Unfortunately, it’s not Barack Obama, but rather President Horst Köhler of Germany, who has resigned due to intense criticism after saying them. Köhler was in Afghanistan on a surprise visit and used his remarks to make a very blunt case for why German troops needed to be there:
“A country of our size, with its focus on exports and thus reliance on foreign trade, must be aware that military deployments are necessary in an emergency to protect our interests, for example, when it comes to trade routes, for example, when it comes to preventing regional instabilities that could negatively influence our trade, jobs and incomes.”
The NY Times comically notes that
Usually, German leaders justify their soldiers’ presence in the American-led coalition by saying they are needed to thwart would-be terrorists who might use Afghanistan as a base for attacks in Europe.
Representatives from the ruling class rarely make such blunt comments about policy, especially not when they are heads-of-state. Modern capitalist democracies require “necessary illusions” to run, as the majority of the population would be reluctant to support conflict if the ruling class were so bold as to say state policy were really in the interests of a few. It’s not that we cannot figure this out, but rather that the illusion of protecting Germany’s (or any other state’s) “interests” from terrorism is a way to accept the other iniquities we face daily. National cohesion is purchased via regular propaganda that smooth over the real reasons for what would be deeply unpopular actions (social service cuts, wars, etc.). To be so blunt as Köhler is to risk shattering the idea of a national interest and to reintroduce the concept of class into national politics, something undesirable from the elite point of view.