Understanding Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize

This morning, the Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded the peace prize to President Barack Obama, shocking the world, infuriating America’s political Right and confusing the recipient.

If the prize is based on results, then no amount of mental gymnastics could justify this selection. While the new president has toned down the belligerent rhetoric of his predecessor, he has not resolved any of the world’s pressing conflicts, nor has he presided over nuclear disarmament or international demilitarization.

Even a selection based more on commitments fails to hold up. Beyond vague rhetoric in favor of peace and cooperation – rhetoric offered up by essentially all heads of state – Obama has proposed policies designed to maintain American empire through military force. He supports increases in the Pentagon budget and escalation of military involvement in Afghanistan, where coalition forces have killed an estimated 400 civilians so far this year. On most issues of war and peace, he supports something like the status quo. It’s inconceivable that the Nobel committee does not know this.

I think it’s clear they selected Obama because they hope to pressure him into pursuing humanitarian policies in the future. Remember that the president is due to decide on U.S. involvement in Afghanistan in only a few days, and he’s also going to be faced with decisions about climate change during the upcoming conference in Copenhagen. The committe wants Obama to feel compelled to earn the award.

8 Comments

  1. Obama has as many troops on active duty, as Bush, if not more.

    I can think of several others, who deserve it more. That award has been a joke.

    OT: Thank you visiting my blog.

    My blog as you probably know, always has an abrasive tone. It seems like the right likes it better, than the left.

    I strongly disagree with Nader’s recent pronouncements. I agree he’s a person worthy of respect.

    Regards

  2. Ian

    I was with you until:

    “maintain American empire”

    It’s fun to use words like “empire” isn’t it? Like how people were calling Bush a fascist or a Nazi, Obama a socialist or a communist or a Nazi, etc. Like how the Middle East calls us “Zionist”. Like how some anti-abortion advocates call pro-life advocates “murderers”. Yeah its fun, maybe its based in some truth, but it doesn’t help make you seem like a rational human being. Its too reductionist.

    Anyways, I’m up late and procrastinating, so here goes. Just playing Devil’s advocate here.

    “he has not resolved any of the world’s pressing conflicts, nor has he presided over nuclear disarmament or international demilitarization.”

    Who has? And does working for “peace” necessarily imply pacifism?

    “I think it’s clear they selected Obama because they hope to pressure him into pursuing humanitarian policies in the future.”

    Is it? I don’t know. That sounds to me more like what you hope this will do. The guy campaigned to get the Olympics for his country. That’s a peaceful, worldly endeavor, if a little trivial. He has in some respects been engaging in diplomacy with Iran and North Korea, which seemed hopeless given the road Bush put us on. He has eased up on Cuba some. He isn’t as completely one-sided in Israel-Palestine relations as Bush was (in fact he actually spoke out against Israeli settlements). You can call his rhetoric empty, and I might be tempted to agree with you, but he did make his election campaign a worldwide thing. He has been a decent spokesman for the US abroad. He’s pretty well liked in Europe, and I think the award is more likely due to that. I don’t see why it is to be expected that the Nobel Committee, which is likely made up of westerners or people from countries with pro-west tendencies, should have politics that disagree drastically with Obama. The Nobel Committee is not some sort of ideal, objective organization. Don’t expect them to act like they are. And really, why should anyone really care about the award anyways? Its like being angry when the best movies don’t win the Oscars.

  3. Ian

    As proof of the Nobel Committee’s way of doing things (laughably western biased), here’s a link to a NYT article about the Americans who won and why they won: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/09/world/10nobel-list.html

    Highlights:
    2002 – Former President Jimmy Carter, for his efforts “to find peaceful solutions to international conflicts, to advance democracy and human rights, and to promote economic and social development.”

    1973 – Henry Kissinger, shared with Le Duc Tho of North Vietnam, for negotiating the pullout of American troops in return for a cease-fire.

    1946 – Rev. John R. Mott, a pioneer in worldwide missionary efforts, for uniting “millions of young people in work for the Christian ideals of peace and tolerance between nations.”

    1919 – President Woodrow Wilson, for his role in ending World War I. The Noble Foundation says his 1918 speech on the war to a joint session of Congress was “a decisive stroke in winning that war.”

    And in regards to Obama, it says “for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples,” and his “vision of and work for a world without nuclear weapons.” That mentions nothing about climate change.

  4. Clint

    Renegade Eye,

    I can definitely relate to finding an audience with the Right when it comes to critiquing the Democratic party here. It’s a shame so many develop mindless party allegiances. Thanks for the visit.

  5. Clint

    Ian,

    Empire is the most appropriate word for describing the American government, and I do not use it lightly. There’s evidence of imperial ambition from the earliest days of this country, and there’s extensive evidence of imperial behavior dating at least back to our involvement in the Philippines and Cuba around the turn of the 20th century. That behavior persists.

    We should be honest with ourselves. In the future, when America has lost its international power, people will look back on this as the age of American Empire – just like we look back on the empires in South America, in Rome, in Britain, etc.

    “And does working for “peace” necessarily imply pacifism?”

    I don’t think it does. But if you haven’t achieved peaceful results AND you’re using (and likely expanding) military operations, then you probably shouldn’t win.

    Olympics — He advocated Chicago for what, a whole day?

    He has been more willing to engage in diplomacy, that’s true. Ahmadinejad, on the other hand, has been willing to engage in diplomacy since Bush was in office.

    Maintaining the Cuban embargo is a position that’s completely off the charts in the context of the world, as is our relative level of support for Israel. I don’t see much substantive reform in either of those areas (even a large portion of Israelis are against the expansion of settlements into the West Bank).

  6. Ian

    “We should be honest with ourselves. In the future, when America has lost its international power, people will look back on this as the age of American Empire – just like we look back on the empires in South America, in Rome, in Britain, etc.”

    No where even close to the same thing. Fighting wars around the world doesn’t make you an empire. Occupying a nation during war doesn’t make you an empire. Even having military bases spread around the world, does not make you an empire. Having widespread and powerful influence does not make you an empire. The US isn’t in the business of colonial rule. Our Congress does not vote to make laws for other places in the world in that sense. It’s just not the right word and it is reductionist. Like I said, use of the word makes it easy to dismiss you as one of “those irrational liberals”.

    “(Everything else)”

    I wasn’t really trying to defend Obama as a pick, just playing DA to your post. Like I said on Chris’s post, the Nobel Peace Prize is a generally meaningless award. Its full of politics. And again, its like being mad about the Oscars.

  7. Clint

    Ian,

    I agree the U.S. isn’t in the business of traditional colonial rule. Some empires rule others through direct military force, others through indirect means. The U.S. rules the world more indirectly, through the support of allies, within the context of the economic system it dominates, and it backs up all of these methods through its military might.

    States are increasingly less tolerant of external rule, so empires have adapted more subtle means. It’d be ridiculous to expect the empire of the 21st century to behave in the same way as the Roman empire.

  8. Ian

    Exactly my point. It isn’t an empire, its something else. I know I am just arguing semantics here, but I feel like there needs to be a different word. It would be like saying the “Media is out to lynch David Letterman for his affairs”. “Lynch” has a really different meaning than what would be meant by that statement.