Friday, December 6, 2019

Obama, bin Laden, and Violence

Obama, bin Laden, and Violence
Peter Schultz

            Here are some sentences I ran across recently from Obama’s speech accepting the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009, a speech that was praised by the likes of Karl Rove and Newt Gingrich.

            “For make no mistake: Evil does exist in the world. A non-violent movement could not have halted Hitler’s armies….To say force may sometimes be necessary is not a call to cynicism – it is a recognition of history; the imperfections of man and the limits of reason.”

            Here is my question: Why couldn’t bin Laden say exactly the same things in defense of his embrace of violence? And insofar as this is the case, how would one distinguish Obama’s embrace of violence from bin Laden’s? If you embrace “force” or violence because “evil does exist in the world,” you have justified such violence indiscriminately. Without an appeal that goes beyond “a recognition of history,” beyond “the imperfections of man,” beyond “the limits of reason,” you have not only condoned such violence but you have facilitated it, promoted it, even to the point of condoning a “program of global assassination” and this by either bin Laden or Obama, by jihadists or by the United States.

            The non-violent movements, which Obama dismisses in his speech, rest on considerations of justice. That is, they point toward the question: What does justice require of us when confronting the evil that exists in the world? Obama ignores this question altogether in his embrace of violence and so it is little wonder that his administration embraced a program of global assassinations that necessarily, inevitably committed injustices, including the murder children. By embracing what may be called “political realism” Obama embraces, willy nilly, indiscriminate violence; that is, violence unrestrained by considerations of justice. This seems to me a kind of politics that should be avoided.

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