I have to admit, it was one of the strangest speeches Obama has ever given. In Obama usual grand way, his rhetoric was high flying, and a mixture of pragmatism and nonsense. But it does provide a window into his mind, and it is a shocking view.
Obama provided an empassioned defense of America’s wars as ‘just’ wars for humanitarian reasons…something George W. Bush campaigned on worldwide during his presidency.
We must begin by acknowledging the hard truth that 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…
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 is sometimes 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 because in many countries there is a deep ambivalence about military action today, no matter the cause. At times, this is joined by a reflexive suspicion of America, the world’s sole military superpower.
Interesting passages. If you go back and read George W. Bush’s comments to the United Nations prior to the Iraq War, it echoes the exact same sentiment. And the concept of ‘evil’ is intriguing…an evil enemy is one that we judge as being outside the norms. Obama usually waffles on such absolutes; that is more Bush’s rhetoric than Obama’s.
And then Obama did something that he had not done during his entire presidency: instead of apologizing for America, he actually stood up for her actions:
Yet 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 other peoples’ children and grandchildren can live in freedom and prosperity.
Bush made similar comments in Europe during his presidency, in an attempt to get more European Union support for international peace. Of course, under Bush it was given to deaf ears. I am not sure Obama will be any more successful…the audience was silent during most of these passages, and did not applaud once.
Obama also acknowledged that he was less deserving than many of his predecessor Nobel winners…a fact, considering a meager 19% of Americans in a recent poll said Obama was deserving of the award.
Obama went on to state the argument against religious fundamentalism. Stating ‘no holy war can be a just war’, he made the argument that talking could not stop forces like Al Qaeda (I find the irony about no holy war being just, because what is the global warming movement other than a holy war?).
Now, overall it was a standard Obama speech. And progressives, including Obama himself, will NEVER admit that they are defending anything Bush did. But if you look at the logic of the speech, that is exactly where it takes you. Obama can deny it all he wants, but the quest for peace by force in certainly not a liberal belief. And the concept of ‘just wars’ was fundamental to the Bush doctrine. The corollaries are intriguing indeed.