Nobel tolls for thee?

I was as surprised as anyone by the announcement of Obama being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize this morning. And some of the same thoughts occurred to me as to many others: Already?

I'm not going to attack or defend the particular award to Obama, since I don't really have a dog in that fight. There are plenty of deserving people, and probably someone “deserved” it more than a President who has been in office 9 months.

But there seem to be arguments cropping up that assume that the Nobel Committee is a bunch of naive, effete, soft-headed Euro-snobs charmed and flattered by the smooth-talking, charismatic, multi-lateral Obama.

What if that's not true? What if we assume they're clear-eyed realists  — not that they're right or perfect, but that they know what they're doing? What if they anticipated the criticisms now being leveled at them, and decided to go through with it anyway?

There are some lines of argument that need to be addressed:

  • Obama's award is somehow anti-American. How can awarding a prize to an American President be thought of as anti-American? (I mean, seriously, WTF?)

    Those of us on the left may view Obama's re-committment of the US into multi-lateral negotiations and diplomacy as simply good sense, and view the Bush years of unilateralism as a historical aberration. The Nobel Committee seems to feel that the kinds of things we take for granted from Obama — eg. that he thinks nuclear proliferation is a bad thing — are not, and indeed have not been slam dunks in American policy.

    We had eight years of Bush, who endangered the world eight ways from Sunday. The Nobel Committee can be forgiven for not feeling that American good sense is inevitable.

  • The Nobel Committee is being “blatantly political.” Well, duh. And not for the first time. Peace is always political. If war is politics by other means, then peace is just … politics. You either jaw-jaw or war-war.

    It is easy to think of a Nobel Peace Prize as the closest thing to secular sainthood; but it is not awarded to saints. In the case of Yasser Arafat and Yitzak Rabin, their prize was intended to encourage the work in which they were currently engaged; to demonstrate that the reputed conscience of the world community honored their risk-taking in attempting peace.

    Was their work not controversial in their own countries? Didn't Rabin pay the ultimate price for his courage? Was he not killed for political reasons?

    If war and violence are political, then peace is political.

  • Obama should refuse the prize. Precisely what would that accomplish? Would it demonstrate that Obama's an aw-shucks kind of guy? That he doesn't think of himself as some kind of celebrity? Well, so what? Sounds like envy to me, and like we should get over ourselves for about five seconds.

    Here's part of his statement today:

    “I do not feel that I deserve to be in the company of so many of the transformative figures” who’ve won previously, Obama said in the White House Rose Garden today. “I will accept this award as a call to action, a call for all nations to confront the common challenges of the 21st century.”

    Humble? Yes. But it's also the right idea: Use it! (Or lose it.)

  • Conservatives will have a field day! Gosh, I hear Rush Limbaugh “pounced” on the news that the President of the United States won probably the biggest honor in the world!

    Again … so what?

    Over the last eight years, conservatives have set on fire whatever credibility they may have ever had on issues of war and peace — from Iraq and WMDs to global warming; from North Korea to nuclear non-proliferation. Exactly what shall I learn from Rush Limbaugh, John Bolton or Michael Steele today?

    You can read conservatives' reactions here, which boil down to “What has he done?” Well … I can tell you he hasn't started an unnecessary, immensely costly war — at the expense of the war we already were engaged in.

    Again, good sense should not be taken for granted. We could do worse, and we have done worse.

… Rather than project our own ideas onto what a Nobel Prize ought to be, maybe we should listen to a past winner:

 In Vienna, former Nobel Peace Prize winner Mohamed ElBaradei, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said Obama has already provided outstanding leadership in the effort to prevent nuclear proliferation.

“In less than a year in office, he has transformed the way we look at ourselves and the world we live in and rekindled hope for a world at peace with itself,” ElBaradei said. “He has shown an unshakable commitment to diplomacy, mutual respect and dialogue as the best means of resolving conflicts. He has reached out across divides and made clear that he sees the world as one human family, regardless of religion, race or ethnicity.”

Well all right. That's not the ending of anything, it's the beginning. This award is not a “canonization”. It's a call to action. Good enough for me.

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64 Comments . Leave a comment below.
  1. Good points

    I completely agree on him not refusing it. That would be a pointless and overly broad insult.

  2. End the wars then accept

    He should end both wars and then accept the peace prize. In my mind that would be a huge event and leave no doubt he is a peacemaker.

    • Afghanistan

      The problem is that it's not so simple as "ending both wars" leaving "no doubt" that Obama is a peacemaker. Afghanistan is a very difficult situation with no clear solutions. If the US's withdrawal from Afghanistan enables the Taliban's recapture of the Afghan government, then is that really promoting peace? I do have confidence that Obama truly desires peace, and the difficulty of the decision confronting his Administration about how to proceed is a reflection that the "peaceful" solution is not so simple as the US simply withdrawing.

      That's because while that might "end the war" for Americans, it might only be enabling atrocities for Afghans. To truly take on the mantle of "peacemaker", Obama must consider the effects of his actions on more than just his own countrymen. Hopefully his accepting the Peace Prize will remind him (and all of us) of this responsibility.

      • It's plenty clear

        1. What does our being there accomplish? How do we "win?"

        2.

