Friday, October 09, 2009

I have to be honest here, this Nobel is premature.

This year President Obama got the Nobel peace prize. A week after being 'slapped down' by the IOC in Copenhagen a week ago, he got a 'hand up' across the Kattegat in Oslo.

It's almost like a weekly sit com 'the adventures of Barack' and I don't like it. President Obama is an intelligent capable man who was legitimately elected as President of the United States.

And yes, his election was an inspiration to people across the world in that it represents that after centuries of racism a black man could be elected as President of its greatest power, but that in itself is not a reason to give him the Nobel Peace Prize.

To get a prize like that he should do something. Let's even stop and think that his nomination came about two weeks after his inauguration, during which time he'd had time to do little except give a fifteen minute speech, change the 'Mexico City rule' on abortion, get most of his cabinet confirmed, get and sign the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and get Congress to authorize the release of the TARP II bailout funds. Not exactly Nobel Prize winning stuff there.

But even if you consider that the Nobel committee has had several months to watch the President and consider his actions in their decision, I've seen little that is of Nobel caliber achievement.

Let's see: as positives they may consider that he has promised to close GITMO, has begun moving troops out of Iraq, has told CIA interrogators that they must follow the army field manual, effectively ending torture, has accepted the realism that the G-20 rather than the G-8 as an economic policy making body is a more realistic reflection of the world economy, made a nice broadcast to the Iranian people in Farsi and has toned down the rhetoric on Iran, and has worked to improve relations with Russia, most notably by canceling a missile defense shield that was to be located in Poland and the Czech Republic.

As negatives, there is the fact that whatever he may have said, GITMO remains open (and in some ways is being replaced by Baghram AFB in Afganistan,) American troops are still in Iraq and he has been having a public back and forth with his own attorney general about whether to prosecute Bush era officials involved with torture. He has retained the policy of rendition and is escalating the war in Afghanistan. Obama has made it clear, most recently by delaying his meeting with the Dalai Lama until after he goes to China that human rights will take a back seat to economic issues where China is involved (which is exactly the same policy that every American President, even Jimmy Carter, has followed since Richard Nixon first opened relations with Beijing in 1971.)

At best I'd consider this to be a mild overall plus. The committee said as much, describing in non-specific terms that he has changed the tone and rejected unilateralism (which is more of a slap at Bush, but I don't like foreigners using American Presidents to get back at others Presidents, even ones I don't like.)

At best, I can say that I hope that President Obama lives up to this honor. I feel confident that he will do a great deal for peace but that is still to come.

At worst, it is an award which was taken away from Morgan Tsvanagarai, who does deserve it. As you may recall, at the beginning of the year Tsvangarai had apparently won the Zimbabwean election. After several weeks of counting and vote tampering the elections commission released a result that forced him into a run-off with President Robert Mugabe. When Tsvangarai reluctantly accepted the result and the run-off, all hell broke loose in Zimbabwe as Mugabe-backed thugs went nuts and beat and murdered thousands of Tsvangarai's supporters ahead of the runoff. Tsvangarai withdrew from the election recognizing that it would be stolen anyway and that continuing as a candidate would cost the lives of more people. After the election some of his supporters wanted to take up arms and launch a guerilla movement, but Tsvangarai faced them and told them that more violence would not solve anything. He accepted the position of Prime Minister in a Mugabe-run and Mugabe-organized government, with the goal of attempting to reform the system and get the apalling economic conditions in Zimbabwe under control, and has pledged to peacefully push for reform within the system. In the process Tsvangarai has survived being beaten personally along with an automobile accident this year in which he was severely injured and which claimed the life of his wife.

As a supporter of President Obama, all I can say is that I share in the surprise and shock that the White House experienced when the call came this morning. I believe that he has the potential, the capacity and the intellect to someday be worthy of such a high honor. But it was a disservice to have given him the award before he has achieved what he can achieve.


sandyh said...

