President Barack Obama defended the right of the United States to wage “just wars” as he accepted the Nobel Peace Prize on Thursday, acknowledging that as a wartime president he was a controversial choice.
In a speech at the award ceremony in Oslo, preceded by a fanfare of trumpets, Obama declared he would not “stand idle” in the face of threats to the United States.
He raised the specter of a new nuclear arms race, potentially in the Middle East or East Asia, and called for tough sanctions against nations that did not abide by international laws, a warning to Iran and North Korea.
Obama also acknowledged criticism that he does not deserve the prize and has few tangible gains to show from his nearly 11 months in office, saying he was “at the beginning, and not the end, of my labors on the world stage.”
The president’s acceptance speech, punctuated with references to past winners of the peace prize, was notable for its dominant theme of war.
He was speaking just nine days after ordering 30,000 more U.S. troops to Afghanistan in a major expansion of the 8-year-old war.
He said he was mindful of civil rights leader and Nobel peace laureate Martin Luther King’s statement that “violence never brings permanent peace.”
But, Obama said, “I face the world as it is, and cannot stand idle in the face of threats to the American people.”