Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Problem With Obama Doctrine

The world is divided on what President Obama said, and did not say, in his Nobel Lecture. An unlikely recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, he felt hard pressed to present a justification for his various wars, but he should not have. The prize, in the world's eyes, was given to Obama The Symbol - of culmination of a long struggle of rights and dignity of the African-Americans - than Obama The Man. But, President Obama turned it into an endorsement of himself and his actions, and in doing so, he ended up justifying wars as a legitimate, and unavoidable, instrument of state policy.


The point is, of course, that wars are not justified. In Obamaspeak, there were wars between armies, and then wars between nations, which has now turned into wars within nations. But, despite this evolutionary formula of war, there are some things which never changed. First, wars were between interests, which saw the world as a zero-sum equation, and parties which wanted to take all and leave none. Second, wars were always between parties which saw war as a justified, and unavoidable, means to settle conflicts. And, third, wars always affected the innocent, the unarmed and the non-combatant. Obama acknowledged this and said that Second World War is the first time when the civilian deaths exceeded the combat casualties. We can debate that historical comparison. But, it will be plain that the Iraq War brought about comparable civilian distress, something that President Obama needed to be silent about.


This is the principal problem with the Obama Doctrine, disseminated from the high pulpit of the Nobel Peace Prize, which will therefore enter the lexicon of politically correct thinking from this point on. He said while he admires Gandhi and King, he, as a Head of State, knows that non-violence is not a practicable policy. He said non-violence could not have stopped Hitler's armies. And, he said, he must fight 'just wars' to defend the ideals he believes in.


But, looking at it from another angle, this is what he is saying: He heads the most powerful country in the world, so why should he care about non-violence? He says it is right to pursue wars for self-interest of the nation, the same unchecked pursuit of self-interest that pushed Europe in multiple crisis in the nineteenth and twentieth century, and finally created Hitler. The same mistaken policy with a central role of war, which allowed Saddam Hussein to wage war on Islamic Iran, as they had the temerity to challenge the United States.


I know there are no surprises in this stance: We have heard this so many times from so many different leaders. But, the discomforting fact is that this doctrine has the 'endorsement' of the Nobel Prize, and has high resonance. This is a sort of 'jihadi' speech, which talks about the right to wage war on everything that is different, and Obama satisfyingly mentions that the United States never waged war on a democracy in the recent times. What he would gloss over is the numerous assassination plots and covert coups United States sponsored on democratic leaders all over the world. In fact, he could have said - we only wage war against autocracies, because we can manage the democracies covertly. And, alternately, he could have also listed the names of the brutally authoritarian governments United States keeps in power, like the client states of Egypt and Saudi Arabia, and summarized that United States does not fight those who agree with them. That policy pronouncement would surely have earned him another peace prize.


In the end, I believe Obama got it completely wrong why he got the Nobel Prize. He got it because it would have been too pompous, even by the standards of the Nobel Committee, to give a prize to the American People. But, it was they who really got the prize - by backing freedom against privilege, by endorsing reconciliation over fear, and by showing the true possibilities of a democracy, by electing Barack Obama. It was that mandate, after several years of 'just war' philosophy, that deserved a Nobel Prize, and they got it. However, Obama was eager to prove that everyone has got it wrong; and he is more keen on continuity, than bowing to the wishes of those who elected him and make a break. He stood up and said he as a symbol does not matter, he has lost himself in the mechanics and 'practicalities' of the daily administration business. He, in fact, failed to become the symbol everyone hoped he would become, and ended up showing too much of the politician in him.

1 comment:

hampshire said...

Ya its true the war is not justified..but he never do for Peace prize..

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