        If the US's withdrawal from Afghanistan enables the Taliban's recapture of the Afghan government, then is that really promoting peace?

        What right is it for us to decide what government exists in Afghanistan? We tried to do that through democracy and the result was the incredibly corrupt, basically defunct Karzai government which has cheated in what has become an international fiasco of an election to retain power. Is that better than the Taliban? Would he be any better if we weren't there? I'm not sure.

        3. You seem to assume we actually have to be there to help Afghanistan. We defeated the Taliban the first time not with hundreds of thousands of troops, but a dozen or so special forces with laptops, traveling by horse, provided by Afghanistan rebels. Tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of foreign troops in Afghanistan has never been the recipe for success, whether it was Britain, Russia or, now, the United States of America.

        That's because while that might "end the war" for Americans, it might only be enabling atrocities for Afghans.

        Honestly, not really. The Taliban is only political very powerful in the Pashtun area of Afghanistan. That's the biggest minority there, but still a minority. The other areas of Afghanistan, if we were to leave, may be better equipped to stop the Taliban this time around. If they're not, we could continue to support non-Taliban forces from afar so they can remain independent at a fraction of the cost.

        4. I honestly find this statement completely paternalistic and offensive.

        Hopefully his accepting the Peace Prize will remind him (and all of us) of this responsibility.

        Like the responsibility Europe had to 'watch over' much of the world, including pretty much all of Africa and South America? That kind of responsibility? You know, the efforts that created the artificial borders today which have led or contributed to countless atrocities, including Afghanistan?

        If you want to talk responsibility, you need to understand that people have a responsibility to govern themselves. We don't have the "responsibility" to govern or prop up anyone, that kind of thinking has usually led to atrocities during the course of human history. It is not our right to determine what happens in Iraq or Afghanistan; The people of those countries must decide. Anything we come up with will only be ignored in the end, any problems we solve will only be a band aid that lasts while we're there and whatever happens when we leave Afghanistan will only be exacerbated by how long we stay and interfere. I don't relish the idea of leaving either, but we're just not helping things and never will be able to so long as we have thousands and thousands of troops there stopping that country from making its own progress.

        • I'm distressed..

          ...by word I'm hearing that some level of Taliban involvement in Afghanistan affairs might be acceptable to our policy-makers.  They must NOT be allowed to come back to power once they have proven their policies are dangerous.  There was a reason we denazified Germany after WWII.  Now if the Taliban settles down like the PLO, IRA, or even the Hamas to some extent and win seats democratically I could live with that.  I think both WWII (when we destroyed the regime) and the first Gulf War (when we didn't, unfortunately in my opinion) teach us that once rogue regimes endanger others they cannot be trusted to stay in power.  Of course, there is such a thing as going too far in the opposite direction as I would suggest the Treaty of Versailles taught us.

          • you're going to compare something to the Nazis?

            Really?

            • too bad the Nazi's wouldn't

              settles down

            • The Taliban, you mean?

              Heck, yes!

              • I really, really

                don't think people should compare anything to Nazis/holocaust/etc. unless they systematically tried to destroy an entire group of people and made war with an entire world, nearly succeeding at various points on both fronts. The Taliban was certainly a horrible authoritarian regime that overwhelmingly restricted the rights of women and committed countless atrocities, but at the end of the day they were just run of the mill thugs that similarly exist in many other countries today. Bad? Sure, but we can't stop them all. What we could do is empower Afghanis to ensure that the Taliban can't take over in the parts of Afghanistan in which they aren't politically popular, but at some point we need to realize we can't fight the battles ourselves.  

                • OK, no Holocaust...

                  ...although I'm not sure I'd bet too much money that they would never try such a thing.  I don't know the circumstances of every regime in every country over the past 100 years, but I strongly suspect they qualify for the top-ten list of most evil.

                  • Perhaps you should do more reading, then

                    The Saudis, for example, stopped a classroom full of girls at a school from saving themselves from a burning building, all because they weren't wearing headscarves. 15 girls. Poof. There are a lot of very corrupt and bloody countries in this world, Christopher, we can't invade them all.

                    We can't even manage to keep the streets of Boston safe, I don't think we should be gallivanting across the world nation building as a national strategy -- which is precisely what that closeted neo-conservative idea pushes for.  

                    • I'm familiar with the story you refer to.

                      I see no need or desire to invade them and it may even be in our interests to work with them from time to time on very narrowly defined objectives.  However it is episodes like this (and I'm sure there are plenty of others) that make me very much wish that we weren't quite SO cozy with them, and serves as a reminder as to the importance of weaning ourselves off of oil from that region.

          • The problem is that there isn't a single unified group 'Taliban'

            There are Afghan Islamic fundamentalists.  There are foreign fighters from Pakistan, and other Muslim countries, some Al Qaeda, some not, who see themselves as defending their faith against infidels. There are Afghans who want to rid their country of a foreign invader.  There are conservatives from various tribal backgrounds who aren't happy with Karzai's corrupt government.  Realistically some 'Taliban' need to be reconciled or the country can't be pacified.

            • Fair enough

              I'm talking about the faction that took over in the 1990s and harbored al-Qaeda.  One way or another we cannot accept a government who will go back to that habit, whatever you call it.

