Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

Odes to ambivalence (II): Obama in Oslo

I thought the president’s acceptance speech today for his Nobel Prize for Peace was surprisingly hawkish, especially about Iran: … it’s also incumbent upon all of us to insist that nations like Iran and North Korea do not game the system. Those who claim to respect international law cannot avert their eyes when those laws ...

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I thought the president’s acceptance speech today for his Nobel Prize for Peace was surprisingly hawkish, especially about Iran:

… it’s also incumbent upon all of us to insist that nations like Iran and North Korea do not game the system. Those who claim to respect international law cannot avert their eyes when those laws are flouted. Those who care for their own security cannot ignore the danger of an arms race in the Middle East or East Asia. Those who seek peace cannot stand idly by as nations arm themselves for nuclear war.

The same principle applies to those who violate international laws by brutalizing their own people. When there is genocide in Darfur, systematic rape in Congo, repression in Burma, there must be consequences. Yes, there will be engagement; yes, there will be diplomacy. But there must be consequences when those things fail. And the closer we stand together, the less likely we will be faced with the choice between armed intervention and complicity in oppression.

He’s a contradictory man, this Obama. A couple of weeks ago he went to West Point to announce that he was reluctantly escalating the war in Afghanistan. I read that speech as an explanation and apology to his political supporters. Now he goes to pick up the Peace Prize and paradoxically defends the American use of force in the world. I read this speech as an apology to Martin Luther King, who was invoked six times in the speech, far more anyone else.  

AFP/Getty Images

I thought the president’s acceptance speech today for his Nobel Prize for Peace was surprisingly hawkish, especially about Iran:

… it’s also incumbent upon all of us to insist that nations like Iran and North Korea do not game the system. Those who claim to respect international law cannot avert their eyes when those laws are flouted. Those who care for their own security cannot ignore the danger of an arms race in the Middle East or East Asia. Those who seek peace cannot stand idly by as nations arm themselves for nuclear war.

The same principle applies to those who violate international laws by brutalizing their own people. When there is genocide in Darfur, systematic rape in Congo, repression in Burma, there must be consequences. Yes, there will be engagement; yes, there will be diplomacy. But there must be consequences when those things fail. And the closer we stand together, the less likely we will be faced with the choice between armed intervention and complicity in oppression.

He’s a contradictory man, this Obama. A couple of weeks ago he went to West Point to announce that he was reluctantly escalating the war in Afghanistan. I read that speech as an explanation and apology to his political supporters. Now he goes to pick up the Peace Prize and paradoxically defends the American use of force in the world. I read this speech as an apology to Martin Luther King, who was invoked six times in the speech, far more anyone else.  

AFP/Getty Images

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

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