Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.

Obama’s Call for “Peace in Our Time”: Some Aids to Reflection

January 24, 2013 1:22 am 2 comments

Framed by the classic arches of the Capitol balcony, President Barack Obama delivered his second inaugural address Jan. 21, 2013. Photo: Maxine Dovere.

In the context of his usual call for “engagement” (rather than war) with nations who harbor “suspicion and fear” of America, President Obama in his inaugural speech of January 21 called for “peace in our time.”

Since it is hard to believe that any literate person, with or without Ivy League degrees, can fail to recognize the irony that has surrounded these words ever since Neville Chamberlain uttered them in September 1938 after signing the Munich Agreement with Hitler, just what did the president intend by them? Is it possible, even in these dark times, that neither the president nor anybody around him in his large cadre of speech writers and advisers, reviewing the speech before its delivery on such an occasion, took notice of them? With the single exception of Jennifer Rubin in the Washington Post, no prominent representative of the chattering classes noticed them either. Not even the normally astute Charles Krauthammer, who is not only a relentless critic of the president but a certified psychiatrist conversant with and presumably on the lookout for, “Freudian slips,” thought to ask whether Obama had here committed a grievous error in speech and memory because of some unconscious, subdued wish or train of thought.

Let me venture a few possible interpretations, if only as aids to further reflection. They are a distillation of conversations I’ve had with several of my fellow septuagenarians, every one of whom, I should perhaps add, was jolted by hearing Obama’s call for “peace in our time.”

Interpretation One: This may have been an instance of what is sometimes called “The Ignorance of the Learned.” Recall, for example, that Obama used to make a habit of scornful references to the doctrine of “American exceptionalism” without having the faintest idea of what that term has traditionally meant, from Alexis De Tocqueville to Werner Sombart. On a far less exalted plane, in July of 2009, while proclaiming himself a dedicated Chicago White Sox fan he referred to the team’s long history in “Kaminsky Field” (previously known to all Chicagoans as Comiskey Park).

Interpretation Two: Obama is tone deaf to language, so that these four words pregnant with ironic meaning for people with a sense of history, were for him nothing more than another slogan. The same holds for his advisers and speechwriters. They may possess very expensive degrees, but their professors in Cambridge and New Haven and Morningside Heights probably lectured (if they did so at all) in blue jeans and sweatshirts, showing less respect for their work (and clients) than the ordinary shoe salesman at Macy’s does for his.

Interpretation Three: Obama’s call for peace in our time was indeed a Freudian slip, in which the speaker, quite unconsciously, reveals far more than he intends. That is to say, Chamberlain’s words emerged from the deepest unconscious recesses of Obama’s mind without his having any intention at all of recommending appeasement of Iran or al-Qaeda or the Islamic Brotherhood.

Interpretation Four: Obama meant exactly what he said, expected people to recognize Chamberlain’s words and understand that Barak Obama still believes that Chamberlain was right, and Winston Churchill wrong. Had the Washington weather been worse, he would have opened an umbrella.

Interpretation Five: Perhaps #4 gives Obama’s scant knowledge of Europe’s twentieth century history too much credit for relevant content. He certainly holds views similar to those of Neville Chamberlain , so he naturally falls into the use of Chamberlain-like expressions; but he hasn’t the slightest inkling of the actual Chamberlain who first uttered them. And it goes without saying that he has no room in his head for Winston Churchill’s verdict—and history’s—on the appeasement policy. Churchill told the House of Commons, while much of the British nation, including King George and the dowager Queen, were still cheering peacemaker Chamberlain: “England has been offered a choice between war and shame. She has chosen shame, and will get war.” And who was right?

2 Comments

  • Chamberlain said “peace for our time” not the often misquoted “peace in our time”. The phase used by Obama comes from the Book of Common Prayer and is a simple appeal for peace in a world of conflict.

    History has derided Chamberlain as an appeaser but quite simply he had no other choice. He could not risk the security of the UK in a showdown with Hitler. He had been just been briefed that the air defence of the UK was woefully inadequate. As of Sept 1938 there were only 200 Hurricanes, 20 Spitfires and 5 radar stations in RAF service. A declaration of war could have prompted an air attack on a defenceless London and an estimated one million casulties.

    Chamberlain’s real agenda is witnessed by Britain’s huge preparations for war and air defences during the 12 months following Munich.

  • There is no difference between Neville Chamberlain’s appeasement of National Socialism and Obama’s appeasement of Islam…As Winston Churl hill declared in 1948 in THE GATHERING STORM: MEINKAMPF was the new KORAN.