        • Good post, Rye. And it has taken us

          almost 100 years to realize that Woodrow Wilson's feel-good cliche about "making the world safe for democracy" has paved the road to our terrible foreign entanglements with good but useless intentions. It is not only condescending, but also foolish to think that we can change other cultures and predetermine political outcomes.  Of course the League of Nations, and then the UN were supposed to handle international crises, but we have seen how useless the UN has become. But what do we do if Iran and/or the Taliban get the bomb and start to threaten their neighbors? Or if North Korea continues to send missiles near or over Japan?  Let's hope that Obama can convince other countries to become full partners in the grand quest for peace. Maybe that's what the Nobel Committee had in mind.

          • Wilson had the right idea...

            ...but between our European allies seeking revenge on Germany and Henry Cabot Lodge (one of our Senators I'm ashamed to say) being the Jesse Helms of his day regarding the League of Nations, WWII in retrospect almost seems inevitable.  If Wilson actually had gotten his way on both these counts the history of the 20th century might have been very different, and I dare say for the better.

            • And how to explain other fiascos like

              Vietnam and Iraq?  Where did this mindset come from that we are morally and politically superior, hence we have to meddle in others' affairs? The alternative may not be isolationism, but I can tell you (and I am an old man now) that I remember my grandparents being very skeptical about Woodrow Wilson's grand schemes for the world.  It turns out that they were correct to be skeptical of grand designs for peace (which usually end in war.).

              • It won't always work...

                ...and I'm not sure Vietnam and Iraq fit into a Wilsonian scheme anyway.  He did after all campaign for re-election in 1916 on keeping us OUT of WWI and I don't see him as someone who would start wars.  He did, however, seem thoroughly committed to winning the peace in a way that did not leave nations feeling put-upon.  We can't really judge the effects of his plans for peace because as I said above, we didn't join the League of Nations and our European allies rejected his plan.  The more democratic nations we have the less likely war is to break out.  We can't absolutely prove a hypothetical of course, but I stand by what I said.

        • Counter-insurgency versus Counter-terrorism

          Counter-insurgency in Afghanistan is a long slog against the Taliban.

          Counter-terrorism in Afghanistan is the hunt and destroy of Al Queda.  It is also keeping Al Queda under pressure where they are, and where they go.

          When we joined the battle eight years ago to kill and disable Al Queda we saw Al Quaeda and the Talinban as one in the same.  They are not.  

          Al Queda is an international terrorist organization at war with the USA.  The Taliban are an extreme religious fundamentalist governing movement. Our war is with Al Queda.  

          The risk we need to assess is how to disentangle from battle in Afghanistan while keeping the pressure on Al Queda and not leaving the Afghanistan people without the resources to control their own destiny.  

        • Afghanistan

          I can't agree with the notion that preventing human rights violations is "paternalistic and offensive." Indeed, I find the generalized notion that "people have the responsibility to govern themselves" rather offensive, particularly when a great many people cannot exercise "responsibility" due to tyrannical governments preventing them from doing so. In such cases the notion of "sovereignty" is just a front for murder and oppression.

          Anyway, I don't know (and neither do you) whether we're really "helping things" in Afghanistan today. But my underlying point is that if the goal is to be "peacemakers", it means taking our human (and not just American) responsibility to promote peace seriously by preventing atrocities. If this means turning over power to the Afghans because they are now in the position to do so, then we should pull out. But if the consequence of turning over power is to hand it back to the Taliban (who, minority or not, caused considerable damage to the country's people during their brief period in power), then how is that promoting peace? I reject your notion that we cannot and do not have a responsibility here.

          • your mistake

            Is in thinking it's possible for us to "prevent human rights violations" through invasion. Last time I checked, we've only caused them in our international fiascoes in Iraq and Afghanistan. We just don't have the credibility to do anything -- and they don't want us there, especially in the case of Iraq. Simply put, it is paternalistic to think we can "save" Afghanistan, a country with its own unique cultures, half a globe away, filled with people little different than you and I, who have a much, much greater interest in their own peace, but will have a mighty hard time accomplishing it with tens of thousands of American troops standing in the way. We do not have a peace-keeping army, we have an ass-kicking army; they are not going to be the solution to the region.

            I think we actually had a chance to do something positive in Afghanistan, but have long ago blown it. It's time to put our head between our legs and tail out of there.

            Anyway, I don't know (and neither do you) whether we're really "helping things" in Afghanistan today.

            Um, have ya seen the news lately? Things are only getting worse and worse there, the longer we're there.

            But my underlying point is that if the goal is to be "peacemakers", it means taking our human (and not just American) responsibility to promote peace seriously by preventing atrocities.

            That's what this is about? I'm sorry, but that's just not credible. There are dozens and dozens of countries around the world which are as bad or worse -- and we aren't invading them. This isn't about peace. This was about deposing a government that was, at the time, harboring terrorists, though is no longer doing so, and unlikely to come back in the future (according to the experts). What this is about is the fact that we went in there, without a plan for post-Taliban Afghanistan, and now don't know what the heck to do. We never defined "victory," and are thus just stuck there, staying out of stubbornness and reckless disregard, yet again.

