In his remarks in accepting the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo today, a humble President Obama acknowledged the skepticism surrounding whether he deserves the award -- only about a quarter of Americans believe he does, according to a Quinnipiac poll -- as well as the seeming disconnect of a man who just escalated the war in Afghanistan accepting a prize for peace.
He seemed to agree that his award is comparatively premature, since he is at the beginning of his time on the world stage.
"Compared to some of the giants of history who have received this prize -- Schweitzer and King; Marshall and Mandela -- my accomplishments are slight," the president said.
"I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the considerable controversy that your generous decision has generated. In part, this is because I am at the beginning, and not the end, of my labors on the world stage," Obama said this morning. "I come here with an acute sense of the cost of armed conflict -- filled with difficult questions about the relationship between war and peace, and our effort to replace one with the other. ... I do not bring with me today a definitive solution to the problems of war."
Referring to the work of Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi, the president said that "as a head of state sworn to protect and defend my nation, I cannot be guided by their examples alone. I face the world as it is, and cannot stand idle in the face of threats to the American people. ... The instruments of war do have a role to play in preserving the peace."
Obama's decision to send an additional 30,000 troops to Afghanistan -- announced last week -- is a cause for much consternation in Europe. As the cover of one Norwegian tabloid asks: "War or Peace President?"
"Sending new troops to Afghanistan, I think it's not. ... I don't think he deserves it yet," one Norwegian woman told ABC News.
The president spent the better half of this speech discussing how to address this issue, and the idea of a "just war" and a "just peace," in a philosophical treatise.
"Negotiations cannot convince al Qaeda's leaders to lay down their arms. To say that force is sometimes necessary is not a call to cynicism -- it is a recognition of history; the imperfections of man and the limits of reason," Obama told the audience.
He later decried "the way that religion is used to justify the murder of innocents by those who have distorted and defiled the great religion of Islam, and who attacked my country from Afghanistan." Al Qaeda extremists "remind us that no Holy War can ever be a just war. For if you truly believe that you are carrying out divine will, then there is no need for restraint -- no need to spare the pregnant mother, or the medic, or even a person of one's own faith."
But without question this was a Peace Prize speech in which the president defended the need for the United States to continue the conflict in Afghanistan -- and perhaps elsewhere.
"War itself is never glorious, and we must never trumpet it as such," he said. "So part of our challenge is reconciling these two seemingly irreconcilable truths -- that war is sometimes necessary, and war is at some level an expression of human feelings."