Barack Obama has finally found royalty to snub. Seeing no need to bow before the powerless King of Norway and a chance to repair his image domestically, he used his trip to Oslo as a kind of Sister Souljah moment.
Norwegians, according to press reports, felt a bit used. Obama breezed into the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony without attending the customary lunch with Norway's king. But the real snub was his Nobel speech itself.
As Bill Clinton taught the Dems, if you have to "confront" a liberal audience about some obvious truth, be sure to choose a hapless or unappealing one. Clinton bravely took on rappers; Obama took on Scandinavian pacifists.
It wasn't very gracious, but the speech wowed the press mightily, as they cooed over its unexpected tone. Reporters eagerly said that conservatives would find it hard not to cheer this one. Actually, it is not that hard. The speech was the usual collection of truths, half-truths, and deceptions.
Obama seemed at first to be endorsing the concept of a just war: force can be "morally justified," and "the instruments of war do have a role to play in preserving the peace," he said.
But whatever he gives with one hand he usually takes back with the other. Soon he was offering up meditations on the intrinsically evil character of war: "war itself is never glorious, and we must never trumpet it as such" and "war at some level is an expression of human folly."
Obama can't decide if he is a hard-headed realist or Wilsonian idealist. Last year, he said that only a very narrowly defined concept of self-defense ever justifies war. Now he says, "I believe force can be justified on humanitarian grounds, as it was in the Balkans, or in other places that have been scarred by war."
It is measure of the comically low expectations liberal presidents enjoy that the press expects Americans to be gratified to hear that Obama rejects the possibility of a peace conference with Osama bin Laden: "Negotiations cannot convince al Qaeda's leaders to lay down their arms. To say that force may sometimes be necessary is not a call to cynicism -- it is a recognition of history; the imperfections of man and the limits of reason." What a brave and anguished conclusion!
But, wait, it turns out that America can negotiate with terrorists and tyrants: later in the speech, Obama said, "I know that engagement with repressive regimes lacks the satisfying purity of indignation. But I also know that sanctions without outreach -- condemnation without discussion -- can carry forward only a crippling status quo."
So maybe a peace conference with Bin Laden is possible after all, if Americans can just set aside their anger. Maybe if Bin Laden lives long enough and wins a democratic election in an Islamic country, he can one day crawl into Arafat's old bunk at the White House.
In the meantime, America's military should be treating terrorists a lot more nicely. Obama once again implied that America has been violating its "ideals" in the war on terrorism. The somnolent crowd perked up at the line, "We lose ourselves when we compromise the very ideals that we fight to defend."
Obama took pride in subtly slurring his own military by informing the audience of what he has done lately to rein it in: "That's why I prohibited torture. That's why I ordered the prison at Guantanamo Bay closed. And that's why I have reaffirmed America's commitment to abide by the Geneva Conventions."
And then there was the obligatory reference to Islam as a "great religion." Has he ever called Christianity a great religion? If so, I missed it. He is, of course, disappointed to see the "murder of innocents" in the name of Islam, but let's not forget "that these extremists are not the first to kill in the name of God; the cruelties of the Crusades are amply recorded."
Why does he need to recall the Crusades in the context of "the murder of innocents"? There are fresh examples closer to hand in his own administration. One of his first acts as president was to free up tax dollars for the murder of innocents, unborn children, by international groups abroad. But that kind of violence is fashionable and signaled to the enlightened international community that Obama meant peace.
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