            But if the consequence of turning over power is to hand it back to the Taliban

            1. Who's to say that's the consequence? 2. You're being paternalistic again. 3. There's nothing to prevent us from helping the various anti-Taliban factions of Afghanistan so they won't fall to them again this time, while letting the Taliban know that there's nothing stopping us from dropping a few special forces armed with laptops into their country again if they try to take over parts of the country that are hostile to them.

            I reject your notion that we cannot and do not have a responsibility here.

            Where have I EVER said that? You mistake the fact that because I disagree with you, that it somehow means "we... do not have a responsibility there." We DO have a responsibility -- and that's to allow Afghanistan lead itself. To do anything else is only going to get more Americans and especially people from Afghanistan killed in the long run, without solving a single, solitary problem.

            • $quot;Contingent sovereignty$quot;

              I ran across this doctrine the other day, which for the first time that I've seen articulates what I have been thinking regarding right/obligation to intervene.  I'd be interested in what others think about this.

              • Honestly

                I don't find that viewpoint very different than the typical neo-conservative mindset that's gotten our country into so much shit now.

                There were neo-conservatives who were just completely niave. We just had to go into Iraq because we were going to free the Iraqis from corrupt leaders and create a vibrant democracy in the middle east. It was bullshit.

                The fact of the matter is there are dozens of countries that "make war" on their own population. Are we going to invade them all? What would that make us? What would that do to the world? That's essentially what "contingent sovereignty" demands, that we go in and invade half of Africa, half of the Middle East and more countries in Asia and probably South America.

                That sounds horrible to me -- and that's ignoring the fact that this country has killed various democracies and fairly legitimate governments under the guise of 'corruption' and other made-up bullshit created to provide cover for illegal coups: Do we really want to go there again? You really think you can trust our government to get involved in some areas and not in others?

                For the corrupt regimes out there, I don't think we should just ignore them. But that doesn't mean we leave them alone, either. Depending on how bad the regimes are, governments can do everything from using carrot/stick approaches to blocking trade to aiding rebels. This tactic has worked before, plenty of times. At the end of the day, most countries want to join the international community, become fully developed and become wealthy. Doing so requires certain changes and those changes have occurred in many places. A great example would be S. Korea, which has developed at a rocket pace as its simultaneously become much more democratic, changing to become a player on the international community. It takes time to get countries to that point, but when we do, they do so legitimately, creating lasting, peaceful, vibrant, (usually) democratic partners on the world community.  

                • Your objection elsewhere to my Nazi comparison notwithstanding...

                  ...even if Hitler had never invaded other countries, but only carried out the Holocaust in Germany itself, that would still be ample reason to invade.  I'm not saying we should or have to invade every country with a less-than-stellar rights record, but some things are so beyond the pale that if we do nothing we are basically complicit.  Regimes sometimes do things that basically violate the international social compact, just like when people commit certain crimes they give up their claim on personal liberty and go to jail.  Besides, it is my view that "just powers are derived (only) from the consent of the governed" so that any regime not installed by free and fair election has at best a questionable claim on sovereign legitimacy anyway.  Yes, I probably am philosophically more sympathetic than many people here to Bush's exhortation to spread freedom, but there is a right way and wrong way to do that and I feel he chose the wrong way.  My mantra is that which is carved on the Liberty Bell: "Proclaim liberty thoughout all the land, unto all the inhabitants thereof!"

                  • I don't think everything's black and white, Christopher

                    You're absolutely right, we should do everything (including military action, if necessary) to stop genocide, but your philosophy argues for so much more than that. As bad as the Taliban was, they didn't try to commit genocide. In countries that have in the recent past, like Rwanda, our government failed to do anything there, not even recognizing the fact that it was a genocide until later. Of course, there's been a redux situation again this decade, still ongoing, with governments across the world doing little.

                    Yet, we go into Iraq and Afghanistan and, under the philosophy you espouse, we should cheer that. I'm sensing a dissonance, here. We don't invade countries when, perhaps, it's justified -- yet invade strategically important ones when it's not. Your ideology excuses that vicious human abuse, toying with and destabilizing the entire world, playing god with people from other countries.

                    Furthermore, your strategy/philosophy cares nothing for the after effects. We had great plans to topple Iraq and Afghanistan. As I've said here numerous times, we toppled the Taliban using a few dozen special forces armed with laptops, working with local rebels. But we had no plan to do anything after. We just shipped in and allowed a dripping bleed in that war-torn country yet again. When does it stop? Afghanistan is a country that's been invaded by the west again and again and again, to no positive end. Why are we the solution, when Britain and Russia weren't? What problems have we solved in our stay there thus far, the third longest "war" this country has ever fought?

                    Why are so many Americans obtuse? Why do they think we can ship off to some remote part of the world and solve problems that the local populace hadn't yet? It's just patronizing. It's despised. It hurts us in the parts of the world where we can make a difference, while only being a band aid in the countries that we screwed up, tore down and won't ever fully rebuild, no matter how long we stay there. It's just absurd.

