Friday, December 11, 2009

Premature Award, Right On Time Speech

President Obama received the Nobel Peace Prize yesterday. The Haggis was on hiatus when the award announcement--and resulting controversy--erupted. So let's discuss that first. Did Obama deserve the award? I'm going to say no. But, as the President of the United States, was he at all at liberty to turn it down? Also no. To a certain extent the controversy was nonsense. People were acting like Barry had submitted his own name and lobbied for the prize. They were acting like he'd been named to some international list of evil miscreants, the way the tsk-tsking was going on, instead of saying, "Well how about that," and "Good for the USA to have our president win this award; not that we'd have awarded it ourselves." All from the America-haters on the Right. It reminded me of their glee when Chicago lost its bid for the Olympics. Rather than be bummed for America, for the lost revenue and honor of hosting the Olympics, they were almost delighted that Obama "failed" in his attempt. Like, screw America as long as we can score some cheap points against Obama. All very petty and unbecoming. As was the Nobel reaction. That said, I remember thinking at the time that the Norwegians did Obama no favors with this "honor."

So, to his speech yesterday. First he deftly and humorously addressed the issue of his meriting the award: "I receive this honor with deep gratitude and great humility. It is an award that speaks to our highest aspirations -- that for all the cruelty and hardship of our world, we are not mere prisoners of fate. Our actions matter, and can bend history in the direction of justice. And yet I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the considerable controversy that your generous decision has generated. (Laughter.) 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."

Then to the Money Quote, the "just war" section that is now being called The Obama Doctrine:
We must begin by acknowledging the hard truth: We will not eradicate violent conflict in our lifetimes. There will be times when nations -- acting individually or in concert -- will find the use of force not only necessary but morally justified. I make this statement mindful of what Martin Luther King Jr. said in this same ceremony years ago: "Violence never brings permanent peace. It solves no social problem: it merely creates new and more complicated ones." As someone who stands here as a direct consequence of Dr. King's life work, I am living testimony to the moral force of non-violence. I know there's nothing weak -- nothing passive -- nothing na├»ve -- 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....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.”

My favorite part is at the end:
Somewhere today, in the here and now, in the world as it is, a soldier sees he's outgunned, but stands firm to keep the peace. Somewhere today, in this world, a young protestor awaits the brutality of her government, but has the courage to march on. Somewhere today, a mother facing punishing poverty still takes the time to teach her child, scrapes together what few coins she has to send that child to school -- because she believes that a cruel world still has a place for that child's dreams.
Let us live by their example.

Here is the full text:

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