A Swedish reporter confronted President Barack Obama about reconciling a pending attack on Syria with his 2009 Nobel Peace Prize that he won almost immediately after taking office.
Obama and Sweden’s Prime Minister Frederik Reinfeldt held a joint press conference Wednesday in Stockholm as part of the first ever bilateral meeting between the nation’s two top leaders.
The reporter asked, “I was wondering, could you describe the dilemma to being a Nobel Peace Prize winner and getting ready to attack Syria?”
Obama first referred the reporter to look at his speech accepting the prize, in which he said he was undeserving compared to past recipients but also said the use of military force is sometimes necessary.
“What I also described is the challenge all of us face, when we believe in peace but we confront a world that is full of violence,” Obama said. “The question then becomes what are our responsibilities. So, I’ve made every effort to end the war in Iraq, to wind down the war in Afghanistan, to strengthen our commitment to multilateral action, to promote diplomacy as a solution to problems. The question though, that all of us face as political leaders: At what point do we need to confront actions that are violating our common humanity?”
Answering his own question, Obama said, “I would argue when I see 400 children subjected to gas, over 1,400 civilians dying senselessly in an environment where you already have tens of thousands killed, and we have the opportunity to take some action that is meaningful even if it doesn’t solve the entire problem, may at least mitigate this particular problem, then the moral thing to do is not to stand by and do nothing.”
According to U.S. intelligence, Syrian dictator Bashar Assad used chemical weapons against his own people on Aug. 21, killing 1,429, of whom 426 were children.
Obama went on to reference how much of the world is critical of the United States, but expects them to step up during an international crisis.
“As much as we are criticized, when bad stuff happens around the world, the first question is, what is the United States going to do about it?” Obama said. “That’s true on every issue. It’s true in Libya. It’s true in Rwanda. It’s true in Sierra Leon. It’s now true in Syria. That’s part of the deal.”
Most of the Nobel prizes are awarded in Stockholm. The Nobel Peace Prize, however, is awarded in Oslo, Norway.