by Rick Rozoff
December 11, 2009
"For Make No Mistake:
Evil Does Exist In The World."
President and commander-in-chief of the armed
forces of the United States
Barack Obama delivered his Nobel Peace
Prize acceptance address in Oslo on December 10, which has immediately led
to media discussion of an Obama Doctrine.
With obligatory references to Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mohandas Gandhi
(the second referred to only by his surname) but to no other American
presidents than Ronald Reagan, Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy - fellow
peace prize recipients Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson and Jimmy Carter
weren't mentioned - the U.S. head of state spoke with the self-assurance of
the leader of the world's first uncontested superpower and at times with the
self-righteousness of a would-be prophet and clairvoyant.
And, in the words of German philosopher
Friedrich von Schlegel, a prophet looking backward.
Accompanied by visionary gaze and cadenced, oratorical solemnity, his
comments included the assertion that "War, in one form or another, appeared
with the first man." Unless this unsubstantiated claim was an allusion to
the account in the Book of Genesis in the Hebrew Bible of Cain murdering his
brother Abel, which would hardly constitute war in any intelligible meaning
of the word (nor was Cain the first man according to that source), it is
unclear where Obama acquired the conviction that war is coeval with and
presumably an integral part of humanity.
Paleontologists generally trace the arrival of modern man, homo sapiens,
back 200,000 years, yet the first authenticated written histories are barely
2,400 years old. How Obama and his speechwriters filled in the 197,600-year
gap to prove that the practice of war is as old as mankind and implicitly
inseparable from the human condition is a question an enterprising reporter
might venture to ask at the next presidential press conference.
Perhaps delusions of omniscience is the answer.
The Oslo speech is replete
with references to and appropriations of the attributes of divinity. And to
historical and anthropological fatalism; a deeply pessimistic concept of
Obama affirmed that,
"no Holy War can ever be a just war. For if
you truly believe that you are carrying out divine will, then there is
no need for restraint."
Then shortly afterward stated,
"Let us reach for the world that ought to be
- that spark of the divine that still stirs within each of our souls."
An adversary's invocation of the divine is
false, heretical, sacrilegious; Washington's is true, unerring, sufficient
to justify any action, however violent and deadly. As unadulterated an
illustration of secular Manicheaism as can be found in the modern world.
Toward the beginning of his speech the first standing American president in
ninety years to receive the Peace Prize acknowledged that,
"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
Understandably he exerted no effort to justify one of the two wars in
question, that in Iraq, but endorsed and pledged the continuation of the
other, that in Afghanistan and increasingly Pakistan - while elsewhere
speaking disparagingly of the European Crusades of the later Middle Ages.
Neither the Nobel Committee nor its honoree seemed inordinately if at all
concerned by the unprecedented awarding of the prestigious and generous
($1.4 million) Peace Prize to a commander-in-chief in charge of two
simultaneous wars far from his nation's shores and in countries whose
governments and peoples never threatened it in any manner.
In language that never before was heard during a peace prize acceptance
speech, Obama added,
"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."
With not a scintilla of national self-awareness, balance or irony, he also
derided the fact that "modern technology allows a few small men with
outsized rage to murder innocents on a horrific scale," as he orders
unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) linked by space satellites to launch
deadly missile attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The central themes of Obama's speech are reiterations of standing U.S.
policy going back over a decade with the waging of war against Yugoslavia in
early 1999 without United Nations authorization or even a nominal attempt to
obtain one; that the U.S. and its Western military allies can decide
individually and collectively when, to what degree, where and for what
purpose to use military force anywhere in the world.
And the prerogative to employ military force
outside national borders is reserved exclusively for the United States, its
fellow NATO members and select military clients outside the Euro-Atlantic
zone such as Colombia, Ethiopia, Georgia, Israel and Saudi Arabia of late.
What is arguably unique in Obama's address is the bluntness with which it
reaffirmed this doctrine of international lawlessness.
Excerpts along this line, shorn of ingenuous
qualifications and decorative camouflage, include:
"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."
He offered a summary of the just war argument
that a White House researcher could have cribbed from Wikipedia.
"[A]s a head of state sworn to protect and
defend my nation, I cannot be guided by their [Gandhi's and King's]
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."
"I - like any head of state - reserve the right to act unilaterally if
necessary to defend my nation."
Evil, as a noun rather than an adjective, is
used twice in the speech, emblematic of a quasi-theological tone alternating
with coldly and even callously pragmatic pronouncements.
Indicative of the second category are comments like these:
"[T]he instruments of war do have a role to
play in preserving the peace."
"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
"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."
Comparing a small handful of al-Qaeda personnel
to Hitler's Wehrmacht is unconscionable. Whatever else the former are, they
barely have arms to lay down. But Obama does, the world's largest and most
deadly conventional and nuclear arsenal.
His playing the trump card of Nazi Germany is not only an act of rhetorical
recklessness, it is historically unjustified.
