An extraordinary speech! I don’t think you can come away from reading Barack Obama’s speech in acceptance of the Nobel Peace Prize without appreciation for the President’s depth of analysis, the logic running through the remarks the commitment to multilateral global governance.
I suspect, as have others, that this is not the speech that the Nobel Committee would necessarily have preferred. It is – in the end – a defense of war of necessity and the use of force in an imperfect world. Obama’s remarks may be bound up with ‘just war’ talk but make no mistake it is a defense of the use of war to fight ‘bad people.’ As Barack argued:
We must begin by acknowledging the hard truth: We will not eradicate violent conflict in our lifetimes. There will times when nations – acting individually or in concert – will find the use of force not only necessary but morally justified.
Then Obama spoke another truth. That is, that states are uncomfortable and or unwilling to use force.
I raise this point, I begin with this point because in many countries there is a deep ambivalence about military action today, no matter what the cause. And at times, this is joined by a reflexive suspicion of America, the world’s sole military superpower.
This unmasking the truth is relevant to global governance. The effort to enlarge the membership of the Gx process and draw in the rising powers – India, China and Brazil – will inevitably result – I anticipate – that wanted or not this club will be called on act in the face of conflict, proliferation and terrorism.
The rising powers are deeply reluctant. Indeed China in particular but also India and Brazil have preferred the defense of sovereignty and the principle of “non interference” in the domestic affairs of others. But Obama is signaling that this is insufficient.
As Obama chillingly declared:
For make no mistake: Evil does exist in the world. 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 may sometimes be necessary is not a call to cynicism - it is a recognition of history; the imprefections of man and the limits of reason.