12 December 2009

Speechification, Presidential

His Presidentialness gave a hell of a speech out at Oslo--and not the kind you normally hear from Nobel Peace Prize laureates.

He acknowledged the absurdity of a president accepting a peace prize for which he was chosen 10 days after inauguration.

"In part, this is because I am at the beginning, and not the end, of my labors on the world stage. Compared to some of the giants of history who've received this prize -- Schweitzer and King; Marshall and Mandela -- my accomplishments are slight. And then there are the men and women around the world who have been jailed and beaten in the pursuit of justice; those who toil in humanitarian organizations to relieve suffering; the unrecognized millions whose quiet acts of courage and compassion inspire even the most hardened cynics. I cannot argue with those who find these men and women -- some known, some obscure to all but those they help -- to be far more deserving of this honor than I."

He then spent the rest of the speech talking about war. Not the speech I would have given, but as a theoretical exercise in Just War theory, it's not half bad. I quibble with some elements of it, but there were some good points.

"But perhaps the most profound issue surrounding my receipt of this prize is the fact that I am the Commander-in-Chief of the military of a nation in the midst of two wars. One of these wars is winding down. The other is a conflict that America did not seek; one in which we are joined by 42 other countries -- including Norway -- in an effort to defend ourselves and all nations from further attacks.

"Still, we are at war, and I'm responsible for the deployment of thousands of young Americans to battle in a distant land. Some will kill, and some will be killed. And so I come here with an acute sense of the costs of armed conflict -- filled with difficult questions about the relationship between war and peace, and our effort to replace one with the other."

Well, not bad at all. I get a nod in a Nobel Peace Prize speech. Along with the rest of the US Armed Forces, but still. . .

"I know there's nothing weak -- nothing passive -- nothing naïve -- in the creed and lives of Gandhi and King.

"But as a head of state sworn to protect and defend my nation, I cannot be guided by their examples alone. I face the world as it is, and cannot stand idle in the face of threats to the American people. 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.

"I raise this point, I begin with this point because in many countries there is a deep ambivalence about military action today, no matter what the cause. And at times, this is joined by a reflexive suspicion of America, the world's sole military superpower.

"But the world must remember that it was not simply international institutions -- not just treaties and declarations -- that brought stability to a post-World War II world. Whatever mistakes we have made, the plain fact is this: 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. The service and sacrifice of our men and women in uniform has promoted peace and prosperity from Germany to Korea, and enabled democracy to take hold in places like the Balkans. We have borne this burden not because we seek to impose our will. We have done so out of enlightened self-interest -- because we seek a better future for our children and grandchildren, and we believe that their lives will be better if others' children and grandchildren can live in freedom and prosperity."

Go His Presidentialness! What ever you think of the man's politics, he has some outstanding speechwriters and can deliver a phrase like few on the world stage today.

I find it interesting that he spends much of the rest of the speech talking about conditions for just war, and the ends he believes military force should be used for, to a bunch of Euro-weenies who have none. But it's the kind of speech that should be made more often. I really don't think this speech was aimed at a room full of a Norwegians or whatever, and it wasn't aimed at folks like me. I know Just War theory. On the political right, there is an understanding that bad folks are out there, and shooting them is not only necessary but morally right. It's his nominal supporters, the idealistic idiots of the American Left, who are the targets of his speech. For years we've been telling them that an aversion to military force does nothing to promote peace, and in fact emboldens people who threaten peace. Perhaps they will listen when one of their own says the same thing. I disagree with some of the speech, and it has many of the hallmarks of Speech, Obama, Annoying (34 uses of I or me, for instance), but it wasn't bad one and it was a necessary one. I disagree, of course, with his characterization of Iraq, but as that one is being put to bed, it's irrelevant what he thinks of it. It's still a chalk mark in the W column.

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