By Pamela Gentry, Senior Political Analyst
Dec. 10, 2009 – President Barack Obama told the world on Thursday true peace is earned and maintained through sacrifice, and that war is sometimes necessary to ultimately achieve peace.
But the president opened his lecture with a thoughtful expression of gratitude without apology for his selection by the organization for the prize.
“Compared to some of the giants of history who’ve received this prize — Schweitzer and King; Marshall and Mandela — my accomplishments are slight. And then there are the men and women around the world who have been jailed and beaten in the pursuit of justice; those who toil in humanitarian organizations to relieve suffering; the unrecognized millions whose quiet acts of courage and compassion inspire even the most hardened cynics. I cannot argue with those who find these men and women — some known, some obscure to all but those they help — to be far more deserving of this honor than I.”
The president acknowledged the recent increase of troops deployed to the war in Afghanistan in the context of “just wars” and how wars are often the precursors to “just peace.”
“The instruments of war do have a role to play in preserving the peace. And yet this truth must coexist with another — that no matter how justified, war promises human tragedy.
Where force is necessary, we have a moral and strategic interest in binding ourselves to certain rules of conduct. And even as we confront a vicious adversary that abides by no rules, I believe the United States of America must remain a standard bearer in the conduct of war. That is what makes us different from those whom we fight. That is a source of our strength. That is why I prohibited torture. That is why I ordered the prison at Guantanamo Bay closed. And that is why I have reaffirmed America’s commitment to abide by the Geneva Conventions. We lose ourselves when we compromise the very ideals that we fight to defend.”
The president addressed those in the international community who are a threat to peace and called for accountability and sanctions by nations to oppose those countries like Iran and North Korea who attempt to “game the system.”
He closed with these words:
“Let us live by their example. We can acknowledge that oppression will always be with us, and still strive for justice. We can admit the intractability of depravation, and still strive for dignity. Clear-eyed, we can understand that there will be war, and still strive for peace. We can do that — for that is the story of human progress; that’s the hope of the entire world; and at this moment of challenge, that must be our work here on Earth.”