The Hive Queen & the Hegemon

Even amidst a field crowded with great orators, for his Nobel acceptance speech, President Obama stands out as a particularly strong voice on the issue of America’s relationship with the world. Doubters, swallow your pride — the question of whether Obama deserved the Prize at this point in his young career must now come second to whether he made the best use of the opportunity. He did.

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.

But 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 others’ children and grandchildren can live in freedom and prosperity.

So yes, the instruments of war do have a role to play in preserving the peace.  And yet this truth must coexist with another — that no matter how justified, war promises human tragedy.  The soldier’s courage and sacrifice is full of glory, expressing devotion to country, to cause, to comrades in arms.  But war itself is never glorious, and we must never trumpet it as such.

Let’s check in with the remainder of our players. What was Sarah Palin doing at the same time? Ah. Mocking William Shatner. Senator Lieberman? Lying his way to stalemate. The dominant intellectual force of the Republican Party? Staging “die-ins.” To protest health care expansion. Our opposition is so frivolous. Why are they so in control?

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12 comments

  1. Except Ames, President Obama got it WRONG from the start of his Speech:

    But as a head of state sworn to protect and defend my nation,

    That’s almost verbatim something George Bush would have said. The problem is, that’s NOT what Mr. Obama (nor Mr. Bush for that matter) were sworn to when they took office:

    Each president recites the following oath, in accordance with Article II, Section I of the U.S. Constitution:

    “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

    There’s absolutely ZERO in the President’s oath about protecting the nation – it focuses soley on the Constitution. And the Constitution, last I checked, didn’t require us to perpetuate a war in Afghanistan that was languishing due to neglect by a previous Administration, just so we can “win.”

  2. But the Constitution places Obama as the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces — a position that the Federalist Papers explicitly contemplated as implying a duty to defend the country against enemies foreign and domestic:

    http://federali.st/70

    1. The Taliban are not the enemies of the United States.

  3. Sure, the Federalists say that, but they say a lot of other reall neat things about what our democracy SHOULD be that we have completely ignored. All I’m saying is that the President’s First, sworn duty is to protect the Constitution, and thus to be very skeptical of the need for and embrace of war.

    And, like many I don’t see the Taliban as an enemy of the U.S. tactical or otherwise. Granted, they have a sucky interpretation of what consitutes human rights (so do dozens of other countries that we are not currently fighting), but they pose no real threat to the U.S. And they are not likely to make the mistake of harboring Al Qaeda again for two reasons. First, if current reporting is to be believed, Al Qaeda is not really the robust organization it once was, so there’s not much to host. And two, the Taliban know we can come get them, so if they want to build a nation-sate, why irritate us, much less their neighbors and patrons?

    Defending the U.S. (and the Constitution for that matter) ought to require aremd conflict as a last resort. Afghanistan was not the last resort 8 years ago, but it is now. That means Mr. Obama needs to do something different then he is doing, and in my opinion his speech shows jsut how far away from his central duty he has been led.

    1. It’s quite interesting that his policies are being most passionately embraced by Obama apologists and neocons. Strange bedfellows…

    2. That’s a pretty sophistic conclusion, Phil. As you note, the President is sworn to “faithfully execute the office of President”, which the Constitution invests with the executive power. And one of the most fundamental duties of the executive is to maintain the security of the nation. Obvously, one may disagree with how it specifically goes about doing that, but arguing that it does not possess that role in the first place is rather unusual.

  4. I’m going to agre with Lanfranc — and note that regimes that are willing to host terrorists in the first place can’t really be trusted to “learn their lesson” that easily. Further, I don’t like a philosophy that sees war as a just cause only in cases of existential threats. War can be — and should be — a tool to secure more lasting peace.

    Further, I reject Mike’s sneering equivalence of moderate “rational hawk” Dems with Neocons. Any degree of surprise that we exist can only emerge from a misunderstanding of Democrats as uniformly peaceniks, even farther to the left than any viewpoints expressed here. It’s not like we didn’t campaign on this…

    1. Yes, the President has to vouchsafe the security of the nation, but I do not accept nor do I suppor tthe notion that such security comes ONLY by the weilding of arms, particularly when that wielding is without real direction, and is at best an attempt to assuage guilt, remorse, and prevent a collective examination of failures.

      As to regimes hosting terrorists – theres ample evidence that Somalia and Yemen have done that, and done it specifically for Al Qaeda. So do we now go and invade them? Where do we stop? When is the line drawn?

      Further, I don’t like a philosophy that sees war as a just cause only in cases of existential threats. War can be — and should be — a tool to secure more lasting peace.

      Ames, first, I never thought I’d see you channeling neocons – what gives? And second, I can’t think of any major war of oh the last 200 years that was fought with securing a lasting peace as its sole purpose; mush less such a war that anyone “won.”

      1. There’s no such thing as a “sole purpose” in something as complex as war – but establishing a world order that would bring about a ‘lasting peace’ was definitely a very important objective for the Allies in WWII. You can see that in e.g. the visions set out in the 1941 Atlantic Charter, or in the call for the unconditional surrender of Germany in the 1943 Casablanca.

        I’d say that worked out pretty well, too. If it hadn’t been for WWII, Europe in particular and much of the rest of the world would look quite different today, and I don’t think the rest of the 20th century would have been as relatively peaceful as it turned out to be.

        1. I almost nuy your arguement, except the U.S. stayed out of direct combat until we were attacked at Pearl Harbor. we entered the war on both the European and Asian fronts AFTER we were directly assaulted. We enetred Afgahnistan after we were directly assaulted too, but eight years later we have yet to capture or kill all the assaulters, and their harborers have regained control of the country. we’re no longer there to repel a direct threat, and we’re not likely to achieve peace (as Westerners crow about it) any time soon. Just ask the British, or the Soviets.

        2. Even though the US stayed out of combat until Pearl Harbor, true enough, both the Atlantic Charter and the Lend-Lease program predated it by four and nine months respectively. Lend-Lease in particular effectively ended the more or less fictional neutrality that the US had observed until then – not just through the support itself, but also through the language of the Act:

          “To manufacture … any defense article for the government of any country whose defense the President deems vital to the defense of the United States.” (Sec. 3(a)(1))

          That sort of language made the US a de facto, if not entirely de jure, participant in the war as early as March 1941.

    2. Ames – if you want ‘peace’ in Afghanistan keeping our troops there fighting an insurgency is not the answer. Keep in mind that one of the most ‘peaceful’ times in their modern history was during the rule of the Taliban.

      I believe Krauthammer calls himself a rational hawk as well. And I think you all call him a neocon. The line is so blurry…

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