There would have been no need to confront the
Third Reich's legions if timely diplomatic actions had been taken when
Hitler sent troops into the Rhineland in 1936; if Britain and France had not
collaborated with Hitler's Germany and Mussolini's Italy to enforce the
naval blockade of Republican Spain while German aircraft devastated Guernica
and other towns and German and Italian troops poured into the country by the
tens of thousands in support of Generalissimo Franco's uprising.
If, finally, Britain, France, Germany and Italy
had not met in Munich in 1938 to sacrifice Czechoslovakia's Sudetenland to
Hitler to encourage his murderous drive to the east.
The same four nations
met 70 years later, last year, to reprise the Munich betrayal by engineering
the secession of Kosovo from Serbia, to demonstrate how much had been
learned in the interim.
As to the accusation that many nations bear an alleged,
"deep ambivalence about military action" and
even more so "a reflexive suspicion of America, the world's sole
military superpower," it bespeaks alike arrogance, sanctimony, and an
absolute imperviousness to the reality of American foreign policy now
and in the recent and not so recent past. According to this imperial
"sole military superpower" perspective, the White House and the Pentagon
can never be wrong.
Not even partially, unavoidably or
If others find fault with anything the world's only military juggernaut
does, it is a reflection of their own misguided pacifism and ingrained,
pathological "anti-Americanism." Perhaps this constitutes the aforementioned
"threats to the American people," as there aren't any others in Afghanistan
or in the world as a whole that were convincingly identified in the speech.
What may be the most noteworthy - and disturbing - line in the address is
what Obama characterized as the "recognition of history; the imperfections
of man and the limits of reason."
Lest this observation be construed as an
example of personal or national humility, other - grandiose Americocentric -
comments surrounding it leave no doubt that the inadequacies in question are
only applied to others.
One would search in vain for a comparable utterance by another American head
For a nation that prides itself on being the
first one founded on the principles of the 18th century Enlightenment and
the previous century's Age of Reason, that its leader would lay stress on
inherent and ineradicable human frailty and at least by implication on some
truth that is apart from and superior to reason is nothing less than
alarming. The door is left open to irrationalism and its correlates, that
the ultimate right can be might and that there are national imperatives
beyond good and evil.
And if people are by nature flawed and their reasoning correspondingly
impaired, then for humanity,
"Born but to die and reasoning but to err"
(Alexander Pope), war may indeed be its birthright and violent conflicts
will not be eradicated in its lifetime.
War, which came into existence with mankind,
will last as long as it does. They may both end, as Obama believes they
How the leader of the West, both the nation and the individual, has arrived
at this bleak and deterministic impasse was also mentioned in Obama's speech
in reference to pivotal post-Cold War events that have defined this new
It is only a single step from:
"I believe that force can be justified on
humanitarian grounds, as it was in the Balkans, or in other places that
have been scarred by war. Inaction tears at our conscience and can lead
to more costly intervention later. That's why all responsible nations
must embrace the role that militaries with a clear mandate can play to
keep the peace."
"The belief that peace is desirable is
rarely enough to achieve it. Peace requires responsibility. Peace
entails sacrifice. That's why NATO continues to be indispensable."
In proclaiming these and similar sentiments,
Obama made reference to his host country in alluding to the war in
"[W]e are joined by 42 other countries -
including Norway - in an effort to defend ourselves and all nations from
Again, threats are magnified to inflated and
even universal dimensions.
All nations on the planet are threatened and
some of them - 43 NATO states and partners - are fending off the barbarians
at the gates. It is difficult to distinguish the new Obama Doctrine from the
preceding Blair and Bush ones except in regard to its intended scope.
It is a mission outside of time, space and constraints.
"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... America's commitment to
global security will never waver.
But in a world in which threats are more
diffuse, and missions more complex, America cannot act alone. America
alone cannot secure the peace. This is true in Afghanistan. This is true
in failed states like Somalia... And sadly, it will continue to be true
in unstable regions for years to come.
The leaders and soldiers of NATO countries, and other friends and
allies, demonstrate this truth through the capacity and courage they've
shown in Afghanistan."
The U.S. president adduced other nations - by
name - that present threats to America and its values, its allies and the
world as a whole in addition to Afghanistan and Somalia, which are,
All five were either on
George W. Bush's
post-September 11 list of state sponsors of terrorism or on Condoleezza
Rice's later roster of "outposts of tyranny" or both.
Hopes that the policies of Obama's predecessor were somehow outside of the
historical continuum, solely related to the aftermath of September 11, 2001,
have been dashed. The rapidly escalating war in South Asia is proof enough
of that lamentable fact. War is not a Biblical suspension of ethics but the
foundation of national policy.
In his novel La BÍte Humaine (The Human Beast) Emile Zola interwove images
of a French crowd clamoring for a disastrous war with Prussia ("A Berlin!")
and a locomotive heading at full steam down the track without an engineer.
Obama's speech in Oslo indicates that America remains bent on rushing
headlong to war even after a change of engineers.
...have stoked the furnace for a long run.