Mr Obama was elected to the office of president of the United States just over a year ago and he assumed office, as is the way in America, at the end of January this year. He has been continuing the wars that his country, together with many other countries, are fighting in Iraq and in Afghanistan; it should be said that if Mr Obama withdrew American forces from these places American Allies would probably be the first to leave with an alacrity that would surprise those who have been following the military events. However, while Mr Obama keeps the USA in these wars then the wars will go on, supported probably unwillingly and certainly half heartedly, by America’s allies.
I have always found the justification for these wars very hard to understand, as have most people. It is claimed that the justification has been poorly explained by leaders. I take the view that if you cannot justify fighting a war in a few words, you cannot justify fighting it at all. Perhaps I am simplistic or perhaps moral standards for fighting wars have developed and improved from the days when the simple moral codes embodied in the world’s great religions were promulgated. If so, we should soon be seeing loose leaf versions of the Old and New Testaments and the Koran, so that we can improve their teachings according to the thinking of the latest great minds that apply themselves to moral issues – people like Tony Blair, George W Bush and other great thinkers.
Mr Obama has been to Oslo to collect the Nobel Peace Prize. Some recipients have received it while being engaged in one war, but I can think of none who has received it while being engaged in two wars, one of which will be soon escalated by Mr Obama who is about to send another 30,000 soldiers to fight in Afghanistan.
Mr Obama apparently claims that the use of force in Afghanistan could bring lasting world peace (shades of the old claims of a war to end all wars) and that negotiations would not have stopped Hitler. That is a spurious argument; no one suggests that negotiations would have stopped Hitler, but Hitler was the leader of a powerful nation that was waging a war of aggression, not a leader of a terrorist cell. Recent history is littered with examples of people who were categorised as terrorists by ruling authorities but were then found to have been perfectly capable of leading a nation peacefully, when left to their own devices. George Washington was such a person.
I cannot see that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will bring peace. Probably over a million civilians have been killed in these wars – no one knows because no one counts the bodies. I think that the presence of foreign troops in these places is resented and the longer they stay the deeper the feelings against them become.
The foreign troops are not in Iraq or Afghanistan to fight the Iraqis or the Afghans; they are there apparently to fight people who are using those places for the purposes of training and developing terrorist cells that threaten all of us. We are not very clear on where these terrorists are (I suspect that if we knew we would have rounded them all up years ago) and we are not very clear on what will happen if we drive them out of these places. Will they give up their evil ways or settle elsewhere?
I do not suggest that the decisions that have to be made about these wars are easy. In many ways a war is like a landslide in that it is easy to start but hard to stop. I like what I know of Mr Obama and I think that his ideas might well turn out to be an influence for the good, not just in his own land but in other lands. However, his decision to accept the Nobel Peace Prize worries me, and worries me that his own self valuation (and with them his policies and reasoning) is deeply flawed. He would have earned plaudits all round by refusing to accept the Nobel Peace Prize because he could have said that he is not worthy of it and has not achieved peace. That would have added to his stature and authority on the world stage, but the course he has chosen lessens his stature, and with it lessens his ability to provide a moral compass and moral influence on others, quite significantly.