Sunday, December 13, 2009

Obama's Fine Peace Speech

President Obama gave a fine speech in accepting the Nobel Peace Prize. He made the crucial and sensible point that in this actual, fallen world, keeping peace requires strength, and restoring peace sometimes requires war. He said, rightly, that "The United States of America has helped underwrite global security for more than six decades with the blood of our citizens and the strength of our arms. ... We have done so out of enlightened self-interest."

I was particularly glad to hear his forthright declaration that we must fight war within the civilized code of treaties and conventions that make war less horrible. One of the things that grieved me most about the previous administration was how casually and ruthlessly it threw away America's moral rules and moral standing to get what it wanted. President Obama proclaims the crucial ethical insight of the whole Niebuhrian tradition: "And even as we confront a vicious adversary that abides by no rules, I believe the United States of America must remain a standard bearer in the conduct of war."

Especially when we confront a vicious, ruthless adversary, it is most important that we not become vicious and ruthless ourselves.

Some commentators to the left of me have thought there was some irony or inherent conflict in giving a peace prize to a president waging war. I think this is a soft-headed notion.

What really bothers me about the "irony of a peace prize for a war president" line is that I believe they don't really believe it themselves. The reporters asking this question know better. They are reaching for an easy dig, a sophomoric "paradox." This kind of deception has real costs. It is why people find smart liberals in general, and the press in particular, arrogant and not worthy of trust.

I believe it is a settled centrist point: peace requires a strong, forceful, and sometimes violent defense, or there will be no peace.

14 comments:

holder said...

For the most part I agree with you. The speech was fine except for the slams against President Bush which I thought were childish, unnecessary and divisive.

Thomas said...

I wonder how seriously we'd take a leader of another country who refused to investigate the members of the prior administration who committed war crimes, but who says the nation should be a standard bearer in the conduct of war.

Gruntled said...

Holder:

Here is the entirety of what might be seen as a slam on President Bush. Which part do you think is childish?

"Where force is necessary, we have a moral and strategic interest in binding ourselves to certain rules of conduct. And even as we confront a vicious adversary that abides by no rules, I believe that the United States of America must remain a standard bearer in the conduct of war. That is what makes us different from those whom we fight. That is a source of our strength.

That is why I prohibited torture. That is why I ordered the prison at Guantanamo Bay closed. And that is why I have reaffirmed America’s commitment to abide by the Geneva Conventions. We lose ourselves when we compromise the very ideals that we fight to defend. And we honor those ideals by upholding them not just when it is easy, but when it is hard."

Gruntled said...

Thomas:

It is divisive and dangerous to investigate the prior administration. It invites an endless cycle of political retribution.

holder said...

For example each speech president Obama makes it seems he has to take a jab at the previous administration.I would suggest he stop telling us how things were worse than he imagined before he took office and solve the problem or admit he can't. The constant blame game is childish and diminishes his stature. You don' accept a job and constantly blame your short comings on the previous job holder. Less excuses more solutions please. I did not vote for Mr. Obama but I want to like him but his constant whining he doesn't make it easy.

limo hire said...

I never miss President Obama's speech i remember his speech for school children and Noble speech..both really good.

Anonymous said...

"I wonder how seriously we'd take a leader of another country who refused to investigate the members of the prior administration who committed war crimes, but who says the nation should be a standard bearer in the conduct of war."

This is what banana republics do and another reason Mr. Obama should stop demonizing Mr. Bush. Remember turnabout is fair play.

randy said...

but why are our soldiers even still in afghanistan at all? it's been 8 years now. what would victory even look like at this point? we can't possibly defeat the taliban thru force of arms. our violence over there merely turns the populace more fiercely against us. how long will we continue to prop up corrupt, incompetant leaders and kill innocents w/robot planes-all for no good reason. not to mention our own fine soldiers dying for no other reason than that u.s. leaders can't figure out how to exit w/out losing face.

iraq is different. we can't and won't ever leave iraq because all that oil can't be just left up for grabs. plus israel would howl if we tried to exit. so our soldiers remain there under the most gossamer of legal authorization. but at least they've learned to just hunker down on the bases and not stir up trouble.

mandy said...

yeah randy. it's the jews fault. ever notice how the left blames israel our friend. but loves our enemies ie. syria, iran, cuba etc.

Gruntled said...

Randy, I disagree. The war we should have been fighting in the first place - with the help of the world - is against Al Qaeda. That is a winnable war, and should be won.

The war in Iraq was elective. President Obama has outlined a viable exit strategy.

The other considerations are secondary, and can be dealt with in course.

Thomas said...

So we should turn our heads at human rights violations in order to avoid divisiveness? Why wait until they're out of office? Maybe as a country we should just have a policy of keeping polite silence no matter what illicit human rights violations the leaders of our country commit.

I'm sorry, but that sounds an awful lot like an admission that we like our politics rancor free so much that we don't care who has to suffer or die so that we can be comfy and not have to listen at politicians yapping angrily at one another.

holder said...

Thomas,
You argue against a case no one has made. No one condones civil rights violations, right or left.

Thomas said...

Not prosecuting known war crimes is "condoning" human rights violations plain and simple. You may want to review the previous comments.

Anonymous said...

Thomas, stating your opinion as fact is weak. You may be correct but you have not proved anything by simply stating your opinion. Using your theory, Clinton and then Obama would also be prosecuted for war crimes. As Gruntled states,"It invites an endless cycle of political retribution."