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Obama’s Finest Hour

I agree with Jackson Diehl that there was something missing from Obama’s Noble Peace Prize address:

Obama could have used the speech to make clear to Iranians that the United States supports the cause of change in their country. Instead he settled, as he has before, for a passive construction: “We will bear witness,” he said, “to the hundreds of thousands who have marched silently through the streets of Iran.” But will the Obama administration support them? Iranians are not sure. During student demonstrations in Tehran this week, one instance of graffiti read: “Obama — are you with them or with us?” The president’s speech could have clearly answered that question; too bad it didn’t.

Still, that reservation aside, all I can say is: Wow. What a boffo address. I was not as disappointed as many on the Right with some of Obama’s previous speeches abroad, such as his famous attempt in Cairo to reach out to the Arab world, but he has never said anything as stirring or hard-headed as he did in Oslo. The tribute to brave dissidents … the defense of “just war”… the reflection on the limits of pacifism, nonviolent protest, and international resolutions as a weapon against the “evil” that “does exist in the world”… the appreciation for America’s role in underwriting “global security for more than six decades with the blood of our citizens and the strength of our arms”… the warning to North Korea and Iran not to “game the system”… the exhortation to promote human rights … the condemnation of Muslim extremists (“no Holy War can ever be a just war”) …

The speech had just about everything I or any other American would want to hear from our president. And mercifully it was not full of apologies for America’s past sins or knocks against the previous president — as so many previous Obama speeches have been.

Obama is an eloquent guy, but this is the first speech he’s given that I would class a masterpiece that deserves inclusion in compendia of the finest presidential speeches. The question now is whether he will live up to his rhetoric. That remains to be seen, but his speech is a significant step in the right direction. Coming so soon after his decision to “escalate” the war in Afghanistan (as his more liberal supporters put it), it suggests that he may be “growing” in office — and not in a liberal direction.



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