Sometimes history calls to us – and should listen. In 1963, President John F. Kennedy went to West Berlin, entrapped by East Germany and Soviet domination. Reagan would later challenge the Soviets to “tear down” the Berlin Wall. In 1963, Kennedy defended freedom, saying “Ich bin ein Berliner!” Biden owes Taiwan that pledge.
Kennedy’s meaning was clear. Beyond German words, he added: “All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin, and therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words “Ich bin ein Berliner!” In short, we stand with you, for you, and will not back down to oppression.
Put differently, when freedom anywhere is threatened, intimidated, staunched, or stolen from free people – when free lives are eclipsed by communism – it is stolen from all of us. Kennedy – and Reagan – were clear about what they believed, and what they would not tolerate.
They would not tolerate the summary trouncing of freedom. Power does not translate to legitimacy. Might and manhandling does not equal right. It never has and does not now.
Historically, no nation on the face of our planet – or history of nations – has more fervently stood for freedom, defended it when threatened, turned back forces of oppression with resolve and determination – fascist or communist – than America.
There is only one America. 20th Century Germans knew it. Those who doubted it, learned in World Wars I and II. Soviets knew it. Those who doubted it looked back from a dust heap. Today, the Chinese question whether we are still who we were.
Truth is, since a nation is Her People, we are. The nation is not government. The nation is the People. We are as we have always been, insufficiently focused, disunited on social policy, perhaps more disgruntled and intolerant of differences, but we love our freedoms.
We also have in us, a legacy. That legacy is understood – around the world. Having been in 50 nations, I have never been to one that did not understand America was different, profoundly so.
When we pledge to defend an ally, when we say freedom matters, when we resolve to stand firm against systematic and ideological oppression, not permit the expansion of inhumanity, and in particular not indulge communist adventurism, we mean it.
We do not win every battle, but in the long game, the battle for truth and individual liberties, siding with free peoples, our position has never been ambiguous. Kennedy was in Berlin to make clear – we stand with free peoples, even when they are taunted, battered, isolated, and threatened.
Indeed, what he was saying was, we stand with them especially at that time. In peril’s path, when belligerents intimidate, coerce, cudgel, condemn, and aim to subjugate free peoples, America has their back. Our allies are our allies, and never more than when they are under fire.
So, if Biden were half the man he talks of being, if he were willing to take the reins from his Secretaries of State and Defense, willing to take a page from Kennedy and Reagan, this would be his moment – arguably his finest moment.
With resolve and no stumbling, clear eyes and no doubt, he would look into the camera in a major international address – directed straight at China and their communist leaders, coincidentally at Russia, Iran, North Korea and aggressors anywhere – and speak as Kennedy.
In effect, he needs to say “Ich bin Taiwanese” – I am Taiwanese – or in very few words, in Taiwanese or English, build on the legacy that is ours, America’s. He needs to say, without equivocation, that freedom will be defended, free nations will not be overrun.
In a soundbite, “All free men, wherever they may live, are Taiwanese.” The echo of that speech would be deafening, resonance unforgettable, and effect arresting. If we mean what we say, respect who we are, honor the liberty of those who honor liberty, we must stand with Taiwan.
Sometimes history calls to us, and we should listen.