Felicia Muftic finds ‘Nobel’ cause in Obama’s speech
Grand County CO Colorado
I awoke early on Dec. 10 to see the Nobel Peace Prize ceremonies from Norway. I viewed it on C-Span because I did not want to hear President Obama’s acceptance speech filtered through pundits and politicians who had their own axes to grind and their own biases. My own reaction was that it was a ‘lecture’ of historic significance. Obama presented a vision he formalized as a doctrine that was relevant to current affairs and a guide for future behavior, not just for the US but for the world. The words he used were delivered with his trademark eloquence, yet blunt and to the point. They are worthy to be read and reread and the concepts contained in the text deserve serious thought.
Obama directed his words toward three audiences: To US citizens, who were wondering how he deserved a peace prize so early in his presidency while fighting two wars; to the citizens of Europe who possess a peacenik reluctance to fight for peace or even to join in sanctions to put pressure their own enemies; and to those who thumb their noses at international rules regarding nuclear proliferation and who use terrorism as a tool that kills thousands of civilians.
He accomplished two important goals: He made a case for ‘just’ wars that deserve international participation and that are ultimately paths to peace, of which Afghanistan was an example. And, he reestablished America’s moral leadership in the world by laying out the ideals that should be universal for all mankind.
The establishment of moral leadership surfaced in several portions of the speech: Protecting civilians during war; eliminating the use of torture; and observing the Geneva conventions.
He cited Guantanamo as a symbol to the world of how American had strayed from its moral course. He also advocated action to support universal human rights, which he defined by paraphrasing the American mantra of the right to pursue life, liberty, and happiness.
The speech was not an apology for America’s failures. Instead, he stressed his determination to live up to these ‘American’ ideals. He did not back down from the use of military action if the cause was just and diplomacy either failed or was inappropriate.
We know from history that Americans have a tradition of lapsing into isolationism when the economy is bad or they are exhausted by war. After World War I, the US turned inward, opposing stopping Nazi and Japanese expansion. Pearl Harbor finally jolted us into military engagement.
Once again, as a startling Pew Poll revealed recently, the US population is turning inward, wishing we were not involved in wars, unrealistically thinking that if we left everyone else alone, they would leave us alone. It took 9/11 to shake us from the complacency that came with the end of the Cold War into realization that enemies we had never had imagined could strike us using methods we never anticipated.
As our economy worsens, we are once again retreating to our domestic concerns to the exclusion of understanding why it is important the US regains its moral leadership and engages in war. Isolationism is not good for our national health and undermines our security by making it less likely we can pursue our own lives and happiness in freedom. On the other hand, any kind of international engagement needs to be tempered with the right kinds of engagement, the definition of which Obama presented in Oslo.
So bound up in our domestic concerns as we are now, we underestimate how important it is that the U.S. is seen as a world leader worth following. We cannot stop famine, quell bloody civil wars and end terrorism single-handedly. We do not have the financial resources or the military strength to do it by ourselves. Those who view us as a leader for the good are more likely to join us in meeting our international goals and protecting our own security.
The Nobel Peace Prize was not only an encouragement for Obama to continue to pursue his vision for peace, but it was also an opportunity for him to make the case to the world that ours is a country that will uphold standards with which our allies can agree.
For those who would belittle the Prize, they have dangerously turned their values so inward, that they have missed the significance of the award of the Prize to this sitting President. For us who understand that Americans around the world can now lift their heads with a sense of pride in our leadership, we should celebrate the esteem with which the world holds our President.
A link to the text of the President’s Nobel lecture is posted on The Muftic Forum profile on Facebook. Comments on the health care reform compromise and how advocates play with figures are on the blog at http://www.skyhidailynews.com and http://www.mufticforum.com/blog postings.
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