its demands to the world, without any regard for its allies. By emphasizing the commonality of the U.S. and Europe's destinies above all else, Obama is beginning the healing process. Without that, Obama could spew all the hard truths he wanted, and no one would listen.

Incidentally, Obama's background as a Black American makes him perfectly positioned to understand these hard realities. To get themselves taken seriously by anyone in the mainstream, establishment white community, Black Americans have to bend over backwards to demonstrate not only that they are non-threatening, but also that they are simply normal human beings like anyone else, that their humanity transcends race. That unity must come before division. It's a very profound burden for them to bear. And for one of the first times in our history, it also happens to be the burden which the entire U.S. bears in the context of the international community. Thank God Obama understands that.

So Obama's "saccharine" speech was about as realpolitik as it gets. If anything, Brooks's view is the one that's disconnected from reality.