I did not hear the president’s speech yesterday in Oslo when he accepted the Nobel Peace Prize, so cannot comment on his delivery.
When I started reading snippets on conservative blogs, most singing the speech’s praises (with slight quibbles for some of the language), I thought I was reading something from a speech by John McCain or Joe Lieberman. So, I printed it out to read at my leisure.
Now that I have read it, I agree that it is very strong speech, if a bit overlong. My biggest quibble was that he didn’t acknowledge those great warriors throughout history who have secured the peace, whether it be generals like George Washington and Ulysses S. Grant or leaders like Winston Churchill and Ronald Reagan. When the president mentioned the Gipper, he didn’t mention his arms buildup which put the U.S. in a position to promote peace through strength, but cited instead his “efforts on arms control and embrace of perestroika“.
That said, the Gipper would have appreciated the better part of this address.
I absolutely loved his beginning when he acknowledged the “considerable controversy” of his selection. He called “the unrecognized millions whose quiet acts of courage and compassion inspire even the most hardened cynics . . . far more deserving of this honor than” he.
Then, he was wise to describe the war in Afghanistan as “a conflict that America did not seek”. A great way to introduce the notion of a just war. Then, in perhaps my favorite passage in the speech (because it relates to some of my dissertation research):
Now these questions are not new. War, in one form or another, appeared with the first man. At the dawn of history, its morality was not questioned; it was simply a fact, like drought or disease — the manner in which tribes and then civilizations sought power and settled their differences.
And over time, as codes of law sought to control violence within groups, so did philosophers and clerics and statesmen seek to regulate the destructive power of war. The concept of a “just war” emerged, suggesting that war is justified only when certain conditions were met: if it is waged as a last resort or in self-defense; if the force used is proportional; and if, whenever possible, civilians are spared from violence.
Well said, very, very well said. Later, after expressing great admiration for Mohandas Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., two advocates of non-violence, he reminds us that their strategy cannot always work:
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. (more…)