Obama's speech, first thoughts

I'm probably, at some point, going to write a longish post on Obama's Nobel speech. I thought it was a remarkable speech -- remarkable in its rhetorical skill, it's carefully constructed argument, and its utter, orwellian stupidity. War is peace. If nothing had proved yet that he did not deserve the prize, that speech was it.

Foreign policy was always Obama's tragic flaw, right from beginning of his campaign. He somehow manages to continue American exceptionalist foreign policy with dialogue and diplomacy. He never backed up and realised that US interests lie elsewhere. Never broke with the exceptionalist paradigm which got us into trouble under Bush. The trouble with Bush was not just the force and stupidity of his foreign policy technique. It was the set of ideas motivating them.

Anyway, until I get a chance to write it all up, I think Glenn Greenwald's take on the question is the best I've read yet.

Indeed, Obama insisted upon what he called the "right" to wage wars "unilaterally"; articulated a wide array of circumstances in which war is supposedly "just" far beyond being attacked or facing imminent attack by another country; explicitly rejected the non-violence espoused by King and Gandhi as too narrow and insufficiently pragmatic for a Commander-in-Chief like Obama to embrace; endowed us with the mission to use war as a means of combating "evil"; and hailed the U.S. for underwriting global security for the last six decades (without mentioning how our heroic efforts affected, say, the people of Vietnam, or Iraq, or Central America, or Gaza, and so many other places where "security" is not exactly what our wars "underwrote"). So it's not difficult to see why Rovian conservatives are embracing his speech; so much of it was devoted to an affirmation of their core beliefs.
The speech was also remarkable for its demonstration of the difference between a Quintilian conceptualisation of rhetoric and an Aristotelian one. This is more exciting than it sounds like. More on this later.


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