in his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech today, Barack Obama returns to the world stage as philosopher king. He bestrides the narrow world like a Colossus.
He deliberates over his role as Commander in Chief, but it does not detain him long. He weighs in on just war theory. (Our war to depose Saddam Hussein is conspicuous by its absence in his reckoning of America’s just wars.) He discusses humanitarian intervention. He outlines the role of international institutions and international law. He reiterates the necessity of ameliorating “climate change.”
He reviews history since the dawn of man. He mulls over the multifarious causes of discord and combat. He takes account of globalization and tribalism. He evenhandedly notes the retrograde “conflict between Arabs and Jews[.]”
And yet, he is not done until he reaches “the law of love [that] has always been the core struggle of human nature.”
When he reaches “the law of love,” he declares his belief “that the human condition can be perfected.”
“The non-violence practiced by men like Gandhi and King may not have been practical or possible in every circumstance, but the love they preached — their faith in human progress — must always be the North Star that guides us on our journey.”
So Obama hews to “the love they preached” — which is somehow equated with their faith in human progress — as a guiding principle.
The law of love in Obama’s speech takes the central place that the principle of human equality held in Lincoln’s thought, where it stood as “a standard maxim for free society, which should be familiar to all, and revered by all; constantly looked to, constantly labored for, and even though never perfectly attained, constantly approximated, and thereby constantly spreading and deepening its influence, and augmenting the happiness and value of life to all people of all colors everywhere.”
While Obama’s speech is not as bad as it could have been, and while its many strands deserve additional attention, it is a deeply dispiriting speech.
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“Arise and take our stand for freedom as in the olden time.” Winston Churchill
“Proclaim Liberty throughout All the land unto All the Inhabitants Thereof.” Inscription on the Liberty Bell