Thursday, May 31, 2012

Barry Rubin: If Obama Doesn’t Understand European History He Can’t Get America’s Future History Right

by Barry Rubin

President Barack Obama’s mistaken reference to Nazi German death camps as “Polish death camps” is being ridiculed by critics as an example of incompetence. That misses the point. The defense is that he was just reading his teleprompter. That misses the point, too.

After all, you don’t need to be a historical genius to have caught that error even if it was on the teleprompter. I am not suggesting that Obama doesn’t know that the Nazi Germans operated the death camps though, to recall another gaffe of his, he might think that those among them hailing from the country whose capital had been Vienna spoke “Austrian.”

Nevertheless, what this is really about is that Obama does not see himself as emerging from European history and, truth be told and despite his university degrees, doesn’t know much about it. He has no idea, for example, about how the Poles and other Central European people or Europe itself think or what they have gone through. And frankly he doesn’t care.
On one level, that is rather obvious. His father was Kenyan. But, of course, his mother was an American of European descent. Still, Obama has not chosen to focus on his simultaneously half-African/half-European parentage. He has identified himself as an African-American, and the word African here has to be taken literally, not just as a matter of ancestry from three centuries ago. The only exception to this stance, I believe, was a reference to Irish ancestry during a visit to that country and a feeble, rather insultingly stereotyped, attempt at an Irish accent.

Forget about this as a matter of race or skin color. Think of it as a matter of geographical choice.
Continue reading If Obama Doesn’t Understand European History He Can’t Get America’s Future History Right

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). His latest book is Israel: An Introduction, was published by Yale University Press in January 2012. You can read more of Barry Rubin's posts at Rubin Reportsand  Rubin Reports, on Pajamas Media 

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