The Washington Post

Obama should embrace more populist views

President Barack Obama speaks in front of the Key Bridge, which spans Arlington, Va. and Washington, Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2011. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais) (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP)

Ultimately, Obama’s administration will dispatch those troops in South Sudan, the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in attempts to facilitate peace and stop the human slaughter that has come to define the region.

Although the deployment may further U.S. security interests, there is also the clear human interest that Obama is heeding. His actions speak to the president’s altruism and complexity. On the world stage, he can be gently prodding and diplomatic, or swift and forceful.

Just nine months into his term, President Obama became the third sitting U.S. president to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. He was praised by the Norwegian Committee for his cooperative presidential approach to global issues, in clear opposition to President Bush’s aversion to international treaties and organizations.

Obama was hesitant about the award. In his acceptance speech, he said he was “at the beginning, and not the end,” of his work.

As he faces re-election, reforming Wall Street and decentralizing the power of big banks is as important as ending the wars.

Critics argued that the peace prize was aspirational and premature, partly because the war in Iraq was still underway and the U.S. was expanding its reach in Afghanistan. Obama accepted the award with humility and said he viewed it as “a call to action.”

So what was that call to action?

With his doctrine of global engagement, the world saw the successful removal under Obama of 9/11 terror mastermind Osama Bin Laden; Anwar al-Aulaqi, Al-Queada Chief and American citizen; and as of late, long-time Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, who had lost the support of his people.

Our nation’s drone attacks, clandestine wars, stealth surveillance and continuation of tactics from the Bush presidency has ruffled the feathers of some die hard peace and political activists such as CodePink and the World Can’t Wait.

Many of these war objectors have joined or sympathize with the Occupy movements.

In the midst of a global recession and high American joblessness, the decade-long wars are an expensive albatross that often leaves young soldiers maimed and scarred, with injuries that would require expensive, long-term care from the government.

At the Occupy DC kick off three weeks ago, Debra Sweet, Director of the World Can’t Wait, criticized the Obama administration for expanding the use of unmanned drones in the ‘war on terror,’ saying that it’s an inherent contradiction with the president’s Nobel Peace Prize. And it’s not clear that it’s working.

Gaddafi, for instance, may loom larger in death than he did in life. Gaddafi, was an eccentric despot, who ruled the country as a tyrannical dictator for 42 years. At the end of his life, he was apparently bloodied, beaten and begged his captors for clemency. The way he died has prompted calls for an investigation as a possible war crime.

In speeches, Obama has long embraced peace and diplomacy. In fact, he was against the wars when he entered the Oval Office. However, something inherent in the presidency makes it diffcult to label them as a peacemaker or war hawk, especially when wars are inherited.

He is now embracing the spirit of the Peace Prize he once only reluctantly accepted. The final question still remains as to whether Obama’s advisers and opposition will allow him to implement the peace and economic reforms that he has promised and for the country yearns.

The nation, through the Occupy movement, is embracing a more populist spirit. Perhaps presidential advisers should do the same.

Joy Freeman-Coulbary, a Washingtonian, is a pacifist, lawyer and blogger. You can reach her at and follow her on Twitter @enJOYJFC

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