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Obama accepts the Nobel Peace Prize

obamanobel.JPG

I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the considerable controversy that your generous decision has generated. 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.

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.

That's President Obama accepting the Nobel Peace Prize with a speech much more about war than peace and much more about America than the world. It was, in essence, a theory of how a military superpower that wants peace should view war. And Obama concluded by embracing the Superman theory of American military power: We are strongest when restrained.

"Even as we confront a vicious adversary that abides by no rules," Obama said, "I believe the United States of America must remain a standard bearer in the conduct of war. That is what makes us different from those whom we fight. That is a source of our strength. That is why I prohibited torture. That is why I ordered the prison at Guantanamo Bay closed. And that is why I have reaffirmed America's commitment to abide by the Geneva Conventions. We lose ourselves when we compromise the very ideals that we fight to defend."

Photo credit: Heidi Wideroe/Bloomberg.

By Ezra Klein  |  December 10, 2009; 11:46 AM ET
Categories:  Barack Obama  
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Next: Chris Dodd offers up some real talk

Comments

In light of the multi-tiered guaranteed conviction system that Obama's Justice Department has created for detainees, his high-minded quotes in the last paragraph of this post leave me feeling more than a little nauseous. I didn't expect much when I voted for this guy, but I sure expected more than this.

Posted by: BigTunaTim | December 10, 2009 12:20 PM | Report abuse

Ah, yes. The "world of cardboard" problem. (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/WorldOfCardboardSpeech) :)

Posted by: gilroy0 | December 10, 2009 12:38 PM | Report abuse

This was an incredibly thoughtful, courageous, even elegant speech on the nature of war and peace. You do it a disservice by only quoting the pieces above. The eloquence and depth of his analysis made me so proud to have him as our President. Those of you who wish to criticize this speech need to listen to the WHOLE thing before you comment.

Posted by: LindaB1 | December 10, 2009 1:11 PM | Report abuse

Wish his sentiments were true. Instead, he left out some sentences.

How about, "That is why I am suppressing evidence of torture. That is why we haven't achieved accountability for torture. That is why my DOJ is filing briefs to get cases against John Yoo tossed out. And that is why only some of our detainees will receive civilian trials."

Keep bearing those standards, sir.

Oh, and those of you who wish to warn others about criticizing this speech can buzz off.

Posted by: Former_Prospector | December 10, 2009 1:20 PM | Report abuse

The whole "conflict we did not seek" claim about Afghanistan just doesn't ring true. Whatever the truth of such a claim back in 2001 -- and I'm not sure it was true even then -- it long ago ceased to be such a conflict. This country, and Obama, have made and continue to make a conscious and deliberate choice to continue the conflict. That may or may not be the right call, but I would rather Obama own it forthrightly than suggest our hands are tied.

Posted by: gedwards1 | December 10, 2009 1:56 PM | Report abuse

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