                    I'm sorry, but it's this kind of ideology, coming from too many in our populace, that is getting people killed across the world, providing cover for our government doing the worst deeds imaginable, quickly ripping America's credibility to shreds, slowly draining our power away for good. 20-30 years from now, it's going to be these kinds of cowboy politics that will be known for why America stopped being America, why the hegemony disappeared and why we become a regional power that lost touch with its domestic issues and can't even fend for its own populace, never mind spread its influence across the world. The idea of American exceptionalism will die out, no longer will people like you think our country superior, with some kind of right to invade others at will, but then again, maybe the world will be safer for it. Maybe then, all these people too worried about projecting our power outward, will actually start to look inward and realize just how screwed up things are here?

                    • We may be closer to agreement than it sounds.

                      I did not espouse invading Afghanistan as soon as the Taliban took over, but by the time we did invade it had been clear going back to the late 90s that they were harboring our enemies so my reaction was it's about time.  I opposed going into Iraq the second time mostly based on timing and that it took our focus off Afghanistan.  However, I was among those who wish the first President Bush had pushed to Baghdad and toppled Saddam in 1991.  Also several times during the Clinton years when Saddam tested us we responded, then both would back down whereas I wish that we had just gone in and ended the cat-and-mouse game once and for all even if Saddam backed down at the last minute.  He's the perfect example of someone who, both because he invaded Kuwait and attacked his own people he lost the right to claim sovereignty.  This doesn't mean we shouldn't leave nations alone even if these factors are present, but it does mean that if/when we see reason to intervene we shouldn't wring our hands over sovereignty.  We do have a credibility problem no doubt, but if we were consistent rather than supporting petty tyrants when it supposedly suits our interests I think we would all be much better off.

  3. This award is not a $quot;canonization$quot;. It's a call to action.

    Besides which, whether we value it or not, or whether we think he hasn't done it well enough.....

    In less than a year in office, he has transformed the way we look at ourselves and the world we live in and rekindled hope for a world at peace with itself," ElBaradei said. "He has shown an unshakable commitment to diplomacy, mutual respect and dialogue as the best means of resolving conflicts. He has reached out across divides and made clear that he sees the world as one human family, regardless of religion, race or ethnicity."

    He has transformed the way we look at ourselves and the world we live in, and how we work together, all of which is very upsetting to some folks whose vested interests lie in keeping the divisions between us wide and high.

    Great diary Charlie.  

    • That may be how it looks

      That's another example of having an altered state of the soul while the body lives on in degraded conditions. Things may look great in the world of soaring speeches. On this planet, however, people are still getting blown up. There's no peace here yet.

    • Good Post Chalie II

      I particularly appreciated your choice of a title for this Diary, which I assume is a play on a line from the John Donne meditation/poem which fits the occasion perfectly.  

      John Donne Meditation 17 Devotions upon Emergent Occasions

      "No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were. Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee..."  

  4. He should decline it.

    Or defer it. It's too early to tell if what he's done is actually going to work.  

  5. T-shirt copyrights

    The New World Order just called you a retard What say you world

    Nobel ain't Noble!

    Peace means bombing the crap out of Iraq Iran Afghanistan Pakistan Venezuela Insert oil producing country here

  6. Awarded Nobel Peace Prize for being not-Bush

    I think Obama was given the award for his foreign policy of engagement which is in marked contrast to the Bush/Cheney pre-emptive warfare doctrine and their isolation of enemies aka the "axis of evil." The award also recognizes the exceptional influence the US still has over world peace.

    Obama received the award nominally for his work in the Senate on nuclear arms control but the real reason he won the award was because he was the not-Bush. Nominations were do in February, long before he engaged the Muslim world with his speech in Cairo.

    The biggest single thing he could do to earn the award besides having won the election is get Israel and Palestine to agree to a two-state solution, to stop lobbying missiles at Israel and to stop building settlements on Palestinian land.

    He has already boxed in North Korean disestablishing export of WMD technology and he has already brought China and Russia into a coalition of the worlds biggest economies offering carrots and sticks in response to Iran's military nuclear ambitions.

    • Not Bush

      Not McCain, not Palin, not Romney, Rudy, or Huckabee. Not Fred Thompson, Ron Paul, or ... uh ... Duncan Hunter.

      Not even Kerry, not even Hillary: The big, unavoidable, overriding difference between Obama and Hillary was that he opposed the Iraq War in 2002. She voted for it, and refused to apologize for it.

      Again, let's give the committee the benefit of the doubt for political savvy and knowledge of this guy's career arc.

      • What political savy?

        They basically just raised the already unrealistic expectations of his administration even higher. Now President Obama has to not only solve global warming, end two wars, fix the economy, create universal healthcare in the US, he also has to bring peace to the world. I am sorry, but at some point the voters will realize that all of these expectations cannot be realistically met by one man, or even one nation. And that is when the Republicans get back into power when hope is quickly dashed and cynicism turns into fear and fear turns into votes.

  7. Perfect logic

    Let's see now.... Obama is on my side, so I need to defend him. And Obama's critics are on the other side, so I need to attack them.

    Anything else?

    This is an embarrasment of historic proportions. They really needed to give Obama an affirmative action Nobel Peace Prize? A Nobel Prize for showing up? The whole thing presumes that Obama can't be expected to actually EARN a Nobel peace prize. Apparently, Obama will never rise to being more than Not Bush.

    Humiliating.  

