Friday, 9 October 2009

Obama is a winner

I was shocked to hear the news today that Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize. I thought it was a joke at first, maybe something from the Borowitz Report, or the Onion. Nope. It really happened. I am happy that an American won it, and that Obama is the first sitting President to win since Woodrow Wilson, who won it in 1919 for creating the League of Nations and negotiating the disasterous Treaty of Versailles.

The fact is that Obama has made a terrific start on his foreign policy agenda (not so much his domestic agenda), probably in part due to Hillary Clinton's efforts among others. As an expat living in London, I can assure you that he has had an astonishing impact on world opinion of the US. He has also inspired people around the world, most notably Kenyans (but not all Nigerians apparently!). Add to that his improvement in US relations in the Middle East, his building of real coalitions to oppose nuclear weapons proliferation, his improvement in anti-terrorism outcomes (as opposed to rhetoric), and his shelving of the useless Star Wars program.

However, I am bewildered at the timing of this award. Obama was nominated less than 2 weeks after being sworn in. Though he has gotten a very good start on policies that could lead to peace, little has actually come to fruition yet. Add to that his aggressive stance on Afganistan, and the risk that he will escalate that war a la LBJ in Vietnam. I think it is too early to consider him for this award, and think that the Nobel Committee could have waited a couple of years.

That said, let's not fool ourselves into thinking that the Nobel Peace Prize is given to the current paragon of peace. It has always been highly political. For example:

1989 HH Dalai Lama
I am a big fan and follower of His Holiness. He could win it every year, as far as I am concerned. However, it can not be denied that he won in '89 as a punishment of China for Tiananman Square.

1994 Yasser Arafat, Shimon Perez, Yitzhak Rabin
What really came from their peace talks? Not much. They were not really men of peace. This prize was awarded in the HOPE that they would do something to lead to peace. It was driving the Nobel agenda. Full points for effort.

2002 Jimmy Carter and 2005 Mohamed El Barradei
Both were worthy recipients IMO, but one must recognize that these were meant as a slap in the face to Dubya.

2007 Al Gore
I like Al, and I think his work on climate change is extremely important. However, this was also for Dubya.

So, I conclude that this award was meant not only as a last swing at Dubya, but an attempt to influence Obama. I can't see why else they would give this award so early in Obama's term, rather than waiting until he has actually seen positive results from his efforts. While I agree with that motivation, I am not sure it is helpful. Conservatives in the US are already having a field day with this. It remains to be seen if they will manage to turn it against Obama, as they have the loss of the Olympics in Chicago.

1 comment:

johntina said...

I am surely of the view that the Nobel award has lost its credibility if it ever had any credibility at all!

I love and wish President Obama great success as a President, but I cannot see any basis for awarding him a Nobel peace prize in less than a year of being a President.

I am shocked by the decision. I think it has done a great damage to the whole Nobel thing.

One had expected that such a globally respected award should be devoid of political correctness and all forms of liberal overzealousness.
Today is a sad day for meritocracy!