President Obama's speech accepting the Nobel Peace Prize put him in the
difficult situation of framing his most significant foreign policy act--escalating the war in Afghanistan--as a mission of peace. He had
little choice but to explain what role he intends for America in the
world, an articulation many pundits are calling the Obama Doctrine
Quite a few of them laid out interpretations of what that doctrine is. Typically, this meant carving out a single
thesis--"realism with a heart," a refutation of the Bush doctrine,
etc.--and hunting out supporting evidence. But the American Prospect's Adam Serwer made the strongest case
by uncovering the tensions in the speech:
It was a lengthy defense of American military intervention from World
War II to Desert Storm, and a forceful justification of the escalation
of troop levels in Afghanistan. It was a stirring defense of human
rights, and an indictment of violence and extremism. Obama at once
dismissed the idea of a military solution for problems of hunger and
disease, while justifying military intervention on humanitarian grounds. [...]
It was an unapologetic assertion of American exceptionalism, all while
tying that exceptionalism to actual American behavior. It was, in
short, exactly the kind of speech that one has come to expect from
Obama, with it's paeans to human dignity [...] a vision of American exceptionalism that demands
certain standards of American conduct, not one that justifies our
actions when we fall short. It neither justifies violence as a
solution to all problems nor condemns it as useless.
After all, Obama is in the deeply contradictory position of accepting
the world's grandest peace laurel while continuing to wage one of
this era's longest wars. Serwer homes in on many of the related
contradictions that Obama faces, and that he will have to resolve.
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