11 October, 2009

Further Thoughts on the President's Peace Prize

I've been seeing a lot of invective against the President and the Nobel Committee from both the left and right, perhaps one of the only times this year they'll find themselves in agreement on anything.  There is a substantive difference in the invective: Cons are screaming incoherently, while the lefties are a little more analytical about their criticism.  Obama doesn't deserve it, they say.  He hasn't done anything, they say.


Even the fine folks at Firedoglake, who never miss an opportunity to bash Obama, have to admit it's bullshit:

FDL’s writers have been among the sharpest of the reality-based critics of the Obama administration, as posts like this one will show.  But, contrary to what’s been claimed, we’re not so steeped in reactive Obama hatred that we won’t give the man credit when it’s due.   Case in point:  His being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

Yes, he’s only been in office a little over eight months.   Yet he’s already made more progress with both Russia and Iran than George W. Bush and the neocon cabal made in eight years, which makes experts on the Middle East like Juan Cole quite happy:
President Obama is slowly putting Iran in a box. His cancellation of the useless and expensive so-called missile shield program in Eastern Europe, which had needlessly antagonized Russia, has been rewarded with greater Russian cooperativeness on Iran. The U.S. right wing accused Obama of a failure of nerve. But in fact his move was shrewd and gutsy, since he predisposed Russia to increased cooperation with the U.S. in regard to Iran’s nuclear research program.
Obama’s full-court press for a United Nations Security Council resolution on nuclear disarmament also pulled the rug out from under Iran’s previous grandstanding tactics, whereby it accused the U.S. and its allies of only wanting nuclear dominance, not the abolition of nukes.
Cole goes on to note that President Obama chaired the U.N. Security Council at the summit level on Thursday, and pushed through an important resolution on nuclear disarmament.
Spencer Ackerman, no gentle soul he, makes much the same point in a hard-hitting post, and concludes:

Progressives have a unique responsibility to hold Obama to his own stated vision, and the vision that the Nobel committee honored today. But there is a difference between an incomplete agenda and a counterproductive one. And in truth, the agenda is never complete. The work goes on. But we are on a path. Fired up, ready to go.
And PalMD quotes the Nobel Committee, then makes the point:
What the committee may or may not have meant is that Obama seems to be more interested in at least understanding the beliefs and desires of our friends and enemies, and using this understanding as a basis for diplomacy.

So while the award may seem quixotic, it's not unprecedented. The Nobel committee is in essence saying, "we know the US is enormously powerful and influential, and we're happy to see that you may be using your powers responsibly." To paraphrase Sally Field, they really like us!

How should we, as Americans, respond to this honor? It is and honor. We are a true representative democracy, and our elected head of state was just given the world's most prestigious award. It is an endorsement by others of many of our basic values. This is an opportunity for us to say to the world, "yes, we are uniquely important" Many of our values are universal. The world still looks to us as a model democracy. After years in the wilderness of world opinion, we are being recognized for our accomplishments and ideals. I like that.

So do I.

And the Obama administration is taking this very, very seriously:
The State Department reflects on the significance of President Obama's Nobel Peace Prize.
"Certainly from our standpoint, this gives us a sense of momentum -- when the United States has accolades tossed its way, rather than shoes."
That's the take of Hillary Clinton's State Department on President Obama being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, according to her spokesman, Assistant Secretary PJ Crowley.
Crowley added, "There is an opportunity here. The tone has changed -- but obviously we recognize that, while the tone in the world has changed, the challenges remain. They are very significant."
So forgive me if I see you pissing and moaning that Obama didn't deserve this and the Nobel Committee's a bunch of idiots, and call bullshit.  It is bullshit.

Besides, it's not Obama's fault he won this thing.  The right, as in so much else, is to blame.  And, furthermore:

Larisa Alexandrovna has hit it right on the mark when she says, ‘When that recipient happens to be the leader of a nation - representing his country all over the world - then that honor is also bestowed on the citizens of that nation.’ 

Yup, Obama didn’t win this Nobel Peace Prize. America did.

Before you start shrieking we don't deserve it, keep in mind that we finally voted the Cons out.  And the Nobel Committee recognizes that peace is a work in progress.  This is a call to action, not a reward for a job well done.  If you can't take it in that sense, I'm very sorry for you.

The rest of us are going to go do some celebrating.  And one of the things we'll be celebrating is how very far we've come.


Chris said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chris said...

I've had it up to here with both the crude, predictable bad mouthing from the right and the oh so carefully nuanced justifications from the left. Dammit, sometimes I think we fail to appreciate the impact in international circles of a President - whose country accounts for fully one half of world military spending - who decides to pursue tact and diplomacy instead of bellicose, militaristic threats. People who reason the Nobel was awarded as less for a body of work than as encouragement for future work are ignoring that Barak Obama has ALREADY contributed enough in the cause of world peace to fully merit this prize. My goodness, if you are going to award a peace prize anyway, can you come up with any individual, public or private, who has done more as of THIS DAY to give the rest of the world a sense of hope and optimism?

Efrique said...

Outside the US I've seen the odd "Yeah, he's mostly been doing good things, but has Obama really done quite enough just yet for a peace prize?" question (which is a perfectly reasonable question to ask, even if you're pretty sure the answer is 'yes').

Then it's generally followed by "Well, if you compare him to some of the past winners, hell yeah".

I'm not sure if it might have been better to wait until the pullout in Iraq was further along, for example, but he's far from a crazy choice - he's done a lot to reduce dangerous tensions in a number of places (sometimes by the simple expedient of coming to a considered response, instead of flapping his mouth at the earliest opportunity and making things worse).

Lisa said...

I think the Nobel Prize is an honor for the President and our country. Hopefully, this means we can end the war.

Cujo359 said...

I don't think Obama's earned this prize, at least not yet. I don't feel the least bit sorry for myself, and anyone whose condescension leads him to feel that way can kiss my furry butt. I've read enough of that in the last few days, thank you very much.

Larissa Alexandravna (sp?) makes an interesting point, but it's hard to feel proud when you don't feel it's deserved yet.

I just hope he can live up to it. Closing the black sites and winding up at least one of the two wars we're in right now would go a long ways toward earning the award after the fact. So far, I see no sign of either of those things happening.

Anonymous said...

My understanding is that the nomination process for the Nobel Peace Prize closes February 1st. With that understanding, everything that has been noted that Obama has done, much of which I do not agree with anyways, was not done yet.

Why is he getting this award?