We should all be stunned to learn that the military and political leader mired in multiple wars and unsure how to act won the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize. In reality, reading the brief citation from the awarding committee shows President Barack Obama was the recipient for what he might do, maybe, perhaps…
This whole mess reminds me of discussions with Roman Catholic chums about sin. To some, timing is all. Under dogmas allowing forgiveness by a cleric, dying under official absolution is all you need. In contrast, most Protestants are supposed to truck their bad deeds and thoughts with them, while they use this guilt and admission to be better people.
It's likely that most of the world measures the aggregate of how we behave, instead of a single act or certainly our potential for good. Think the Book of Daniel, Chapter 5. The rake King Belshazzar got the handwriting on the wall — mene mene tekel upharsin, you have been weighed and found wanting. Game over.
This year's selection committee figures our President is good for his bluster. The citation doesn't have big accomplishments, rather a change of emphasis, including:
Obama has as President created a new climate in international politics. Multilateral diplomacy has regained a central position, with emphasis on the role that the United Nations and other international institutions can play. Dialogue and negotiations are preferred as instruments for resolving even the most difficult international conflicts. The vision of a world free from nuclear arms has powerfully stimulated disarmament and arms control negotiations. Thanks to Obama's initiative, the USA is now playing a more constructive role in meeting the great climatic challenges the world is confronting. Democracy and human rights are to be strengthened.
Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world's attention and given its people hope for a better future. His diplomacy is founded in the concept that those who are to lead the world must do so on the basis of values and attitudes that are shared by the majority of the world's population.
So, he's rewarded for planning a meal and setting the table. There needs to be more.
Not the Worst
This prize has had many obviously deserving winners and a few dubious ones. The worst was unquestionably Henry Kissinger, Ph.D., diplomat, politician and war criminal. After his complicity in the deaths of millions in Vietnam and in the year of the travesty of the coup in Chile with the murder of President Salvador Allende, he got the medal, the money and the praise in 1973.
His version came from selective vision, as did Yasser Arafat's in 1994. They were involved in a truce or conflict resolution. While not as thoroughly cleansing as a priest's absolution, this was enough for the committee to push aside the heavy counterweights of behavior and intent.
To me, folksinger Tom Paxton has a broader, clear view of Kissinger, as he sang:
But the white bones of Allende and the scattered bones of Chile
Are the scream that breaks the silence of the thousands blown away.
Oh, the white bones of Allende and the scattered bones of Chile
Are not silent, they are screaming; they're your Peace Prize, Doctor K.
In contrast, President Obama does not have hands bloodied in evil deeds and willful destruction of lives and nations. Yet, he has much, very much to accomplish before he becomes a peace monger.
What we should hope and demand from him is that he live up to the award's claims that he has the potential to bring peace.