Nobel Prize acceptance speeches are often snoozers, though the literary recipients sometimes rise to the occasion. John Steinbeck (1962) and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (1970) come to mind. The Peace prize people don't resonate the same way. I can't remember a word of what Henry Kissinger said in 1973. Well, President Obama was, among his many firsts, the first American president to get the Peace Prize in the 24/7 media age. The Age of Ebay helped him win the presidency. 2008 was the first presidential race few were afraid to put their credit card information on the internet. So, Obama tackled the prickly question of war and peace, just like Tolstoy, the 11th hour pacifist.
In a novel of mine, published a couple decades ago, there's the line: One of Hitler's horrors is that he gave war a good name. Obama didn't quote me, but he brought up in his Nobel speech the old canard of Give Peace a Chance wouldn't have stopped Hitler in WWII, or al Qaida in 2001. The quandary is an old one. Ghandi has been said to have been influenced by Tolstoy, as well as Martin Luther King, Jr. Nonviolence as a political tactic has always been a two-edged sword. Meaning, as a tactic, it only works if your nonviolence provokes their violence.
This is the paradox that haunts a lot of consciences. The Civil Rights marches were only effective when the hoses and batons and dogs were brought out; Ghandi's movement, his mass sit downs and protests, only worked when the Imperialists (the Brits) responded with violence. History, as Obama might have said, makes us cynical, if one tends to note that nonviolence requires fresh martyrs in order to cause large political change.
That's the central paradox. Political change can happen if the forces of the status quo make mincemeat of the forces of peace. The onlookers, the nonparticipants, get agitated and in any country not a complete dictatorship, this tide can turn and alter the shoreline. The South in America has changed because of the Civil Rights movement. But the USA only changed because of the Civil War, not civil rights.
Peace looks like the exception in American history. The military industrial complex, more or less, makes up half the economy. It's hard to extract that business from the nation and the culture. We all like to think we're not blood thirsty, but experience refutes us. So, Obama tries to split the difference, as usual, explain why he can be sending more troops into Afghanistan and still accept the peace prize with a straight face.
FDR finally hauled the country out of the depression by fully participating in WWII, thanks to the Japanese. We were selling military equipment to all the participants in Europe until Pearl Harbor, and that was a help, but then we really cranked up and it hasn't stopped since then. When Bush/Cheney first went into Afghanistan we had our "victory" on the cheap. They needed to start another war in order to really cash in. They had the gall to do that on borrowed money, putting it all on credit. That should count as a war crime.
Obama is getting testy (as he was on 60 Minutes), since he is handling all the problems Bush II left behind. Even if he does business as usual, he wants some credit, because he's cleaning up such a huge mess. Sixty percent of Americans, according to the shrieking Republicans don't want the health care reforms now offered. Though it's pretty clear, though not said, that if that figure is accurate, it's only because of a coalition of the right wing, who think it bad for business, and the left wing, who think it is far too good for business. Let Obama deal with that paradox and give peace a rest.