Friday, October 09, 2009

The Prize

I have to admit that when I first saw notice (on an e-mail list) of President Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize, I thought it was from The Onion. It seems a bit early, but perhaps the surprise was part of the intent of the Nobel Committee.

The Peace Prize is political, and its intent is to make a difference in the world. So its awards have often been controversial, and sometimes time has shown them to have been wrong. But in my world, people get points for bold, and this is bold.

As the initial surprise wears off, I think it’s a good choice, and I think that President Obama is right to accept it. He said the right kinds of things this morning, with appropriate humility.

Here’s the citation:
The Norwegian Nobel committee has decided that the Nobel peace prize for 2009 is to be awarded to President Barack Obama for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples. The committee has attached special importance to Obama's vision of and work for a world without nuclear weapons.

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.

For 108 years, the Norwegian Nobel committee has sought to stimulate precisely that international policy and those attitudes for which Obama is now the world's leading spokesman. The committee endorses Obama's appeal that 'Now is the time for all of us to take our share of responsibility for a global response to global challenges'.
There has been some comment that the prize is to America for turning around as much as it is to Obama. The turning around, of course, was in electing Obama president. We re-elected George Bush, after all. And electing a black president is a turnaround. Every time the world sees him, the turnaround is plain.

The committee has attached special importance to Obama's vision of and work for a world without nuclear weapons.
Americans don’t realize what a big deal this is to the rest of the world, Europe especially. If there had been a nuclear war between America and the Soviet Union, there was no question as to what would have happened to Europe. The survivors, if any, would have looked back to the summer of 1945 with nostalgia.

Obama is the first sitting president to make elimination of nuclear weapons a policy goal. He announced that goal on April 5 in Prague, the day before the Carnegie International Nonproliferation Conference, the biggest conference on that subject, in a city where, as he remarked in that speech, the American President could hardly have gone only twenty years before. Impossible things do happen.

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.
It’s that new climate that the committee wants to reinforce. The United States built a new world order after World War II, starting with the United Nations and going on to all those acronymic treaties and organizations that regulate trade and generally keep things in order around the world, not the least of which is the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. It was the Marshall Plan that revived Europe and encouragement from the United States of a European Common Market that led to the European Union. Plus arms control treaties with the Soviet Union and picking up the nuclear pieces when the Soviet Union fell apart.

And then George W. Bush did what he could to destroy those structures.

So Obama is going back to that world order, or perhaps moving on to a better one. We don’t know about the latter yet, but this prize is a great sigh of relief that America will be working for stability and peace rather than wars for regime change.

"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," said Thorbjoern Jagland, chairman of the Nobel Committee. (AP)
Capturing the world’s attention and giving people hope are achievements. Obama has begun negotiations with Israel and the Palestinians, something that other presidents have waited until the ends of their terms to do.
He has delivered four major foreign policy addresses explaining these themes -- his nuclear nonproliferation speech in Prague; his outreach to the Muslim world in Cairo; his offer of U.S. support to the developing world (tempered with a reminder that nations are responsible for their futures) in Accra, Ghana; and his call for global cooperation at the U.N. General Assembly last month. (WaPo)
On the arms control front, which the Committee emphasized,
Not only did he commit himself to this goal in April in Prague, but he has already taken many concrete steps in the right direction by commencing new arms reduction talks with Russia; committing himself to seek ratification and entry into force of a global nuclear test ban treaty; serving as the first U.S. president ever to chair a United Nations Security Council meeting on nuclear disarmament; pledging to secure all remaining "loose nukes" and nuclear bomb-making materials within four years, and holding a summit on the subject in Washington next year; and engaging in smart diplomacy by talking to Iran about getting rid of its nuclear weapons program. (TPM Cafe)
Humans are demanding creatures. We undervalue what we’ve got and focus on potential losses rather than potential gains. So now we’ve got an American president who has turned attitudes around (done; easy to undervalue) and is, like the Nobel Committee, taking risks. Those risks could turn out badly (focus on potential loss) or really very well indeed (potential gains, not so much). The Committee chose to consciously and counterintuitively focus on what we’ve got and the potential gains.
“We are not awarding the prize for what may happen in the future, but for what he has done in the previous year,” Mr. Jagland said. “We would hope this will enhance what he is trying to do.” (NYT)
We can hope that this exercise of the better side of their humanity will encourage that side in all of us.

