Anthony Dworkin in the Boston Review:
Barack Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize during his first year in the White House, but he also became the first U.S. president to be at war during the entirety of his two terms in office. The irony of this contrast has often been noted. To historian and legal scholar Samuel Moyn, it represents more than a case of poor judgment by the Nobel committee—or, as others might see it, an example of how the toxic politics surrounding terrorism can blunt the best of intentions.
In his new book, Humane: How the United States Abandoned Peace and Reinvented War, Moyn argues that Obama lent his aura of reflective moral leadership to a form of displacement activity. Obama set U.S. militarism on a more principled footing, but the attention that his administration devoted to fighting according to unprecedently humane standards had the effect of legitimizing his pursuit of an indefinite military campaign against terrorist groups around the world. In this way, Moyn suggests, Obama represented the culmination of a long-gestating dynamic whereby the impulse to curb the brutality of war can perversely undermine efforts to rein in war itself.