Thursday, December 10, 2009

A little speech commentary

Before the commentary about the content of the speech, here is an astute take on the whole event:

Roger J. said... I am curious about why one would even want to listen to an "acceptance" speech for an award that was not deserved and proffered only to make a political point about a previous administration. (From Althouse)

Now that is out of the way here is some selected commentary with the caveat that I am only looking at a couple chunks of it and am not up for a full Fisking. Indeed, there are many parts of it that I like. So, here goes:

But perhaps the most profound issue surrounding my receipt of this prize is the fact that I am the Commander-in-Chief of a nation in the midst of two wars. One of these wars is winding down. The other is a conflict that America did not seek; one in which we are joined by 43 other countries — including Norway — in an effort to defend ourselves and all nations from further attacks.

Clearly what he means is that we did not seek war in Afghanistan but did in Iraq. I think this is an artificial distinction: In both cases a country was offending us in some way, we made demands which were unmet and we responded by invading.

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 that 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. (1)That is why I prohibited torture. (2)That is why I ordered the prison at Guantanamo Bay closed. (3)And that is why I have reaffirmed Americas commitment to abide by the Geneva Conventions.

(I added the numbers since I want to write about each of these things)

(1) The previous administration did not allow torture either. There are different definitions of torture, but for the record, nothing defined by the administration as torture was ever allowed.

(2) King Canute ordered the tide to stay out as well and with as much effect, though his point was the opposite of president Obama's. For the president it doesn't matter that the prison remains just as open now as it did when he ordered it closed. Words, actions, what's the difference? Incidentally, I was listening to NPR commentary on the speech and they actually misspoke that Obama had "closed Guantánamo," I guess words and actions have no distinction with NPR either.

(3) The United States has never renounced the Geneva Conventions. The view of the previous administration was that conferring the benefits of the convention to enemy combatants who do not abide by any of the rules of war corrodes the Conventions. That is, why should any group sign the treaty when they already can expect all of the benefits without having to follow any pesky rules themselves?

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