President Obama soon will be leaving for Norway to give his speech accepting the Nobel Peace Prize. According to this article, Norwegians are upset because he has cancelled a number of the events traditionally attended by the Peace Prize winner, including a lunch with Norway’s King. I wonder if, perhaps, the President cancelled some of the events because he just did not think it would be politically helpful to be seen on TV back in the States attending function after function in Norway, all in relation to accepting a Prize that many people believe he did not really deserve?
I am sure that the President’s acceptance speech will be carefully analyzed. Apparently he is going to tackle, head on, the irony some people see in his acceptance of the Peace Prize only days after announcing that he was going to send more troops to Afghanistan. I think he should do so, and I think in that regard he should point out that, occasionally, peace must be achieved by standing firm and fighting those who have an insatiable appetite for conquest, for death and destruction, or for trampling on the human rights of others. Many tried to negotiate with Adolf Hitler without success; peace in Europe ultimately was achieved only at the point of a sword.
I also think the President would do himself a favor by not criticizing his predecessor or, once again, suggesting that he has brought new enlightenment to a benighted United States of America. Such criticisms seem motivated solely by a desire to obtain some kind of domestic political advantage by constantly making comparisons to a President who was tremendously unpopular at the end of his term. I agree with the old adage, however, that politics should end at the water’s edge. I think it seems small for the Obama Administration to constantly belittle the efforts of the Bush Administration. Equally important, I question whether boasting about the policy changes that have occurred is a good foreign policy technique. Foreign policy is supposed to reflect a country’s national interests, and those interests really should not change dramatically even if voters have decided to replace the party in power. Do we really want foreign governments to think that a change in Administration will cause American foreign policy to swing like a pendulum? Won’t that encourage foreign governments who disagree with our policy to either meddle in our political affairs or wait out the current Administration, in hopes that voters will replace it with one that will develop a new policy that is more palatable?