Friday, December 11, 2009

The Obama Doctrine: Neo-Conservatism With A Human Face

If Alexander Dubcek was still amongst the living, and a bombardier cheerleader for the empire with half of the world's military spending, he would be praising to the stars our president's speech before the Nobel Committee. Someone forgot to remind President Obama that he received the award because he was not George Bush, not because he wanted to politically revive him, replete with a new and improved advocate who can speak in full sentences.

If being a policy harlot on healthcare is not odious enough (caving into the insurance lobby by killing the public option), just take a look at the reaction of the biggest rhetorical de Torquemadas for this Manicheanism. You guessed it.

Conservative praise for Nobel speech

President Barack Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize speech Thursday is drawing praise from some unlikely quarters – conservative Republicans – who likened Obama’s defense of “just wars” to the worldview of his predecessor, Republican George W. Bush.

It’s already being called the “Obama Doctrine” – a notion that foreign policy is a struggle of good and evil, that American exceptionalism has blunted the force of tyranny in the world, and that U.S. military can be a force for good and even harnessed to humanitarian ends.

“There will be times,” Obama said, “when nations – acting individually or in concert – will find the use of force not only necessary but morally justified.”

The remarks drew immediate praise from a host of conservatives, including former GOP House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

“I liked what he said," Palin told USA Today. "Of course, war is the last thing I believe any American wants to engage in, but it's necessary. We have to stop these terrorists."

Gingrich told The Takeaway, a national morning drive show from WNYC and Public Radio International, “He clearly understood that he had been given the prize prematurely, but he used it as an occasion to remind people, first of all, as he said: that there is evil in the world."

“I think having a liberal president who goes to Oslo on behalf of a peace prize and reminds the committee that they would not be free, they wouldn't be able to have a peace prize, without having [the ability to use] force,” Gingrich said. “I thought in some ways it's a very historic speech.”

The context was striking. The president is enormously popular in Norway – a crowd of several thousand waited at his hotel chanting “Obama. Obama. Obama.” And “yes we can. Yes we can. yes we can.” Still, he spoke to the Nobel committee in a room packed with European dignitaries – including the Norwegian royal family — on a continent where skepticism of the U.S. mission in Afghanistan is strong. And despite the sentiments in the room, Obama defended the American war effort there and told the Europeans that their reflexive pacifism may be self defeating.

“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,” Obama said. “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.”

And Obama’s comments came just nine days after the president stood before cadets at West Point and told them that American values are “the moral source of America's authority,” as he ordered an additional 30,000 troops into Afghanistan. His decision to push for a surge also garnered Obama comparisons to Bush, who had done much the same thing in Iraq three years earlier. The Oslo speech, too, reminded some of Obama’s predecessor – with a twist.

“The irony is that George W. Bush could have delivered the very same speech. It was a truly an American president's message to the world,” said Bradley A. Blakeman, a Republican strategist and CEO of Kent Strategies LLC who worked in the Bush White House.

Added Walter Russell Mead, Henry A. Kissinger senior fellow for U.S. foreign policy at the Council on Foreign Relations: “If Bush had said these things the world would be filled with violent denunciations,” said “When Obama says them, people purr. That is fine by me.”

Obama’s remarks were a historical counterpoint to the speech made by Martin Luther King Jr., on another tenth of December, 45 years ago. On that day, King told the Nobel committee in Oslo that their award to him was “a profound recognition that nonviolence is the answer to the crucial political and moral question of our time - the need for man to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to violence and oppression.” King rejected violence for all time: “Civilization and violence are antithetical concepts.”

But Obama broke with King on the issue of non-violence, drawing an implicit distinction between King as the leader of a movement, and himself as the leader of a nation. “As someone who stands here as a direct consequence of Dr. King’s life’s work, I am living testimony to the moral force of non-violence,” the president said. “I know there is nothing weak –nothing passive – nothing na├»ve – in the creed and lives of Gandhi and King. But as a head of state sworn to protect and defend my nation, I cannot be guided by their examples alone.”

As a candidate, Obama was somewhat more wary of framing America’s political battles in terms of good and evil – though he said then as he did today that evil exists.

At a civil forum with John McCain at the Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., in the summer of 2008, Obama said, “Now, the one thing that I think is very important is for us to have some humility in how we approach the issue of confronting evil because, you know, a lot of evil has been perpetrated based on the claim that we were trying to confront evil.”

As he accepted the Nobel in Oslo, the doubts about confronting evil weren’t evident. “For make no mistake: evil does exist in the world,” Obama said. “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 is sometimes necessary is not a call to cynicism – it is a recognition of history; the imperfections of man and the limits of reason.”

“Wow. what a shift of emphasis,” said Robert Kagan of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a former policy advisor to McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign. Kagan said. “I don't know what to say about an ‘Obama doctrine,’ because based on this speech, I think we are witnessing a substantial shift, back in the direction of a more muscular moralism, ala, Truman, Reagan.”

Liberals, too, offered quick praise for the speech.

“This was no tie-dye peace prize,” said Christine Pelosi, an attorney, author and Democratic activist, writing in POLITICO’s Arena. “The President laid out the ‘right makes might’ Obama Doctrine: securing a just peace takes both the nonviolent teachings and military traditions of quiet heroes who fight for human rights as civilians and service members.”

Democratic strategist Lanny Davis said, “Simply: all Americans should be proud.” But Davis also took a shot at Bush, the man on the minds of so many conservatives Thursday morning. “We and our president are once again viewed positively by most peoples of the world,” he said. “A sea change from recent years.”

To be sure, the conservative praise is disingenuous. I have little doubt that this is a tongue-in-cheek way of using the language of the speech to justify our foreign policy failures under Bush, and anger those liberals who voted to get rid of this madness. And I have even less doubt that sometime around tomorrow, Gingrich, Palin, et al., will go back to accusing Obama of being in league with Islamic terrorism. Nevertheless, they have one legitimate point. Had the Nobel Committee awarded the peace prize to George Bush, he likely would have given the same speech.

One has to wonder if Obama actually believes any of the things he says. Yes, I know, the conspiracists and gun-toting ruralville types (and their lemming anarcho-pretend lefty-nihilist friends who are willfully dumb enough to think they can have a political coalition with people who would just as soon see every last union organizer on a chain gang or worse) will remind us that everyone is the same, everyone is evil (except them, naturally), and that Obama was the anti-Christ from the beginning. But this was a man who at least opposed the war in Iraq, if not vociferously after getting elected to the Senate. Is there something in the water in the Democratic Party that states as soon as you are elected, you are to be detained, scheduled for spine removal, and fitted with a watered-down replacement of the Republican Party? NAFTA, GATT, Welfare Reform Act, killing the public option (after refusing to even consider single payer on healthcare reform), deserting the Employee Free Choice Act, continuing the policy of bombing the world's recalcitrant Muslims, etc. You would think that after eight years of George Bush liberals in the Democratic Party would have learned the importance of not repeating mistakes. Apparently not.

But there is still evil in this world, such as killing off 45,000 of your citizens every year for lacking access to healthcare (and defending that system under the guise of free enterprise), pre-emptively invading countries for possessing something they did not have (the 'evidence' of which was manufactured to justify that illegal invasion and killing over a quarter of a million people in the process), and opining about stopping the horrible transgressions of this world while refusing to lift a finger for the 250,000-400,000 souls stolen from this earth in Darfur.
Yes, evil does exist. Unfortunately, we omitted to bring a mirror when lecturing everyone else about how they should live and govern themselves.

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