  8. If he decides to start drawing down on Afghanistan

    and get out of that mess, as well as Iraq, then I think this is deserved. If we're there for the rest of his administration and beyond, no, this is Kissinger redux. You simply shouldn't be allowed to order the death of thousands of people by proxy and win the Noble Peace Prize. Obama didn't start these wars, but if he wants to deserve his medal, he damn well better end them -- and not 5 or 8 years from now, but start the significant withdrawal of troops within his first administration.  

  9. I don't see it

    Awarding Al Gore (and frankly, the late William Borlaug) the prize already distorted the idea of awarding the Nobel Peace Prize for peace.  It turned the mission into awarding the prize for stuff that may lead to peace.  Now I'm supposed to be okay with turning it into a "call for action"?  A nice speaking, heart-swelling award?  It's referred to as the "Nobel Peace Prize", not the "Nobel Peace Potential Prize".

    Of course this award is political, and of course anything good for America or its leader is anathema to conservatives.  Yes, HubBlog is an idiot for implying that awarding a world prize three times in the last eight years is anti-American.  It's embarrassingly pro-American.  It's myopic.  

    How many people gave all for themselves and their families for peace this year?  I don't care what conservatives or even Mr. El Baradei say.  This prize can be a political and financial lifeline for people who campaigned, worked, sweated, marched, got shot at, and were killed for peace.  Don't they get some reward, even if they don't have the fortune of succeeding a moronic president?  

    This prize, I hoped, was about action, not a "call to action".  Action for peace, sacrifice for peace should be rewarded.  When the hope of Zimbabwean democracy, Morgan Tsvangirai gets beaten to within an inch of his life and watches his family die suspiciously, that doesn't count for more than Obama's potential to make action happen?

    When Greg Mortensen doesn't just call people to action -- but actually commits action by building over a hundred schools in a place where education can make the difference between peace and war -- doesn't that count for more than perhaps other people will like what Obama is saying.  Heck, he wrote a great book about if you simply must have a call to action.

    For what counts the courage of the people of Iran to stand against theocratic autocracy is amazing -- doesn't Moussavi deserve some recognition?   His life is on loan at this point, mortgaged by his courage to stand against the bile of the Iranian kakistocracy.

    Reporters without Borders stands for press freedom as it gets assaulted worldwide.  But they don't give speeches, so it counts for nothing?

    This was the wrong call by the Nobel Institute, and frankly cheapens their award.  I see in Obama the potential to merit this award in 2013, but at this point it's ridiculous.

    sabutai   @   Tue 4 Dec 7:00 PM
    • All would be valid recipients ...

      whom you've listed. And again, I have no intention of defending the Obama pick invidiously over and against the other possibilities.

      My guess is that it boils down to the nukes, this time, this year. The Nobel Committee may be scared stiff about this, and they want to highlight it.

      • Pragmatic question as well

        I'd throw in one other consideration -- the Nobel prize brings with it over $1 million.  I'm sure Obama, who doesn't need that money, will just turn it over to charity.  But I can't help thinking the good Hariri, Tsvangirai, or Mortenson could do with that kind of money.

        sabutai   @   Tue 4 Dec 7:00 PM
    • Giving Obama the Nobel Peace Prize is $quot;ridiculous$quot;?

      Step it back a moment.  Our President has transformed the world stage.  He has changed the course of American foreign policy.  He has galvanized those people, leaders and regular folk, who yearn for rational debate, and thoughtful and effective courses of action.  And he has done this like no other person in my memory.

      This isn't about just nine months in office.  It's about his life's work (so far), as a politician and a leader, which got him to this point.  It is about the impact he has had, and the impact he will have.  Other people can use the money?!?  Other people have suffered more?!?  The simplistic analysis, here and elsewhere (sorry, but I have to be direct) that this is premature has me scratching my head.

      One measure of the importance of a Nobel Prize has to be the effect the prize has, not just on the recipient, but on society.  There are good reasons why this is not usually a posthumous award.

      Far from being "ridiculous", the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to Barack Obama, in 2009, is brilliant.

      • Compared other potential recipients, yes, ridiculous

        I agree with your entire first paragraph.  He re-oriented American foreign policy from myopically destructive to sane.  That's a good thing, but again the main way he accomplished that is nothing inherent in Barack Obama, but the simple fact that he isn't George W Bush.  

        I believe and hope with you that he will have a great impact, and that's why it may make sense for Obama to win this award in 2013, all things depending.  You can call is simplistic to say that an award should recognize what has happened, not what might happen, but that's the whole point of this award.

        And I never heard about the idea that the award is supposed to have an impact on "society", but if you want to make that argument, let me ask you what has a greater impact -- rewarding a an already lauded public figure for what he may do, or setting the world (and its Mugabes and Ahmedinajads) on notice that their brutality will not be ignored, and opposition to it will be rewarded?  The potential for Tsvangirai and Moussavi to take a starving, suppressed people and set them free of violence and poverty is wondrous.

        sabutai   @   Tue 4 Dec 7:00 PM
        • Not McCain and not Palin

          I fear you miss the point of the election and the award.

