It’s a paradox, but Barack Obama accepted the Nobel Peace Prize soon after he escalated the war in Afghanistan.’
When US President Barack Obama accepted the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, Norway recently, I quickly noted the incongruity, yes, the paradox, of a war president being honored as a man of peace.
Watching the historic event as televised by CNN, Fox and BBC networks, I saw the reactions of those who heard POTUS Obama’s soaring rhetoric in defense of his decision to escalate the US war effort in Afghanistan.
His audience, including Norway’s royal family, European dignitaries and officials representing countries deeply opposed to the conflict, hardly applauded his impassioned rationale for war not only in Afghanistan but also in Iraq.
But, in stark contrast, a crowd of several thousand outside the hall, chanted, “Obama, Obama, Obama!” … and “Yes we can. Yes we can, yes we can!” (This was Obama’s mantra when he campaigned as the first black American candidate for the US presidency one year ago.)
And back home in America, Obama drew praises from some unlikely political quarters. Conservative Republicans, who have been very critical of his policies in his first year at the White House, likened his defense of “just wars” to the worldview of his predecessor George W. Bush. In an echo of the Republican president, Obama noted that “evil does exist in the world.”
“There will be times,” Obama said, “when nations—- acting individually or in concert—- will find the use of force not only necessary but morally justified.”
Indeed, his remarks offered a lofty justification for sending 30,000 American troops to war-torn Afghanistan.
The apparent contradiction of a wartime president accepting a prize for peace provided the fulcrum for Obama’s 36-minute acceptance speech. And he also paid tribute to a previous peace prize winner, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. He said he owed his position to the civil rights leader’s life work that represented “living testimony to the moral force of nonviolence.”
In invoking his theory of a “just war”, Obama argued that force must be used, when it is used, with restraint. He also dealt with the most criticized aspect of his foreign policy —- his effort to combine political and economic pressure on repressive or dangerous regimes, obviously like those in Iran, Zimbabwe, Burma and North Korea, with an open-ended diplomatic engagement.
This policy is already being called the “Obama Doctrine”. It is a notion that foreign policy is a struggle of good and evil, that American exceptionalism has blunted the force of tyranny in the world, and the U.S. military can be a force for good and even harnessed to humanitarian ends.
This remark got quick praise from Liberals, too. “This is no tie-dye peace prize, The President laid out the ‘right makes might’ Obama Doctrine: securing a just peace takes both the nonviolent teachings and military traditions of quiet heroes who fight for human rights as civilians and service members.”
As Obama accepted the Nobel Peace Prize, the doubts about confronting evil were not evident. “For make no mistake: evil does exist in the world,” he said. “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 is sometimes necessary is not a call to cynicism. It is recognition of history and the imperfections of man and the limits of reason.”
Well, as one who knew the horrors of war as a young man during the war against the Japanese invaders, I liked the remarks of POTUS Obama. Like Americans, we Filipinos, too, hate war. We all believe in peace. But in these chaotic times war is indeed necessary in stopping terrorism of all kinds!
As President Obama so very dramatically intoned, not once but three or four times in his speech, formally known as the Nobel Lecture, “Sometimes making war is the only way to peace!” Wow!
Oh, yes, the POTUS accepted with “great gratitude and great humility” the award that consists of a diploma, a gold medal bearing the etched face of Alfred Nobel, a wealthy chemist who invented the dynamite and endowed the prize more than a century ago, and $1.4 million in cash which, the White House said, will be donated to charity.