OSLO, NORWAY -- President Obama will embrace "the elephant in the room" and discuss his recent decision to deploy 30,000 more US troops to Afghanistan when he accepts the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, Norway, on Thursday, his director of speechwriting told ABC News.
"The big thing on the president’s mind is that he is receiving the Nobel Peace Prize as the commander-in-chief of a nation in two wars," speechwriter Jon Favreau said in an interview to preview the event.
So the President will be discussing what these wars mean – his role, the US role – in the context of peace, especially "the idea that the fact that the US is not going to be able to avoid war entirely redoubles the US commitment to finding peace wherever we can," Favreau said. When President Obama took office, there were approximately 32,000 US troops in Afghanistan; by the end of next year than number will be closer to 100,000.
White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said today that "the president will address the notion that last week he authorized a 30,000-person increase in our commitment to Afghanistan, and this week accepts a prize for peace."
"The president is proud of is the steps that this administration has taken to re-engage the world," Gibbs said, adding that "some of that re-engagement is to bring increased peace and stability to this big planet."
The president sees the honor as less a recognition of what he has done than an affirmation of the desire for American leadership, officials said, suggesting that as the Nobel Committee said, the prize gives momentum to a set of causes the President has outlined – climate change, nuclear non-proliferation, strengthening international institutions and mechanisms to avoid war, closing the gulf in opportunity in countries where a lack of opportunity can breed conflict, human rights, and building bridges of understanding with Muslim world.
The president's first reaction on October 9 when he heard he would receive the Prize, Favreau said, was "he thought to himself 'I don’t feel like I should be in the company of the other people who have won this,'" such as Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, and Burmese democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi, imprisoned in Burma right now -- in other words, "people who have inspired him and inspired millions."
Noted Favreau, "Mahatma Gandhi never even won this award."
Gibbs reiterated that today, saying that in his speech President Obama will "recognize that he doesn't belong in the same discussion as Mandela and Mother Theresa."
The speech is being written primarily by President Obama, officials said, with considerable help from Favreau and National Security Council staffer Ben Rhodes, and will be approximately 25 minutes long.