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.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Book Reviews Personalities How a Jewish Leader With 3 Months to Live Created a ‘Seminar’ on Life

    How a Jewish Leader With 3 Months to Live Created a ‘Seminar’ on Life

    JNS.org – What would you do if you found out that you had only three more months to live? Gordon Zacks was a successful businessman, a leader of Jewish life, and a confidante and adviser to President George H.W. Bush. He knew that he had prostate cancer, but doctors advised him that it was very slow-growing and nothing to worry about. Then came the day when the doctors told him his cancer metastasized to his liver, and that he had [...]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Theater 10 Things I Learned From My Play About Holocaust Denial

    10 Things I Learned From My Play About Holocaust Denial

    Last month, my one-man show Hoaxocaust! Written and performed by Barry Levey with the generous assistance of the Institute for Political and International Studies, Tehran ran in the New York International Fringe Festival, where it won an Overall Excellence Award. The play has now been selected to run in the Fringe Encores Series at Baruch College’s Performing Arts Center, for four performances which started on Thursday, September 11. Getting the play to the stage was not easy, however. Here are [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Israel Israeli Music Producer Racks Up Over 535,000 YouTube Hits – in Two Days

    Israeli Music Producer Racks Up Over 535,000 YouTube Hits – in Two Days

    Phenomenon: Tel Aviv-based musician and “sampler” extraordinaire, Kutiman (aka Ophir Kutiel) has hit another one out of the park with “Give It Up,” a fully-functioning song in its own right, assembled from hundreds of ameteur and instructional music videos. The Jerusalem-born musical prodigy is best know for his diverse online musical projects. In the latest video, uploaded to YouTube on Sept. 12th, Kutiel thanked most of the musicians and individuals he chose to include in the meticulously-edited clip, which opens with [...]

    Read more →
  • Theater US & Canada Behind-the-Scenes Reel of Ridley Scott’s Moses Epic Shows Scenes Using 4000 Extras (VIDEO)

    Behind-the-Scenes Reel of Ridley Scott’s Moses Epic Shows Scenes Using 4000 Extras (VIDEO)

    A recently released behind-the-scenes reel of Ridley Scott’s upcoming film Exodus: Gods and Kings shows just how far the director has gone to portray one of the Bible’s most famous narratives. In the clip, which shows scenes involving up to 4,000 extras, the visionary director discusses what drew him to the biblical tale of Moses. “The Moses story was a massive challenge, which I really love. I wanted to explore the complexity of his character and I was stunned by [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Jewish Identity Turner Classic Movies Showcases ‘Broad Sweep’ of the Jewish Experience on Film

    Turner Classic Movies Showcases ‘Broad Sweep’ of the Jewish Experience on Film

    JNS.org – Since 2006, the Turner Classic Movies (TCM) cable and satellite TV network has hosted “The Projected Image,” a month-long showcase examining how different cultural and ethnic groups have been portrayed on the big screen. At last, after previously covering African Americans, Asians, the LGBT community, Latinos, Native Americans, Arabs, and people with disabilities, the annual series is delving into Jewish film this month. “The Projected Image: The Jewish Experience on Film,” whose first segment aired Sept. 2, runs [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Jewish Identity An Inside Look at the Hasidim (REVIEW)

    An Inside Look at the Hasidim (REVIEW)

    The sight of young girls in pinafores and young boys wearing peyos – sidelocks – dangling over their ears is a sure sign that you have entered the enigmatic precincts of the Hasidim – the pious ones. Veteran New York Times journalist Joseph Berger’s new book, THE PIOUS ONES: The World of Hasidim and their Battles with America, takes the reader on a journey into the enclaves where various sects of Jews live a seemingly outmoded way of life in [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Jewish Identity How Jewish Television Pioneer Milton Berle Inspired Modern Comedy Stars

    How Jewish Television Pioneer Milton Berle Inspired Modern Comedy Stars

    JNS.org – Today’s comedy superstars, especially those whose careers are driven by television, may very well owe their success to pioneering Jewish entertainer Milton Berle. Born Mendel Berlinger in Manhattan in 1908, Berle became America’s first small-screen star. Aptly nicknamed “Mr. Television,” he influenced and helped promote the work of hundreds of younger comics. “Milton Berle was deceptively successful and very Jewish,” says Lawrence Epstein, author of The Haunted Smile: The Story of Jewish Comedians in America, published the year [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Sports Jewish ‘Hoops Whisperer’ a Secret Weapon for NBA Stars

    Jewish ‘Hoops Whisperer’ a Secret Weapon for NBA Stars

    JNS.org – Idan Ravin’s friends chipped in to buy him a humble but life-changing bar mitzvah gift—a basketball hoop his father attached to the roof of his garage. Little did his friends know that years later, he would be the personal trainer of National Basketball Association (NBA) stars Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant, Dwight Howard, and Stephen Curry. Ravin’s new book, “The Hoops Whisperer: On the Court and Inside the Head of Basketball’s Best Players,” details his rise from a Jewish upbringing [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.