I liked Obama’s Nobel speech. I may be the only American who does, because it seems as if everyone else is accusing him of being a traitor to the Left and the Right.
But I thought his speech was like the man himself; succinct, business-like, practical. The quote that stood out for me was when Obama stated that while he was mindful of the example of Martin Luther King and Gandhi, “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.”
Obama’s speech struck me as that of a man grappling with intellectual and moral issues of war and peace, of just war and the seeming futility – yet the necessity – of violence. “I do not bring with me today a definitive solution to the problems of war,” he said, and that is an honest answer. “We must begin by acknowledging the hard truth that 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 stated, and that is also an honest answer, and far more honest than those who delude themselves into thinking that President – whether Progressive or Neo-Con – could simply renounce force. We elect our Presidents not to make war, but nor to shy away from it, either.
That’s why we elect politicians and hope they become leaders. Obama was not elected to be the Progressive President, to usher in universal peace and universal health care. He was elected to be President of the United States. Once he took that oath, he took on the responsibility of being commander-in-chief. I can understand why progressives feel betrayed because Obama isn’t doing everything that he promised. But I submit that George Bush betrayed his oath because he inflexibly pursued his ideology at the expense of his responsibilities. I would not trust a President who did everything he promised on the campaign trail. His perspective MUST change when he enters the Oval Office, or like Bush, he shows himself incapable of learning.
I don’t agree with Obama’s Afghanistan surge. I think it’s too small to be military ineffective and so big that it will result in more American casualties. Yet I also appreciate that there are no easy answers. As Lyndon Johnson said, and as anyone knows who has watched their town council try to draft a budget or resolve a zoning issue, the hard part isn’t doing the right thing, but knowing what the right thing is. I don’t think Obama is right, but I don’t know for sure that he is wrong, and I don’t know that withdrawing every soldier from Afghanistan tomorrow is a better solution. I do know that if things turn sour and a victorious Taliban perpetrates a bloodbath, it will be Obama who takes the blame, not the anti-war protestors or the leftist sociology professors.
Perhaps he is guilty of political expediency or political cowardice in continuing some of Bush’s Afghan policy. Yet perhaps it’s just as cowardly of us to make sweeping judgments that we should abruptly withdraw from Afghanistan. Even if it might be the expedient move, there will be unpleasant consequences for the Afghans and for American self-respect. In the end, only one man in America will take the blame for them. Even if I don’t agree with all of his decisions, I respect that he at least he is the one who has to make them.