Since President Obama delivered his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech last week, Bill Kristol has been arguing that it is somehow in-line with his neoconservative philosophy and that it vindicates President Bush’s “global war on terror” that he wholeheartedly supported.
“The satisfying purity of indignation,” as Matt Duss noted, is “a wonderfully succinct description of the simplistic and destructive ideology that drove George W. Bush’s foreign policy, and which Bill Kristol is still trying heartily to convince himself and others hasn’t been discredited.”
WALLACE: After a series of speeches overseas in which he apologized for past American actions, President Obama accepted the Nobel Peace Prize this week with a strong statement of the positive role the U.S. has played in the world.
And it's time now for our Sunday group -- Bill Kristol of The Weekly Standard, Mara Liasson of National Public Radio, former State Department official Liz Cheney, and Juan Williams, also from National Public Radio.
So, Bill, the president chose an interesting time and place to make this speech, before an audience -- accepting the Nobel Peace Prize, of course, before an audience, I think it's fair to say, of European leftists. He defended the use of force and said that the U.S. is not the problem with the world.
How significant a change in the president's world view?
KRISTOL: It could be pretty significant. It wasn't the speech the Nobel Peace Prize committee expected him to give, I think, when they awarded him the prize entirely for being not George W. Bush. And he gave the most Bush-like speech of his presidency.
Those who -- what did he say? The belief that peace is desirable is rarely enough to achieve it. That's a very elegant and strong statement of the fact that you can't just want peace.
He made it clear that you need military force, that he will act if threats are looming, not just once they've attacked. He actually articulated his own version of the preemptive doctrine.
He mentioned Iran twice in the speech -- I think it was the only nation he mentioned twice -- as a problem both for human rights and for their nuclear program. And in this speech, unlike in Prague and in Cairo, his two previous big foreign speeches, he didn't say the Islamic Republic of Iran. He just dealt with Iran as a -- as a threat.
So it was quite a different speech. And we'll see if it's followed up by real policy changes.
WALLACE: Bill Kristol, are you going to stand for Juan Williams continuing to run down this president?
KRISTOL: I think it's terrible, you know?
(LAUGHTER) And I'm sure the president's very upset by it.
No, it shows how possibly important this speech is in the sense that he really has, I think, partly because of the Afghanistan decision, but partly because of the failure of the engagement efforts -- he tried it. He was entitled to. He won the election.
He said he wanted to engage Iran. He said he wanted to have a reset button with Russia. He said he wanted to have -- he did an Asia trip where he was very mild with the Chinese on human rights. He's totally pulled his punches, really almost shamefully so, I'd say, in the case of the Iranians who went into the streets in June. None of it has worked. And I think -- I very much hope he has really learned the lesson that it hasn't worked.
You know, what Mara mentioned -- there's still a lot of stuff in the speech that I'm not crazy about, as Liz suggested. Mara mentioned the fact that he does talk a lot about acting together, acting in concert.
But there's this one sentence, "There will be times when nations acting individually or in concert will find the use of force not only necessary but morally justified." That's a pretty striking statement.
KRISTOL: I mean, I think any American president should say that who's looking at Iran developing nuclear weapons. I think he is -- it's not just that Israel might use preemptive force against Iran.
This speech lays the predicate for a legitimate use of force to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons.
WILLIAMS: That's why...
WILLIAMS: But 11 months in you're saying give up on talking, give up on the use of sanctions. It's -- he's tried all...
WALLACE: No, no, he isn't saying give up on the use of sanctions.
WILLIAMS: That's what -- that's what Bill Kristol -- Bill Kristol just said...
WILLIAMS: OK. But I'm saying that's why last week I said, you know, why is -- why is President Obama reacting to the generals and to the (inaudible) generals like General McChrystal who are calling for more military action, more aggression? LIASSON: You know...
WILLIAMS: What happened to the...
WALLACE: All right.
WILLIAMS: ... Barack Obama who said he was opposed to war?