Addendum (10/10/09): David Kaiser makes an argument that is somewhat similar to part of mine, with greater historical depth. Kaiser posts once a week, always worth reading.
The reason, I think, that all this is hard to understand here in the United States, is that conservative Republican positions, which the rest of the world fears and abhors, are regarded here as mainstream.


Anonymous said...

I think it is a mistake. Not only it is premature, but it also put too much pressure on an administration that needs to focus its attention on crucial issues. I am afraid that this prize will be another source for useless polemics and that, is distracting from the task at hands. This country does not need another "call for action," but needs simply to act. America has one shot at greatness, and only 4 years to deliver.

Anonymous said...

I find American's reaction to Obama getting the peace prize so stunning, but predictable. We are nation that is so enthralled with failure and we seek it wherever it we can. Our view of what is a success is only on a grand scale. No wonder Prozac is a best seller.

Anonymous said...

An interesting and thoughtful post. Thank you.

Parvati said...

I totally agree with that post, Cheryl. Add the CONCRETE step of deciding to reverse Bush's policy of inserting those missile-shield whatsits in Poland and the Czech republic to goad Russia, despite French, German etc pleas. ENORMOUS relief here - it removed a very dangerous source of tension and tit-for-tat escalation, unblocked the path to NATO-Russia collaboration - all kinds of cooperation possibilities now feasible at last, both here and elsewhere. And my blessings to him on the disarmament talks!! - if he makes significant progress in that sphere, even if he's reduced to a kicking-object on US talkshows he'll have earned Europe's heartfelt gratitude.

Cheryl Rofer said...

Yes, there are other accomplishments that can be added in, including helping Turkey and Armenia to establish diplomatic relations (although that came after the Prize).

And I'm sure we'll see more.

V said...

Pfft! Cheryl, roll me one of your hopium joints. I need to see the world through rose-coloured glasses too.

Obama and the Nobel Prize: When War becomes Peace, When the Lie becomes the Truth (Oct. 11, 2009)

by Michel Chossudovsky

"Granting the Nobel Peace Prize to Barack Obama provides legitimacy to the illegal practices of war, to the military occupation of foreign lands, to the relentless killings of civilians in the name of "democracy"."

And don't you, Cheryl, not write about the ridiculous threats made upon Iran regarding their non-existent nuclear bomb-making?

Israel is not alone in those threats, President Zero makes them as well.

Think that Friday morning of the G-20 in Pittsburg when Zero made the threatening, war-hawking speech about the Qom (not so secret) nuclear facility that the US has known about for 2 years and that won't be operational for another 18 months and will only be enriching to 5% when it does come on-line.

But you're okay that Owe-bama was given an award while he wages war upon Iraq, Afgahnistan and will expand (further) into Pakistan.

Know also that the deadline for nominations for the Noble was last February 1st. Zero was sworn in as Messiah some 12 days prior. Before that he was in his first term as a senator and was mostly campaigning to be prez. So, he was given an award for being prez for 12 days?

"Capturing the world’s attention and giving people hope are achievements. Obama has begun negotiations with Israel and the Palestinians, something that other presidents have waited until the ends of their terms to do."

Ahem. No he hasn't! LIE. Despite a recent UN mission report that Israel should be brought up on war crimes, the US, and Owe-bummer, have remained mum! What did he say or do when Israel murdered over 1,400 Palestinians last January. Oh yeah. Nothing. But he makes some speeches and that's good enough for you.

He's done nothing to quell the threats made by Israel upon Iran and has yet to broker anything close to peace between Israel and the Palestinans. The Israelis want nothing to do with peace as far as Palestinians are concerned.

