WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama is accepting the world's best-known peace award as a wartime president, an incongruity that he will directly speak to when he receives the Nobel Peace Prize today.
The president left for Oslo on Wednesday, in time to be there for the award ceremony and banquet, and not much more. His minimalist approach reflects a White House that sees little value in touting an honor for peace just nine days after Obama announced he was sending 30,000 more troops to the war in Afghanistan.
The contrast has been stark for weeks. Obama won the award in early October, just as his review of a revamped war plan was intensifying. He and two speechwriters pivoted attention to the Nobel address the day after Obama announced he was escalating the U.S. forces in Afghanistan to their highest levels.
So Obama, honored for strengthening international diplomacy, will use his speech to discuss what goes into the decision to expand a war.
Asked if Obama was excited about the award, national security aide and speechwriter Ben Rhodes said: "I think he feels as if it places a responsibility upon him."
"It's the company that you keep as a Nobel laureate that I think makes the deepest impression upon him," said Rhodes, who is helping craft the president's speech. "That kind of adds an extra obligation to essentially extend the legacy."
The president is expected to outline his vision of American leadership and emphasize the responsibilities of all nations to advance the cause of peace.
He was considering lots of ideas for the speech and was likely to winnow them and hash out a final draft aboard Air Force One.
Peace activists in the Norwegian capital plan a 5,000-person antiwar protest today. Protesters have plastered posters around Oslo featuring the image of Obama from his iconic campaign poster, altered with skepticism to say, "Change?"
Demonstrators plan to gather in sight of Obama's hotel room balcony — where he is expected to wave to a torchlight procession in his honor — and chant slogans playing on Obama's own slogans, foremost among them: "Change: Stop the War in Afghanistan."