          The election of Barack Obama re-oriented American foreign policy away from the unilateral, arrogant, insecure, and ignorant (in the case of Ms. Palin) direction offered by John McCain and Sarah Palin. Barack Obama articulated a call to hope, optimism, and the idealism that makes America both strong and also well-loved by the world.

          America embraced a new direction, led by a charismatic new face. We have embraced cautious optimism, replacing the bullying violence of fearful insecurity.

          Yes, there is more work to be done. This award speaks to the long-hoped for change that Barack Obama has already wrought.

          • I give up

            I can't see what makes Obama's campaign and brief presidency so momentous that it hasn't made any significant changes on the international arena.  I'm glad more people are smiling, and if that's what gets you the Nobel Award these days, well, so be it.

            sabutai   @   Tue 4 Dec 7:00 PM
    • Gotta agree

      Moussavi would be my top candidate, followed by Morgan Tsvangirai, Aung San Suu Kyi (I know she got one before but her and the monks in the disturbances a few years ago), the old lady who leads the Uyghurs in China, Doctors or Reporters without borders are great candidates, posthumously giving it to all the journalists killed by Putin, or the Iranian student protester would also have been far more symbolically important than this prize. This award and frankly the Al Gore award cheapened the prize significantly and has politicized the Committee. Give it to people the whole world would be proud to see it go to, give it to people that make anti-democratic and anti-peaceful regimes squirm in their boots and fear their legitimacy.

      President Obama will just put this up next to all of his other accolades that he has received without demonstrating any achievement yet, especially in the foreign policy realm which he has mucked up most of all by appointing idiotic neocon liberals like Rice, Clinton, and Holbrooke to important positions while relegating sensible realists like Power, Lake, Powell and Scowcroft to the sidelines. Along with do nothing NSA chief Jim Jones.  

    • I have wondered...

      ...whether truth in labeling means we should call it the Nobel Peace AND HUMANITARIAN Prize.  It seems that the award is not always given for preventing/ending literal war, but more broadly advances the quality of human life.  Mother Teresa (1979) is another example who did great work, but never actually helped negotiate the end of a conflict.  It seems to be a catch-all for social causes that don't fit well into the other Nobel categories.

      • Only problem with that...

        ...as I mentioned in my post on the occasion of Gore's winning of the award, is that the criteria are already close to violating the term's of Nobel's will.  Changing the name would probably legally endanger the whole enterprise.

        sabutai   @   Tue 4 Dec 7:00 PM
  10. here's what it would have accomplished

    declining the award would have:

    *bolstered him in the eyes of moderates and independents (like me) who voted for him.  

    *reassure allies who think he is a dove, and will cave on iran, et al, and  strengthen his message on foreign policy objectives.  

    • It does neither of those things

      Anyone who doesn't like Obama would call him arrogant for refusing it, and say he's placing himself about the Nobel Peace Prize.

    • I don't get it

      how does refusing a prize for peace strengthen message on foreign policy?

      • He has 2 top objectives right now

        Either escalate or move out of Afghanistan.  

        Iranian nukes.  

        How he'd use a "Nobel No" would depend on which moves he plans to make.  

        If he wanted, for example, to do some saber-rattling to Iran, he might say

        "I have to decline, I've accomplished no peace yet.  And indeed, I'm worried.  If for example, Iran steps away from its weapon ambitions, I think they should be considered.  If Russia exerts its influence to deter Iran in this area, they should be considered.  And if all that fails, it may well be that the only way for us to pursue long-term peace is short-term conflict....."

    • As respectfully as I can ...

      bullet point 1: Who cares? You think the prize diminishes him? Really?

      No, seriously now ... really?

      point 2: Do you think that getting a Nobel changes his thinking on Iran? Do you think he's gonna get up and say "Dammit, I'm a NOBEL PEACE PRIZE LAUREATE -- better let Iran have the nukes!!"

      In fact, the Nobel committee specifically mentioned nuclear non-proliferation ... so remind me who's trying to get nukes right now? Oh yeah, Iran.

      It says to me they like his approach in dealing with Iran -- which even the Washington Times had to admit was "strong ... cunning". http://www.washingtontimes.com...

  11. Of course he should accept!

    Obama has turned this country around from the spectacular disasters of the Bush era and has done it with intelligence and grace. He has restored the US in the eyes of the world, removing it from the gutter where Bush/Cheney left it. We need and now have a global peace leader who has reset our relationships with many countries and who has not backed down from Iranian foolishness. He functions as a pragmatic, visionary, and learned leader rather than the arrogant and  narrow-minded neo-con ideologues we have all suffered from.  

  12. You don't win the award for starting the race

    The issue I have with this is that Obama hasn't actually made any of the difficult decisions that he says we will have to make to create a more peaceful world. Yes, he represents a significant departure from the foreign policy of the Bush administration, however I don't consider getting back to making policy decisions based on reality a Nobel prize worthy accomplishment.

    Charley - you are certainly correct that we shouldn't take good sense for granted, but we also shouldn't short change ourselves with this pat-on-back stuff (which is exactly what this is) and award Nobel prizes simply for doing what we should be doing anyway. We elected Obama to the presidency in large part for his foreign policy plan, how can we call him a success without him enacting any of the major parts of that plan? By celebrating this award we are short changing ourselves, I personally did not vote for him because he said he was going to talk about mutli-lateral solutions and reductions in nuclear arsenals, I voted for him to accomplish those things. What treaties have been signed? What warheads dismantled? Iran is no farther from getting the bomb than they were on Jan 19, 2009.

