Friday, December 11, 2009

Obama's Nobel Peace Prize Speech

This morning I printed and read a copy of yesterday’s speech by President Obama at the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony.

The speech is worth reading. A transcript can be found here:

Some of the rhetoric is classic Obama, “We do not have to live in an idealized world to still reach for those ideals that will make it a better place. The non-violence practiced by men like Gandhi and King may not have been practical or possible in every circumstance, but the love that they preached—their fundamental faith in human progress—that must always be the North Star that guides us on our journey.”

I never understood the criticism that Obama endured about him accepting the Nobel Peace Prize. I was surprised that Obama received the award. He doesn’t deserve it based on his accomplishments. Obama acknowledged himself that the prize was given to him not because of his achievements, but based on the hope that the Peace Prize committee has for his Presidency. He was gracious in acknowledging at the start of the speech that compared to others who have received the prize—people like Schweitzer and King; Marshall and Mandela—his achievements are slight.

The media made the appropriate point that Obama was receiving a Peace Prize shortly after he deepened the war in Afghanistan.

I go back and forth myself on whether the United States should deepen the war in Afghanistan or start a pull-out. I appreciate Obama’s use of just-war doctrine as the criteria to decide on the direction of the war. I don't have enough information to make an informed decision.

For me the decision to go to war depends on just cause. Does the threat posed by the Taliban and Al-Qaeda justify military action? I was reluctantly in favor of the war back in 2001. Right now I don’t have enough information to know whether the Taliban and Al-Qaeda justify military action in Afghanistan.

So I have to trust our political leaders. I appreciate the thoroughness of the process that the Administration went through to come to their conclusion about what to do in Afghanistan. This wasn’t a decision that was rushed; it seems like they analyzed all possible strategies.

I agree with the thought expressed in Obama’s speech that military action is justified at certain times. I studied the techniques of non-violent resistance in college and believe in them at the core of my being. Love can touch and change the heart of an oppressor.

However I am not a pacifist. War should only be used as a last resort, but it is a legitimate and even moral option under certain conditions. Some people’s hearts are beyond the reach of love. Evil does exist. I don’t think that Bin-Laden would have stopped the bombing of the World Trade Center if a sit-in had been conducted at his cave.

I agree with these words that Obama shared yesterday, “Let us reach for the world that ought to be—that spark of divine that still stirs within each of our souls.” That line merited applause. The idea isn’t Obama’s—it’s one that all of us can reach for.

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