It is a timeline rich in irony. On Dec. 10, Barack Obama will star at a glittering ceremony in Oslo to receive the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize. That’s just nine days after he ordered 30,000 additional American troops into a war many of his fellow citizens think the U.S. can neither win nor afford.
Whether the sharp escalation of the war in Afghanistan he ordered on December 1 will achieve its stated aim – disrupt, dismantle and eventually defeat al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan – remains to be seen. But one thing is certain: more troops equals more fighting equals more deaths — of soldiers, insurgents and the hapless civilians caught in the middle. Not exactly a scenario of peace.
In Oslo, Obama will become the fourth American president (after Jimmy Carter, Woodrow Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt) to be handed the coveted peace medal and invited to give the traditional Nobel Lecture. It is meant to spell out the award winner’s vision of peace, a challenging task for a man who just picked a much bigger war from a range of options that included reducing the U.S. military presence.
Resolving the contradiction will require the mastery of words of Leo Tolstoy, author of the epic novel War and Peace about the run-up to the unsuccessful invasion of Russia by Napoleon.