Obama's Nobel Speech

No non-violent movement would have been effective against Hitler's armies!

Yeah, right, only if the British and the French did not think they were too clever and they are actually preparing Hitler to contain the soviets, there would be no Hitler's army. Nor will be Saddam Hussein's, few decades later, if the United States and Saudi Arabia did not want to use him as a prop against Iran. The point is there are always solutions other than war, if you accept equality of rights - of voicing an opinion, maintaining freedom and of earning the daily bread - for everyone.

I am actually surprised President Obama said this. He was receiving a Nobel Peace Prize. In my mind, that prize is given to honour extraordinary individuals who followed the path of peace in the face of extreme difficulties. Like Martin Luther King, who Obama mentions. Gandhi, who he does not mention because he never got a Nobel, but in fact, mentions in context - in that extraordinary comment he made.

President Obama used the podium of the Nobel Peace Prize to preach a doctrine of war: One must fight wars for what one thinks right. Stunning assertion - from someone who is the great liberal hope of our generation - which actually means that we shall keep fighting wars as we will continue to disagree.

Hang your head in shame, everyone. The only person who earns a brownie point today is Lord Acton: Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.


Anonymous said…
On 12/11/09 1:11 PM, John Gibb wrote:
Hello Supriyo - My take is that Obama is an interesting dichotomy regarding Afghanistan. While absolutely campaigning on an array of ideals of what America could be, he was also relatively clear that he was going to take the aggressive stand he is now taking on using force in Afghanistan - in short, he is doing exactly what he said he would do. I think, in some instances (including this one) the American public drew conclusions on policy from some of the idealism he represents versus the actual stances he was taking.
Hi John

Thanks for noticing. I should not say I have problems with Obama's commitment of 'completing' the war in Afghanistan, which he should do as an American president. My problem is that he receives a Nobel Peace Prize and turns that podium for a political speech propounding a 'just war' theory. Not unlike the Jihadis, he said that you must fight for what you believe in. He said non-violence would have been effective against Hitler's armies, thereby justifying in a roundabout way the armed resistance to the American Army, the most powerful today.

He has certain demands of his role in the world, and he must carry them out through his office. But, as a recipient of the most watched award for peace in our violence-torn world, he was called for a particular service: A moment of penitance, perhaps, and a message to the world that war, in any form, by anyone, is not justified or diserable. He failed that role, and instead acted like a candidate fighting the primaries who turns every opportunity into a political speechmaking.


Anonymous said…
Hi Supriyo -

All great points, and conceptually difficult to argue against. I am, personally, hard-pressed to define a war a find justified.

But again I've not been elected to, amongst other responsibilities, that of leader of the most powerful army on the planet. I voted for - and am still optimistic that - Obama's recent moves are part of long-term aspirations which will veer away from the America the world has seen over the past eight years. Much as is the case with many of the domestic policies he is pursiung, there is a lot which is counter-intuitive, but there is a lot he needs to rectify prior to implementing his ultimate vision an stratety. So I am willing to provide him the leeway to completing the Afghanistan effort.

Frankly, if the Nobel committee awareded him the prize unaware of his historical comments regarding his intent of finalizing the Afghanistan effort, I can't fault Obama, I'd question the committee's vetting process. Again, approve or disapporive of the policy, Obama is executing the strategy he campaigned on - so neither of his escalation of troops in the region should be a surprise, whether you agree or disagree with the tactic.
Hi John

We are on the same page as far the compulsions of the administration
are concerned. I know Obama didnt have a choice of not sending the
troops. And, I thought he is good choice for the prize, though I
thought the prize was actually meant to go to the American people, for electing Obama and for courageously breaking with the past.

My only problem here is the appropriateness of his speech. Was he elected to propound a rationale for just war? Why did he say that you have to fight, war by implication, for what you believe in? Why say non-violence would not have been effective against Hitler's armies?

You know John, we all looked at Obama as a person who will lead us
into a world of responsibility, cohesion and coexistence. His
celebrity value was incidental. That's why he disappoints here. You
were almost expecting him to say, we are fighting a war because we
must, but all wars are inherently wrong, regardless of who starts them and why they were fought for, because they invariably cause untold miseries for the innocent. But he sounded like Bush and said you will fight for what you believe. That's not a philosophy of transition, that is a declaration of jihad against the world and on all who disagree.


Anonymous said…
Hi Supriyo -

This is very true - the speech was very Bush-ian in that sense. And although I hate to say it, my take is he perceived the reality that he needed to use that language politically. If he had gone with something along the lines which you propose - which is spot-on, mind you - he would have gotten terribly beaten up by the very vocal right-wing minority ("Was Obama saying US defending Europe in World War II was wrong? What a terrible way to discredit the efforts of those who fought in that war", etc.). And this is not a time he can cede ground in many of the domestic fights he is fighting.

In that respect, Obama is very much the pragmatist - during this first term in office he has taken lesser stands than I would have wished he would on issues with a lesser world stage on a number of issues. My hope is that as time progresses the knee-jerk repulsion against Obama recedes (and, unfortunately, it does exist here) as his efforts begin to take hold and Americans can see concrete examples of his vision in practice; this will hopefully afford him an arena to expand on his notions aroun America's place in the world.


You win. I shall keep my faith in Obama and hope that he gets it right in the end.

I think the biggest civilizational problem we have is the primacy of the pursuit of self-interest, without responsibility or consideration towards others. This is encouraged at a personal level, and we have had disastrous consequences. It is also seen as good policy at the national level, and we are pushing the world to a nuclear and climatic brinkmanship by putting self-interest first. I thought Obama toed the old line of national self-interest a little too closely in his speech; but may be he was talking to the American people, and not to the rest of the world.

We are expecting Obama to restore some sense. We want him to win the argument, and not lose America to Sarah Palin. He is our great hope, for the future, for the world. However, these are testing times, not just for him, but for everyone else who would want to believe. Hopefully, 2010 will be a different year, and as we emerge from recession and Obama wins his healthcare debate, we shall make a fresh start.


Anonymous said…

Agreed - have to keep the hope. Without that we will end up with Sarah Palin! (As an aside, if there is any serious concern regarding her gaining the reigns of power in the US there shouldn't be. Not a chance. Not to say there is not somebody out there almost as bad waiting in the tall grass....)


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