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Maybe He Should Ask for the Churchill Bust Back

Time to give Obama props when props are due.  He really turned the tables on those Norwegian bedwetters by embracing classical just war theory and standing beside George W. Bush in noting that evil in the world exists and will not yield to honeyed words or resolutions from Brussells.  Yes, there was still a lot of hooey-gooey stuff in the speech, but it was a definite break from previous Obama speeches.  It seemed a clever way of acknowledging that not only did he not deserve the Nobel Peace Prize, but that the audience didn't deserve to have their nihilist prejudices flattered.  I suspect the real audience for Obama's remarks wasn't the folks assembled in the room in Oslo.  More on this in a moment.

What struck me as most interesting, though, was the passage where he invoked the non-violent legacy of Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr, but then went on to say:  "But as a head of a state sworn to protect and defend my nation, I cannot be guided by their examples alone." Hmmm.  What does that remind me of.  Oh yeah, it reminds of this famous passage from Churchill's discussion of the meaning of the Munich agreement The Gathering Storm

The Sermon on the Mount is the last word in Christian ethics.  Everyone respects the Quakers.  Still, it is not on these terms that Ministers assume their responsibilities of guiding states.  Their duty is first so to deal with other nations as to avoid strife and war and to eschew aggression in all its forms, whether for nationalistic or ideological objects.  But the safety of the State, the lives and freedom of their own fellow countrymen, to whom they owe their position, make it right and imperative in the last resort, or when a final and definite conviction has been reached, that the use of force should not be excluded.

Obama might want to retrieve the bust of Churchill that he unceremoniously sent back to Britain after taking office.  

Now, for my conclusion. I think the real audience for this speech was the mullahs in Iran.  
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Discussions - 12 Comments

I wish I could believe his speech represents a true change of heart; a signal that he's come to recognize the hard realities of the world.

I do not. As I mentioned in the comments of an earlier post, I fear we will learn in due time that this was yet another bit of calculated posturing. To what end I am not certain. But in my heart of hearts I believe the truer Obama would give a different speech. Political necessity dictated otherwise.

Don't you think it is important and good that Obama gave a big public speech of political necessity on the world stage? I find that very significant, especially in the Oslo context with those folks who were trying to pressure him into being a total and foolish squish. He just said "Sorry, not in our lifetime" to the peace at any price crowd. That speech was was not all "hope and change" and isn't that a great relief?

I was beginning to wonder how long it would take for the guy to come to grips with international realities. Now I know; it took more than a year of presidential responsibility. You may be right; it is not the "real him", but that's like saying that a boy who takes to wearing a suit because of his new job is not dressing like the "real him". No, of course it is not, but we can hope the guy's "real him" develops into something useful to society. At this point I do not give a damn about the real Obama. If he starts talking and walking like the kind of president America needs that's good enough for me.

I like Kate's metaphor. I hope it is applicable. And I think this speech of Obama's finally gives me a reason to indulge that hope without feeling ridiculous for petting it.

I will depart with Steve just a tinge, however. I do still see too much evidence of Obama's favorite crutch: the "on the one hand, and on the other hand" business. It is useful to contemplate alternatives and perhaps it indicates a willingness on his part to change his mind--though I suppose asking him to admit it would be too much. But if it also indicates an inability to MAKE UP his mind, we may have a problem. I'm not saying that I know that is the case. I'm only saying it is something to consider. And I do get the very strong sense that Obama just DOESN'T LIKE thinking about this stuff. He'd rather it would all just go away so he could focus on his domestic agenda. I suppose there is a sense in which it would be weird or bad for a President to enjoy contemplating what to do about International strife . . . but there's also a sense in which it is weird and bad when a President sees such contemplation as a distraction or an annoying burden. It really ought to be the first priority and the thing about which he is the most confident of being in the right . . .

I think Don's suspicion may well be right -- that it's just a political feint. See also David Frum's post at FrumForum today. Good analysis of the speech other conservatives are praising. Frum's at his best as a contrarian, as for example here.

Perhaps I am too cynical for my own good. *Maybe* he's starting to "walk and talk like a real president."

Maybe he found it politically expeditious to say those words at this time without any sincerity to them at all. Once mollified, his critics may relax just a touch. And his radical outlook and agenda proceeds.


Conservatives are too easily pacified by good or apparently sensible rhetoric. Watch his hands. The words are secondary at best.

Oh, I do not think that as critics we should let the president back down from what he offered in Oslo. Let's take him at his word and hold him to his words. Yes, absolutely, let's watch his hands. What he does is what counts.

Just as conservatives have been reminding Obama that he called Afghanistan a necessary war, we can all remind him from here on till he loses the next election what he said about wars of necessity. I don't care if it is just rhetoric, those were his words and if nothing else, for goodness' sake, the man just handed us a rhetorically useful stick that we can wave around vigorously or even threaten him with if he looks likely to be insincere about them.

However, this is a season of hope and I am inclined to be (maybe unreasonably) hopeful.

That doesn't mean anyone should go to sleep or relax. Anyway, who can relax in times like ours? On the other hand , who can live for long without hope, even a glimmer of it? I don't know about you, but always in life I cling to every scrap of hope I can get, even the tinsel kind.


I suspect part of Obama's purpose here is to get conservative elites to go easier on him. Smart move. But if I'm right, it's still just words.


As for hope, think 2010 and 2012.

I would remind all how easily Slick Willie broke into saber-rattling (and occasionally slapping down the ultra-liberal members of his own party). It didn't change the fact that he had no stomach for war or winning.

Obama's just another in a long line of liberal Democrat talkers. Yada yada yada...and eventually our enemies figure out that our liberal establishment just can't stick it out long enough to win.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again...the guy's an empty suit, just like Clinton.

I think that, to the extent that Obama says sensible things like in PARTS OF Nobel speech, or does sensible things like order a build up forces and movement to a counterinsurgency strategy in Iraq, conservatives should agree with him and when possible support him. They should also point out where he goes wrong (cough*timetable*cough) and offer better polices. Thats not going easy on Obama. Thats standing by our own opinions even when they are being voiced by our domestic political opponents. Its not as easy as it sounds.

If Obama fails, conservatives should be clear about why he failed and how they might have done better. Conservatives will not have lost their credibility by agreeing with him when he was right, they will have earned a fair hearing.

Meant Afghanistan not Iraq. Sorry.

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