National Review asked, "How big a deal is it that the president won't be going to Germany to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Berlin Wall?" My response follows; what others wrote can be found at "Forgetting the Fall."
Let us meditate briefly on Obama and the year 1989.
In one of the first interviews of his fledgling presidency, on January 27, 2009, Obama informed the audience of an Arabic-language television channel that he hoped to restore "the same respect and partnership that America had with the Muslim world as recently as 20 or 30 years ago."
How interesting that Obama praised 1989 as a time of exemplary U.S.-Muslim relations, and not the collapse of the Berlin Wall. Nineteen eighty-nine was an undistinguished year for U.S.-Muslim relations but it was before the U.S. government had sought to democratize the region. It was when Washington still focused on getting along with kings, presidents, emirs, and other autocrats. Obama's phrasing, Fouad Ajami points out, signals "a return to Realpolitik and business-as-usual" in relations with Muslims.
The president's decision to skip the celebrations in Berlin, thus, fits a larger pattern of nostalgia for the good old days before George W. Bush's "freedom agenda" and its inconvenient tensions with dictators. (November 6, 2009)