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition. Comments written in all caps will be deleted.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Arts and Culture First English-Language Trailer Debuts for Natalie Portman’s Hebrew Film ‘A Tale of Love and Darkness,’ Based on Amos Oz’s Memoir (VIDEO)

    First English-Language Trailer Debuts for Natalie Portman’s Hebrew Film ‘A Tale of Love and Darkness,’ Based on Amos Oz’s Memoir (VIDEO)

    The first English-language trailer for Natalie Portman’s directorial debut — A Tale of Love and Darkness — based on Israeli author Amos Oz’s memoir, was released on Thursday. The movie, originally filmed in Hebrew, tells the story of Oz’s childhood in Jerusalem at the end of the British Mandate and the early years of Israel’s independence. Portman, who was born in Israel and speaks fluent Hebrew, plays the lead role of Fania, the author’s mother. She struggles to raise her son as she deals with inner demons, a […]

    Read more →
  • Features As Berlin Prices Rise, Israelis Turn East for German Real-Estate Bargains

    As Berlin Prices Rise, Israelis Turn East for German Real-Estate Bargains

    JNS.org – Sonnenallee, a street in Berlin’s Neukölln district, looks like it comes straight out of an Arab city — so much so that it goes by the nickname “Gaza Strip.” Kebab and bakery shops are advertised in Arabic; men sit in men-only coffee shops; and bridal shop windows showcase glittery, not-so-stylish gowns. But take a random turn, and you’ll find a swath of bars, burger joints, and Indian restaurants where hip Berliners announce that they have arrived to urban coolness. […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Israeli Actress Gal Gadot Slays in ‘Wonder Woman’ Trailer (VIDEO)

    Israeli Actress Gal Gadot Slays in ‘Wonder Woman’ Trailer (VIDEO)

    Israeli actress Gal Gadot engages in fierce action sequences in the new Wonder Woman trailer, which Warner Bros. premiered during the San Diego Comic-Con on Saturday. The nearly 3-minute trailer, the first to debut for the superhero film, shows scenes of Diana, princess of the Amazons, fighting alongside men in the battle against the world’s toughest enemies. The first shot of the video shows Wonder Woman discovering a man, Steve Trevor (played by actor Chris Pine), washed ashore. The clip then takes viewers to the all-female island where Wonder Woman was born. […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture A Theatrical Look at Diplomacy and the Oslo Accords (REVIEW)

    A Theatrical Look at Diplomacy and the Oslo Accords (REVIEW)

    Is diplomacy worthwhile, even if the end result isn’t what we hoped for? That is the question, among many others, posed by the new play Oslo, by J.T. Rogers. Making its New York debut at Lincoln Center, the play examines the secret diplomatic process that led to the historic 1993 peace accords. The character of Shimon Peres makes an appearance onstage — and he, along with Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat, tower over the proceedings. But they mainly do so in absentia. Instead, […]

    Read more →
  • Spirituality/Tradition Sports Israeli Trailblazer Dean Kremer Brings Jewish Values to Nascent Pro Baseball Career

    Israeli Trailblazer Dean Kremer Brings Jewish Values to Nascent Pro Baseball Career

    JNS.org – Other than being part of the Los Angeles Dodgers organization, Sandy Koufax and Dean Kremer have something else in common: a respect for Jewish tradition. Koufax — who was recently ranked by ESPN as the best left-handed pitcher in Major League Baseball (MLB) history — decided not to pitch Game 1 of the 1965 World Series because the game fell on Yom Kippur. “I would do the same,” Kremer said in an interview. Last month, the 20-year-old Kremer became […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Lead Guitarist of British Rock Band Queen Asks Adam Lambert to Sing in Hebrew During Upcoming Israel Concert

    Lead Guitarist of British Rock Band Queen Asks Adam Lambert to Sing in Hebrew During Upcoming Israel Concert

    The famed lead guitarist of British rock band Queen, Brian May, encouraged Jewish singer-songwriter Adam Lambert to perform in Hebrew during their upcoming joint concert in Israel, an entertainment industry advocacy organization reported on Tuesday. During a recent interview with Israeli television personality Assi Azar, May was played a 2005 video of Lambert singing the popular song Shir L’Shalom, (Song for Peace). May was so impressed by Lambert’s singing of the Hebrew track that he told the American singer, “We have to do that. Let’s […]

    Read more →
  • Sports Kenyan Marathoner to Compete for Israel in Rio Olympics

    Kenyan Marathoner to Compete for Israel in Rio Olympics

    JNS.org – Kenyan-born marathoner Lonah Chemtai is expected to compete for Israel at the Olympics Games in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil next month after gaining a last minute approval. “I am very proud [to represent Israel] and I hope to achieve a new personal best time,” Chemtai told Reuters. Chemtai, who grew up a rural village in western Kenya, first came to Israel in 2009 to care of the children of her country’s ambassador to Israel. The 27-year-old runner recently gained […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Jewish Identity Will Laughs Lead to Love on Show About Orthodox Dating?

    Will Laughs Lead to Love on Show About Orthodox Dating?

    To date or not to date? That is not the question for most Modern Orthodox singles in New York. The question is when will they find their future spouses, and when will their families stop nagging them about having babies? Inspired by the success of the Israeli show “Srugim,” Leah Gottfried, 25, decided she would create and star in her own show, “Soon By You.” “Dating is so serious already,” Gottfried said. “We wanted to take a lighter approach and laugh at the […]

    Read more →