Sunday, December 13, 2009

Three Comments About Oslo Speech

President Obama made a speech in accepting the Nobel Peace Prize and I have three things to say about what he said.

First, he said that no non-violent force could have stopped Hitler's army. Perhaps, not, once that army existed and was on the move. But an American policy of collaborative engagement with Europe after the First World War--rather than retreating behind our ocean frontier and leaving the League of Nations at the altar--might well have prevented that army from being created.

One of the problems with redemptive violence as a world view and a national policy is that one does things that cause the impetus to violence to build and build until--shock!--violence is inevitable. Pacifism is a long range strategy for security and must be pursued over the long haul.

Second, Mr. Obama called Al Qaeda evil. Mr. Obama's Bible, like mine, draws a distinction between people and the "power" called evil--our enemies are not flesh and blood but the powers that hold and control other human beings just as they sometimes hold and control us. When we drop death out of the sky on innocents with drones and such we are as much in the thrall of evil from the point of view of Al Qaeda (and in reality) as they were, our eyes (and in reality), when they flew airplanes into buildings. When we stop calling people evil, and affirm that evil is something they--we all--serve, at times, we change the paradigm into one that is more useful to building peace and a world community that is secure.

My third comment is about this "just war" thing. Not the first to serve this up, the President put at least as much irony as anyone else ever has into that sugar cone, and has created at least as big, and tasty, a brain freeze. Like the equally destructive human doctrine/notion of original sin, "just war" was invented by St Augustine. It is not a part of the Gospel or even the Bible, itself. The religious hand-maidens of imperial power had to contort scripture (and common sense) to put those "doctrines" of political control into the "constantinian" hands of their idolatrous masters. All wars ever fought were "just wars"--just ask anyone on either side of any one of them. The undeniable truth is that "just wars" are just war--period. Linking the concept of "justice" to any one of them, or either side in any one of them, is missing the mark.

Like traffic tickets, no one is ever to blame for a war or wrong for having been part of one--just ask them.

I know that the Obama administration is sliding along greased rails, here, and sees no other way out. So many opportunities for constructive engagement around community building with the people of the Middle East have been lost and wasted in the past while this country opted for manipulation and force as a means of "pursing our interests."

But if our interests are really security and peace (rather than something else) than we must--at least with one hand--start to do some of that kind of constructive engagement that will improve life for people in that part of the world, and we should gradually cut down on the manipulation and force while we increase the constructive collaboration.

Al Qaeda is a threat because the soil they work has been composted for decades by the poverty and injustice we have helped heaped upon it, poverty and injustice that has been in our "national interest." Until we start offering something better, or at least stop spreading more of the same, no one apt to being successfully courted by Al Qaeda is going to pay any attention to anything we have to say.

Blaspheming non-violence, identifying human beings as hapless as ourselves as being, rather than serving, one of the corrupt powers of this world and throwing the concept of "just war" around only makes it possible for the other side to rationalize their allegiance to evil, as we rationalize our own.

Thank you for conjuring the mirror, Mister President. Pray look into it.


limo hire said...

Its so honorable prize and president Obama deserve it..The Noble peace prize on the right handed..

Hystery said...

I appreciate your critical commentary here. You speak my mind. Those who speak of historical events as though they were inevitable are practicing a sloppy and uncreative methodology. One can see a thousand moments in history, a thousand historical counterfactuals that could have resulted in a more peaceful and humane world.

Daniel Wilcox said...

Hi Timothy,

Excellent points! I hope someone passes this along to President Obama.

In the Light,

Daniel Wilcox

Melissa said...

Thank you for stating this so eloquently. So often the world makes so little sense, but your interpretations help the pieces fall into place. I'm very inspired by your posts.

Rick Seifert said...

I've taken a couple of runs at the Obama Oslo speech, but never felt I nailed it. You have, Tim. Thanks.

I read into your remarks a recommendation to the president and the Pentagon of that familiar notion "There is no way to peace; peace is the way."


Tmothy Travis said...

Thanks, Rick.

Yes, that's right. Something about reaping and sowing...