- Fr. James V. Schall praised it:
As far as I can tell, nothing in President Obama's background or politics prepared us for the remarkably sane address that he delivered in Oslo. He previously went around the world apologizing for everything the Americans ever did, only to turn around and say it was absolutely necessary.
- George Weigel believes "Obama’s Oslo speech presumes too much about a centuries-old intellectual tradition":
In November, the president of the United States ordered a surge of U.S. forces into Afghanistan and called on other countries to do their duty in bringing that war to a successful conclusion. A few weeks later, the same president traveled to Oslo to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. The notion that the juxtaposition of these two events involves a “contradiction” (as the Washington Post subhead put it, and as the president’s speech tacitly acknowledged) is, in fact, a neat illustration of just how badly the just-war way of thinking has deteriorated in our culture, and just how attenuated the idea of the pursuit of peace has become.
- Responding to Weigel, Kenneth Anderson (Volokh Conspiracy) The tradition most at work in the speech is 'Niebuhrian realism'":
.. .It is a form of moral realism that has elements of just war ethics but also a much stronger sense of traditional realism — the “world as it is” of the speech — and which run against just war ethics as functional pacifism. There are tensions between this moderate moral realism and stricter versions of just war ethics, however, depending on the elements of each that one might emphasize.(Very true!)
However, perhaps more important is that although to American ears, the just war tradition and its requirements seem, today, quite ordinary and natural, it is both a relatively new way of speaking about war in the American political tradition; also one that to European intellectuals and its international elites strange if not disturbing in the age of the UN Charter; and finally one that is not embraced directly by the Vatican. ...
I am not a Catholic or Catholic theologian, but in following Vatican statements concerning the use of force, I have long been struck that the Vatican does not follow just war ethics as even the formal apparatus of analysis. Summarizing roughly, it seems to follow more closely the European line about the primacy of international law, or anyway a certain, thoroughly unrealistic, but literal, reading of the Charter. I have sometimes wondered if the Vatican’s refusal even to speak the formal language of just war ethics — the five or seven standard criteria — was not intended as a very long term message that, although Americans associate just war ethics with Catholicism, it is not the law of the Church, but only one tradition within it concerning the use of force. I believe Weigel would concur in the observation that the Vatican has abstained from signing onto just war ethics as the formal apparatus for analyzing resort to war.
- Lastly, the editors of the Jesuit weekly America on Obama's use of the language of his "favorite philosopher" may work against him:
In a campaign interview last year with the columnist David Brooks, Barack Obama identified Reinhold Niebuhr as his favorite philosopher. Following the president’s Nobel Prize acceptance speech on Dec. 15, many commentators noted that the speech reflected Niebuhr’s Christian Realism, a political theology that stressed the inescapable power of group egoism, especially in nation states, and the need of countervailing power to check injustice in the world. Niebuhr’s major works, Moral Man And Immoral Society: A Study in Ethics and Politics and The Nature and Destiny of Man, were sustained arguments for realism in politics and international affairs. But he equally insisted that nations were given to self-deception about their role in the world and employed myths and rationalizations to justify their self-interest.
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Obama's Peace Prize Speech, Neihbur's "Moral Realism" and the Catholic Just War Tradition
Diverse reactions to President Obama's Nobel Peace Price Speech (full text):