President and commander-in-chief of the armed forces of the United States Barack Obama delivered his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance address in Oslo on December 10, which has immediately led to media discussion of an Obama Doctrine.
With obligatory references to Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mohandas Gandhi (the second referred to only by his surname) but to no other American presidents than Ronald Reagan, Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy - fellow peace prize recipients Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson and Jimmy Carter weren't mentioned - the U.S. head of state spoke with the self-assurance of the leader of the world's first uncontested superpower and at times with the self-righteousness of a would-be prophet and clairvoyant. And, in the words of German philosopher Friedrich von Schlegel, a prophet looking backward.
Accompanied by visionary gaze and cadenced, oratorical solemnity, his comments included the assertion that "War, in one form or another, appeared with the first man." Unless this unsubstantiated claim was an allusion to the account in the Book of Genesis in the Hebrew Bible of Cain murdering his brother Abel, which would hardly constitute war in any intelligible meaning of the word (nor was Cain the first man according to that source), it is unclear where Obama acquired the conviction that war is coeval with and presumably an integral part of humanity.
Paleontologists generally trace the arrival of modern man, homo sapiens, back 200,000 years, yet the first authenticated written histories are barely 2,400 years old. How Obama and his speechwriters filled in the 197,600-year gap to prove that the practice of war is as old as mankind and implicitly inseparable from the human condition is a question an enterprising reporter might venture to ask at the next presidential press conference.
Perhaps delusions of omniscience is the answer. The Oslo speech is replete with references to and appropriations of the attributes of divinity. And to historical and anthropological fatalism; a deeply pessimistic concept of Providence.
Obama affirmed that "no Holy War can ever be a just war. For if you truly believe that you are carrying out divine will, then there is no need for restraint." Then shortly afterward stated "Let us reach for the world that ought to be - that spark of the divine that still stirs within each of our souls." An adversary's invocation of the divine is false, heretical, sacrilegious; Washington's is true, unerring, sufficient to justify any action, however violent and deadly. As unadulterated an illustration of secular Manicheaism as can be found in the modern world.
Toward the beginning of his speech the first standing American president in ninety years to receive the Peace Prize acknowledged that "perhaps the most profound issue surrounding my receipt of this prize is the fact that I am the Commander-in-Chief of the military of a nation in the midst of two wars."
Understandably he exerted no effort to justify one of the two wars in question, that in Iraq, but endorsed and pledged the continuation of the other, that in Afghanistan and increasingly Pakistan - while elsewhere speaking disparagingly of the European Crusades of the later Middle Ages.
Neither the Nobel Committee nor its honoree seemed inordinately if at all concerned by the unprecedented awarding of the prestigious and generous ($1.4 million) Peace Prize to a commander-in-chief in charge of two simultaneous wars far from his nation's shores and in countries whose governments and peoples never threatened it in any manner.
In language that never before was heard during a peace prize acceptance speech, Obama added "we are at war, and I'm responsible for the deployment of thousands of young Americans to battle in a distant land. Some will kill, and some will be killed."
With not a scintilla of national self-awareness, balance or irony, he also derided the fact that "modern technology allows a few small men with outsized rage to murder innocents on a horrific scale," as he orders unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) linked by space satellites to launch deadly missile attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The central themes of Obama's speech are reiterations of standing U.S. policy going back over a decade with the waging of war against Yugoslavia in early 1999 without United Nations authorization or even a nominal attempt to obtain one; that the U.S. and its Western military allies can decide individually and collectively when, to what degree, where and for what purpose to use military force anywhere in the world. And the prerogative to employ military force outside national borders is reserved exclusively for the United States, its fellow NATO members and select military clients outside the Euro-Atlantic zone such as Colombia, Ethiopia, Georgia, Israel and Saudi Arabia of late.
What is arguably unique in Obama's address is the bluntness with which it reaffirmed this doctrine of international lawlessness. Excerpts along this line, shorn of ingenuous qualifications and decorative camouflage, include:
"We must begin by acknowledging the hard truth: 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 offered a summary of the just war argument that a White House researcher could have cribbed from Wikipedia.
"[A]s a head of state sworn to protect and defend my nation, I cannot be guided by their [Gandhi's and King's] examples alone. I face the world as it is, and cannot stand idle in the face of threats to the American people. For make no mistake: Evil does exist in the world."