"We don’t know about the latter yet, but this prize is a great sigh of relief that America will be working for stability and peace rather than wars for regime change."

Remember when these awards were given out for PAST achievement and merit?

War is the new peace, huh, Cheryl?

V v2.0 said...

"Former Israeli Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh stated in an interview with the UK’s Sunday Times that if sanctions against Iran are not in place by Christmas, Israel may attack Iran on its own. “If no crippling sanctions are introduced by Christmas, Israel will strike,” he said. “If we are left alone, we will act alone.”

Where's your Messiah now, Cheryl? Will he support peace on this latest threat being made by Israel based on a non-existent nuclear bomb making project?

How about O having Israel sign the NPT, reveal the number of nuclear weapons it HAS and then allow IAEA inspectors into Israel to confirm. Nope. That won't happen. But as long as Owebama was given a "peace" award (for god knows what) it's all cool with you. It gives us 'hope' that he MIGHT do something "peace-ful".

Don't bet or count on it.

V v3.0 said...

Peace, man....

So on the one hand we've got some modest overtures to Iran on the negotiating front. And on the other hand we've got the steady drumbeat for war from the neocons. Peacenik thought he read somewhere that Obama wants a nuclear free world. Then why is Obama continuing to develop the weapon that George Bush created, and that caused the U.S. to abrogate the nuclear non-proliferation treaty? Peacenik thinks Obama is keeping the neocons happier than he is keeping the peacemakers. Why does Obama care more about the neocons? Why? Why?

Agence France Presse (August 6, 2009)

Boeing's 30,000 pound Massive Ordnance Penetrator. The US Defense Department on Monday said it wants to speed up production plans for the enormous "bunker buster" bomb.

WASHINGTON - The US military said on Monday it wants to speed up production plans for an enormous "bunker buster" bomb, amid international concern over underground nuclear sites in Iran and North Korea.
The Pentagon has asked Congress for extra money to ensure the massive ordnance penetrator (MOP) would be ready by July 2010, spokesman Bryan Whitman told reporters.

"The department has asked for reprogramming of about 68 million dollars to start production for some of these in 2009," Whitman said.

"This will help it accelerate some if it's approved."

MORE "Peace"....

House easily approves defense policy bill (Oct. 8, 2009)

"Despite a vague veto threat by President Barack Obama, the House on Thursday easily passed a major defense policy bill that calls for continued development of a costly alternative engine for the Pentagon's next-generation fighter jet."

And now....even more "peace"....

New group of soldiers going to Guantanamo -- for a year (Oct. 7, 2009)

"The Puerto Rican National Guard is heading home soon and soldiers from their Virgin Islands and Rhode Island counterparts are mobilizing for yearlong tours at the detention center President Barack Obama said he would shut in January."

Guess that's not happening either, huh?

To sum up....

Obama has won the Nobel Peace Prize simply because he's not George Bush (Oct. 9, 2009)

"Today the Norwegian Nobel Committee announced they have awarded this year’s £1.1m Peace Prize to Barack Obama. They say it is in recognition for his achievements in – well, it’s hard to figure just what they say his achievements have been. All they talk about are his ‘efforts,’ not his achievements, and those efforts have all been aimed at reversing the Bush foreign policy. So, clearly, that’s good enough for the committee."

...and for Cheryl Rofer.

I'm not sure what all this disconnect between the US, it's foreign policies (or lack thereof) and Owe-bama is. They are NOT separate. They are ONE IN THE SAME.

War Criminal Obama Deserves An Oscar, But Not A Nobel Peace Prize (Oct. 9, 2009)

"In a world where war criminals like Tony Blair are rewarded and those that oppose war criminals, like the Iraqi shoe thrower Muntadhar al-Zeidi, are imprisoned and tortured, it comes as no surprise that another war criminal – Barack H. Obama – has been rewarded for his stoic service to imperial bloodletting with the Nobel Peace Prize."

Cheryl Rofer said...

Wow. That's some V-enom.

I guess we'll have to agree to disagree.

