President Barack Obama accepted the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, Norway this morning.
He confronted the elephant in the room early in his acceptance speech, saying,
I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the considerable controversy that your generous decision has generated. In part, this isbecause I am at the beginning, and not the end, of my labors on the world stage. Compared to some of the giants of history who have received this prize Schweitzer and King, Marshall and Mandela my accomplishments are slight. 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 President accepted his prize just 9 days after he announced that he was adding 30,000 new troops into Afghanistan. A new NY Times poll shows a majority of Americans surveyed narrowly approve of the surge, by a 51% to 43% margin.
He also attempted to deal with the seeming contradiction between accepting a peace prize while going to war, referring to Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi, saying:
But as a head of state sworn to protect and defend my nation, I cannot be guided by their examples along. I face the world as it is, and cannot stand idle in the face of threats to the American people. For make no mistake: evil does exist in the world A non-violent movement could not have halted Hitler's armies. Negotiations cannot convince al Qaeda's leaders to lay down their arms. To say that force is sometimes necessary is not a call to cynicism- it is a recognition of history; the imperfections of man and the limits of reason."
Meanwhile, another member of the President's war team, General David Petraeus, confirmed on Capital Hill yesterday that we're not leaving Afghanistan anytime soon, so don't focus too much on that July 2011 date announced last week.
As the story in the NY Times began,
Americas involvement in Afghanistan could stretch on for years and cost upward of $10 billion annually just to finance an adequate Afghan security force, the overall commander in the region told Congress on Wednesday.
Testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the commander, Gen.David Petraeus , one of the militarys most influential generals, estimated that building and maintaining a combined army and police force of 400,000 a size that American commanders believe may eventually be needed to fully secure the country would cost more than $10 billion a year.
Also in the Times there is an op-ed written by the often criticized president of Pakistan, Asif Ali Zandari.
Zandari defends his country, writing that it might help if the U.S. understood its concerns about India (about Kashmir), writing
The perceived rhetorical one-sidedness of American policy often fuels the conspiracy theories that abound here theories that blame the West for all of our ills. Pakistans elected democratic leadership is itself a victim of some of these conspiracy theories, but our American partners must understand their origins and work with us to turn public opinion around.
Although we certainly appreciate Americas $7.5 billion pledge over the next five years for nonmilitary projects in Pakistan, this long-term commitment must be complemented by short-term policies that demonstrate American neutrality and willingness to help India and Pakistan overcome their mutual distrust. It could start by stepping up its efforts to mediate the Kashmir dispute.