Friday, October 9, 2009
Today’s award of the Nobel Peace Prize to President Obama raises the question of whether or not what’s in our best interest is also, invariably, in the interest of world peace?
First things first. We need a definition before this article begins to sound like the answer to a question at some beauty pageant. Mine is a very narrow concept. By “world peace” I’m referring to the balance among nations and/or ethnic or cultural interests that minimizes the use or material threat of military action to accomplish their objectives. We can all agree to disagree and keep talking – as long as no one gets hurt or dies in the meantime. And yes, I can be breathtakingly simpleminded sometimes, but I’m not writing a book here.
Are there circumstances when President Obama will take, or not take action to protect US citizens and interests, here and abroad, because those actions will be detrimental to world peace? It’s not a ridiculous question. Far from it.
We and some other Western countries have a problem with terrorism on the basis of which we have justified military action in Iraq, and now in Afghanistan. Those actions have, arguably, stimulated reactions by the terrorists, of course, but also on the part of other countries which sympathize with their beliefs, if not with their methods, with ramifications that extend beyond the original disagreement between “them” and us.
Have our actions in the Middle East had a calming effect or have they heightened international tensions in the region and elsewhere? What are we going to do if Pakistan, a nuclear arms power, doesn’t cooperate to the extent that we think is necessary to deny our enemies safe harbor and other support they are now receiving in that country? Under what circumstances will we – President Obama – tolerate what we perceive to be misbehavior by any sovereign nation, weak or powerful, in support of movements which threaten the United States? How far are we willing to go, on our own, to prevent Iran from developing and disseminating nuclear weapons given the implications for regional and world peace of a US-lead preemptive attack?
Don’t misunderstand my point. Without question, I’m certain the President takes into account the international ramifications of any military initiative he considers. But is it, his decision process that is, about “world peace,” or is really a matter of going as far as we can, of doing as much as we can get away with, militarily speaking, to protect the United States?
The former, global perspective is more civilized, broadly defined, and speaks to a loftier, more humane national character that puts the welfare of others at least on a par with that of our own people. The latter is all about selfishness and protecting our citizens and interests at the expense of others – others who may or may not be involved.
Nobel Prizes notwithstanding, the question is, which Presidential mindset do we want and have in The White House? In Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran, I think we’re about to find out.