The Agenda

Peter Feaver on Obama’s Nobel Address

Feaver has written the take closest to my own:

But these weaknesses are mainly editorial and do not erase its many strengths, which are in the more important domain of substance and theme/frame. It avoids the simplistic dualities that characterize his usual rhetoric — the crafting of straw-man “false choices” that don’t take seriously the profound objections that the best critics raise about whatever policy he is proposing. It has to be his least partisan major speech ever, with the barest of cheap shots at his predecessor or partisan opponents. While not exactly brimming with humility, it does begin with a forthright admission that others deserve the award more than he does. And while it does not quite dedicate the peace prize to the men and women of the American armed forces (and the American people who supported them for decades), it does concede that these men and women have contributed to the goals of the peace prize. It is a more honest and balanced treatment of America’s role in the world than he has given in earlier foreign policy speeches.

Had the president dedicated the peace prize to the men and women of the American armed forces, I would have been forced to completely change my assessment of the man and his virtues. What President Obama has done is persuade a not inconsiderable number of liberals who could never have been convinced by the same words coming from the mouth of President Bush or, say, a President Romney. Whether or not that reflects well on them is immaterial — the speech has strengthened the political coalition for the war in Afghanistan, thus giving the Obama administration more breathing room to make its plan work. That’s a good thing. 

Reihan Salam is president of the Manhattan Institute and a contributing editor of National Review.

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