I didn't get it either until I read what the Noble Committee said:

President Barack Obama won the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize on Friday for "his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples," the Norwegian Nobel Committee said, citing his outreach to the Muslim world and attempts to curb nuclear proliferation.

As for the criteria that the committee was to follow, this is what the official take is:

According to Nobel's will, the Peace Prize should be awarded "to the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses."

Desmond Tutu won the Peace Prize long before apartheid was ended in South Africa. He was cited for his efforts in trying to end it not for the accomplishment itself which didn't happen for over another decade.

Americans can be so literal intellectually. Some of us argue that no one should get rewarded for merely trying to affect a change and organizing a "congress" of opinion to affect action. You have to win or beat someone to be awarded recognition.

There is another philosophy in the world that says that striving to make a change is worthy and honorable and should be commended when it encourages others.

"Profiles in Courage" was an articulation of the second opinion, and I agree with it completely. There would be no United States of America today if our Founders had not considered themselves one with the Age of Reason.

The President deserves the prize according to the stated criteria. He has accepted the honor stating that he will strive to live up to it and continue to join with others to accomplish his stated objectives concerning world peace.

Nobody in the White House, least of all the President, has said that this is a Mission Accomplished.

The President deserves our respect and gratitude for re-opening a door to reason that had been slammed tightly shut for over a decade.

Eli Blake said...

I hear what you are saying, Sandy, but let's also be honest here: He ran because he wanted to be President. That's all well and good, but he didn't run specifically to inspire greater cooperation among nations (at best that may have been a motivating factor in why he wanted to be President.)

And look at it this way: Suppose that you are Robert Mugabe (one of the world's worst despots.) You were about to have a Desmond Tutu-sized headache on your hands if Tsvangarai had won. Now he's not a Nobel Peace Prize winner so next time the world is not looking you can quietly arrest him, beat him to death, send a clear message that nothing will change in Zimbabwe, and after a week or two of bad press somebody else will seize the headlines and you are rid of the problem.

I still say, this award should have gone to Morgan Tsvangarai, and it is a loss for the people of the world and of southern Africa in particular that it did not.

Arch said...

Good point about Tsvangari.

I hope the lesson is not lost on liberals that you can't give something to someone who hasn't earned it except by taking it away from someone who has.

sandyh said...

Nobody took something away from somebody else. There were over 300 people nominated and every one of them had a compelling reason to win.

The Nobel Committee said they wanted to foster cooperation not reward anyone for their performance.

But if the new leader of the free world had not drastically changed policy from our last president, the chances of nuclear proliferation, excessive fossil fuel emissions, and torture becoming the norm across the entire planet would have increase three fold. The Nobel Committee wants to insure President Obama feels compelled to act.

I don't argue that Obama was the best choice, but he is the only choice that has the ability to bridge cultures and prejudices to persuade others to work together. We must stop Iran and South Korea from starting a nuclear war with their neighbors and get the world's largest economies off the carbon standard.

We are running out of time.

Nobel was a scientist. The people who were on this committee represent him and his peers. They have been warning us for decades and been ignored. This was a cry for help.

If we end up a planet crippled by greenhouse gases or a nuclear winter, it really doesn't matter what one dictator does to his people. We will all be competing with the insects to survive.

I think the Nobel Committee wanted to challenge the world's leaders and artfully used Obama's position of these issues and his media draw as a catalyst to get their message widely distributed.

Usually this announcement is a ho hum among the world's media. Not this time. imho, it was an innovative if not inspired move on their part. It certainly has gotten people talking.

Only in America are people fixating on the merits of the decision rather than exploring the issues the Nobel committee felt were so acute. No wonder we have become a banana republic.

Life really isn't a reality show with winners and losers. We are all going to be voted off the island if someone doesn't try to stop the madness.

Aaron_in_TX said...

I disagree somewhat on Tsvangirai. He's not exactly a paragon of virtue now that he's PM. He is enabling much of Mugabe's corruption.

Stephen said...

Well, at least it gives him a good shot to be the first recipient of multiple peace prizes.