In Russia this week, President Obama spoke about the end of the Cold War, disclaiming any distinctive role for the United States, crediting instead the actions of “many nations” and the Russian and Eastern European people who “stood up”:
Make no mistake: this change did not come from any one nation alone. The Cold War reached a conclusion because of the actions of many nations over many years, and because the people of Russia and Eastern Europe stood up and decided that its end would be peaceful.
As Scott Johnson noted yesterday at Power Line, Lech Walesa had a somewhat different perspective. After Ronald Reagan’s death, Walesa wrote that the Czechs owed their liberty to him and that “[t]his can’t be said often enough.” Walesa particularly remembered the poster that became a powerful symbol for the Poles in the 1989 poll in which Solidarity trounced the Communists:
[T]he poster shows Gary Cooper as the lonely sheriff in the American Western, “High Noon.” Under the headline “At High Noon” runs the red Solidarity banner and the date — June 4, 1989 — of the poll. It was a simple but effective gimmick that, at the time, was misunderstood by the Communists. They, in fact, tried to ridicule the freedom movement in Poland as an invention of the “Wild” West, especially the U.S.
But the poster had the opposite impact: Cowboys in Western clothes had become a powerful symbol for Poles. Cowboys fight for justice, fight against evil, and fight for freedom, both physical and spiritual. . . . [The poster] has become the emblem of the battle that we all fought together.
Over the past week, Obama also came out in support of an anti-American Honduran leader seeking to extend his term of office beyond constitutional limits. The administration sided against the Honduran Supreme Court, Congress and Attorney General, suspended aid, and supported OAS action against the country. The administration now appears to be backing off—because the Honduran people stood up. An Investor’s Business Daily editorial yesterday described what happened after the U.S. and OAS took their adamant positions:
[Honduran] Government support strengthened though, with the Church, businesses and crowds in the streets all holding together.
“Honduras is an example to the world. We don’t have money. We don’t have oil. We have balls,” read a hand-lettered sign from a defiant street protester in support of his government.
Obama has set a series of false notes in foreign policy by standing silently for a week as huge crowds in Iran courageously protested a stolen election and failing to support Honduras against a Chavez-like attempt to avoid the rules of a democracy. He has not even been consistent: in the first case, he feared being characterized as the Wild “Meddling” West; in the second, he had no compunctions against major meddling.
In another sense, however, he was consistent. In both cases he failed to support the people who were standing up, which makes his rhetoric in Russia still another false note.