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.