    This is not to say that Obama has been a poor president, but that he has only been in office for a short period of time, and that the majority of that time has been spent on domestic issues. The Nobel Committee sold themselves short with this award as well, because not only do wise decisions have to actually be made to be a great peacemaker, but wise decisions must stand the test of time. The award, I guess, is no longer a recognition of great accomplishment, but a speculation about what will come to pass.

    What does it say about the state of our world, when the most prestigious award for peace is given to someone whose biggest accomplishments in that arena are telling muslims that we aren't at war with them (granted Bush should have said it 8 years ago) and gotten Iran to sit at a table and at least listen to us before ignoring us?

  13. The global version of the Oscars?

    When I heard the news this morning, I thought about how the President would be feeling. My guess was a major amount of chagrin. He's got enough on his plate, and now he gets an award he know he hasn't earned tossed in his lap the first thing this morning.

    I'm less interested in whether or not he deserves it. Almost all agree, not at this point. Most agree he is getting rewarded just for not being his reactionary predecessor. Most also agree that it was the Nobel Committee playing politices.

    The real question for me is, what does the Nobel Peace Prize really mean?

    I realize that I don't know the majority of the names on the list. I've never heard of 4 of the last 10 winners. My knowledge may not be the best indicator, but how influential can they have been?

    We also tend to regard the Peace Prize as a global award, but what is it really? A prize awarded by 5 Norwegians put forth by the Norwegian parliment. I like Scandinavians as much as the next guy, but...

  14. From: President Barack Obama

    -----Original Message----- From: President Barack Obama [mailto:info@barackobama.com] Sent: Friday, October 09, 2009 5:00 PM To: Neil Sagan Subject: A call to action

    This morning, Michelle and I awoke to some surprising and humbling news. At 6 a.m., we received word that I'd been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 2009.

    To be honest, I do not feel that I deserve to be in the company of so many of the transformative figures who've been honored by this prize -- men and women who've inspired me and inspired the entire world through their courageous pursuit of peace.

    But I also know that throughout history the Nobel Peace Prize has not just been used to honor specific achievement; it's also been used as a means to give momentum to a set of causes.

    That is why I've said that I will accept this award as a call to action, a call for all nations and all peoples to confront the common challenges of the 21st century. These challenges won't all be met during my presidency, or even my lifetime. But I know these challenges can be met so long as it's recognized that they will not be met by one person or one nation alone.

    This award -- and the call to action that comes with it -- does not belong simply to me or my administration; it belongs to all people around the world who have fought for justice and for peace. And most of all, it belongs to you, the men and women of America, who have dared to hope and have worked so hard to make our world a little better.

    So today we humbly recommit to the important work that we've begun together. I'm grateful that you've stood with me thus far, and I'm honored to continue our vital work in the years to come.

    Thank you, President Barack Obama

  15. I like the notion of a call to action, too.

    Obama now has a certain level of pressure upon him to live up to the ideal of a Nobel Prize Peace Prize winner as he balances the nation's wars with the nation's desire to provide peaceful leadership in the world.  Certainly this must create a level of cognitive dissonance for Obama, but I can't find any downside at all with a struggle in seeking balance.  I view the prize as an interesting gesture, one designed both to reward and motivate.  

    When we view peace through a purely absence-of-war lens, we are not viewing the whole picture.  That lens, however, is one that Americans generally employ.  The most peaceful nations on earth aspire to and value ideals that we, as a nation, neither aspire to or value in any meaningful way.  Time spent with either Vision of Humanity's Global Peace Index or the United Nations' Human Development Report should clarify a more purposeful and salient definition of peace, one that challenges our parochial notions.  Certainly the other developed nations ranked highly on these indices understand what peace really means.  I'm hopeful this reward, if you will, will help Obama guide this nation in embracing a definition and path more in keeping with that of the nations we should be emulating.    

  16. I'm taking the simpleton's view

    I was surprised listening to NPR this morning to hear the announcement.  My reaction was pleasure.  I was pleased and frankly relieved to see that our President was acknowledged for changing the dynamics of the world order and relationships.

    Some say it is "premature" to award a novice world leader the Nobel Peace Prize.  I say better late (Change), than never!  Build momentum and capacity for peace...go for it.

  17. Thanks, Charlie, well said.

    Given that a part of my work life is, in fact, stylized warfare and the purpose of courts and the rule of law is to move from machetes to words and rules, I have to agree that there is nothing wrong with inspirational politics.

    I will take it further - disparaging an act because it is political is really hilarious, because any time two people talk about something, and then choose a course of action, that is politics.

    Any time two or more people cannot talk out something, and result to blows, knives, or guns, that is a failure of politics.

    In a choice between politics and warfare - I will take politics any time.

    Similarly, negotiation when successful is much better then  litigation.

    So for those who "hate politics" - what do you prefer:

    1.  Fist fights.

    2.  Knife fights.

    3.  Shoot out at the OK Corral.

    4.  Litigation and law suits?

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