Congratulations to President Barack Obama for receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, Norway. By awarding the prize to a wartime president who is presiding over two wars and has just ordered an escalation in one of them, the Nobel Prize Committee may be setting a precedent that recognizes that peace often comes from force of arms. President Obama delivered a speech to this effect:
Just nine days after ordering 30,000 more U.S. troops into battle in Afghanistan, Obama delivered a Nobel acceptance speech that he saw as a treatise on war's use and prevention. He crafted much of the address himself and the scholarly remarks – at about 4,000 words – were nearly twice as long as his inaugural address.
In them, Obama refused to renounce war for his nation or under his leadership, saying defiantly that "I face the world as it is" and that he is obliged to protect and defend the United States.
"A nonviolent movement could not have halted Hitler's armies. Negotiations cannot convince al-Qaida's leaders to lay down their arms," Obama said. "To say that force is sometimes necessary is not a call to cynicism, it is a recognition of history."
The president laid out the circumstances where war is justified – in self-defense, to come to the aid of an invaded nation and on humanitarian grounds, such as when civilians are slaughtered by their own government or a civil war threatens to engulf an entire region.
"The belief that peace is desirable is rarely enough to achieve it," he said.
He also spoke bluntly of the cost of war, saying of the Afghanistan buildup he just ordered that "some will kill, some will be killed."
"No matter how justified, war promises human tragedy," he said.
But he also stressed the need to fight war according to "rules of conduct" that reject torture and other methods. And he emphasized the need to exhaust alternatives to violence, using diplomatic outreach and sanctions with teeth to confront nations such as Iran or North Korea that defy international demands to halt their nuclear programs or those such as Sudan, Congo or Burma that brutalize their citizens.
"Let us reach for the world that ought to be," Obama said. "We can understand that there will be war, and still strive for peace."
Maybe next year the prize will be given to George W. Bush.
UPDATE: Seriously, it’s a good speech, and, as Kathleen Parker points out, it is distinctly Christian in its worldview and theological tradition. Consider this passage:
“For make no mistake: Evil does exist in the world. A non-violent movement could not have halted Hitler’s armies. Negotiations cannot convince al-Qaeda’s leaders to lay down their arms. To say that force may sometimes be necessary is not a call to cynicism — it is a recognition of history, the imperfections of man and the limits of reason.”
Here we have acknowledgement of the reality of evil, implying the existence of objective moral truths; the imperfections of man; the limits of reason; just war theory. All proclaimed to a hostile crowd that has probably forgotten these elements of their Christian heritage.