Nobel Peace Prize: Martin Luther King’s View of War and Peace Differs From President Obama’s View

President Barack Obama attempted to synthesize peace with war (two subjects that cannot be considered equivalents). The result was eloquently disgraceful. The implied insult of Dr. King was astounding. Overall, the President’s speech was a disappointment.

In his speech, the President referred to Martin Luther King, who was awarded a Nobel Peace prize in 1964. While the President mentioned Dr. King’s actions with regard to race, Dr. King’s Nobel Lecture also addressed poverty and war.

In fact, the President glossed over King’s lecture. What is key about the quote he selected is what he chose to cut—Dr. King actually opposes the view (war is a tool of and for peace) that the President presented in his Lecture. Dr. King’s Lecture also is prophetic.

Violence is impractical because it is a descending spiral ending in destruction for all. It is immoral because it seeks to humiliate the opponent rather than win his understanding: it seeks to annihilate rather than convert. Violence is immoral because it thrives on hatred rather than love. It destroys community and makes brotherhood impossible. It leaves society in monologue rather than dialogue. Violence ends up defeating itself. It creates bitterness in the survivors and brutality in the destroyers.

This is precisely the reason that the warcraft the President advocates will never lead to peace. War (or threat of warfare, which the President implies in his speech) never resolves problems. No matter how many troops are sent to Afghanistan, the conflict will not provide any humane resolution. Ultimately, the U.S. will leave Afghanistan without much progress, except that Afghanistan will be worse off for the experience.

At the root, soldiers train to kill, presumably in conditions where the adversarial force meets head on with the U.S. force. The last country to try (and fail) with this type of approach was Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. This is what the U.S. military is operationally setup to handle. The problem is that people have learned this and fight using guerilla tactics. The U.S. is not operationally setup to handle this with its hierarchical command structure.

Also, militaries destroy; they cannot rebuild. This is the weakness of the U.S’s approach.

Warcraft is encouraged when there are U.S. business interests tied to the rebuilding of a country after it is delivered to near ruin (that is, U.S. companies that profit from the destruction of war.

He quoted from the portion that addressed racial justice, but ignored the portions addressing poverty and war. Given what Dr. King addressed, I can see why the President did not mention these inconvenient facts.

The reader should study Dr. King’s Lecture in full and compare it with the President’s Lecture. I will offer some selections of Dr. King’s Lecture below.

Dr. King on poverty—

The time has come for an all-out world war against poverty. The rich nations must use their vast resources of wealth to develop the underdeveloped, school the unschooled, and feed the unfed. Ultimately a great nation is a compassionate nation. No individual or nation can be great if it does not have a concern for “the least of these”. Deeply etched in the fiber of our religious tradition is the conviction that men are made in the image of God and that they are souls of infinite metaphysical value, the heirs of a legacy of dignity and worth. If we feel this as a profound moral fact, we cannot be content to see men hungry, to see men victimized with starvation and ill health when we have the means to help them. The wealthy nations must go all out to bridge the gulf between the rich minority and the poor majority.

Dr. King on war—

So man’s proneness to engage in war is still a fact. But wisdom born of experience should tell us that war is obsolete. There may have been a time when war served as a negative good by preventing the spread and growth of an evil force, but the destructive power of modern weapons eliminated even the possibility that war may serve as a negative good. If we assume that life is worth living and that man has a right to survive, then we must find an alternative to war. In a day when vehicles hurtle through outer space and guided ballistic missiles carve highways of death through the stratosphere, no nation can claim victory in war. A so-called limited war will leave little more than a calamitous legacy of human suffering, political turmoil, and spiritual disillusionment. A world war – God forbid! – will leave only smoldering ashes as a mute testimony of a human race whose folly led inexorably to ultimate death. So if modern man continues to flirt unhesitatingly with war, he will transform his earthly habitat into an inferno such as even the mind of Dante could not imagine.