I do suggest that you check some of your facts and, if you feel you must write at such length, get your own blog.

V v4.0 said...

What solidifies the fact for me that Owe-bama never had any inkling of achieving peace, ever, was due to the fact that he held over from the Bush administration, the overseer of these illegal and useless wars that Prez O is continuing, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. Then there's the ever-hawking-for-war, Secretary of State, Hitlery Clinton.

Sure, she was there (and NOT owe-bama) making sure that Turkey and Armenia play nice, but what was the real motive?

If peace were ever to have been on Owe-bama's mind, perhaps he would led by example by seeing to it that Israel stop threatening Iran or even that Israel cease murdering Palestinians - to this very day. Maybe Owe-bama could even meet directly with Iran's President, tour the (not so secret) facilities himself and finally put this nuclear weapons nonsense to rest. He's done none of that and has only supported Israel in it's threats towards Iran and hasn't uttered a single useful word regarding Israel's murdering of Palestinians. Even after a UN mission concluded that there were war crimes committed by Israel in Gaza, Prez O remained mum! That subject lasted all but 5 minutes in the (western) media.

If you're not ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that were started by the previous administration, whom you promised to charge with war crimes, but you didn't seem to get around to doing that and are now "shifting your focus" into Pakistan; you are an enabler, an abettor, an accomplice, a proponent where you, yourself, are a now a war criminal. And for that, you get a $1.4 million "peace" prize.

War is now the new peace. Orwell was only off the mark by 25 years.

As for Owe-bama stating that his new trinket will be a "call to action", never has he told a bigger lie. It's also silly as the Nobel is/was supposed to be awarded for past achievements and merits - NOT future possibilities.

If, for a fleeting moment, you think that this will be an incentive for him to stop drone attacks that kill civilians in Pakistan, well, have I got a great deal on waterfront property for you in Arizona.

Irony: he was awarded this "prize" on the day of the 8th anniversary of the US occupation in Afghanistan.

Obama and advisors mull troop plans (Oct. 10, 2009)

"President Obama and his top advisors on Friday began dealing in White House meetings with the task of deciding whether to send additional troops to Afghanistan.
The four-hour meeting, on the day when Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, produced no clear decision, and the military and civilian advisors plan to continue talks next week. Aides believe the president is still weeks from a final decision."

Hey, Jerko. You just got a "peace" prize and with it, $1.4 million. The decision should be immediate and clear! End it! Obviously, the Pre-Peace Prize (say that 3 times fast) isn't proving effective.

I actually watched the stream of messages for a period on TWITter Friday afternoon. The majority were simple congratulatory messages. My favourites were the ones where they congratulated Owe-bama, but then followed it up with, "....but for what, exactly?" Even the sheep are confused.

Anonymous said...

Here is a list of President Barack Obama's deeds in the pursuit of peace on Earth:

•Issued an order to close the prison facility at Guantanamo Bay, but has not approved any plans to actually do so.

•Oversaw a reduction in actual US troops in Iraq, only to replace them with private mercenaries

•Expanded the war in Afghanistan into Pakistan by increasing the number of air attacks in its border regions

•Increased the number of US troops in Afghanistan by tens of thousands, with many more on the way

•Established a US military presence on Colombian military bases

•Refused to lend even the most superficial support to the political opposition in Iran, even as the regime there publicly executed dissidents

•Stood idly by as police and National Guard troops engaged in one of the most vicious crackdowns against free-speech in recent memory while attending the G20 summit in Pittsburgh, PA

•Has spoken glowingly (particularly during his campaign) of China, and refused to criticize its government's ever-lengthening list of human rights abuses.

•Continues to allow Blackwater (now Xe) to be awarded defense contracts, even in light of reports of child prostitution rings being run out of it's facilities in Iraq.

...and the list will continue to grow.

Cheryl Rofer said...

Okay, V. You've left four pieces of your rant here. It seems pathetic that you seem to need to parasitize other people's sites.

But 4.0 is the last that will stay on this site.

Cheryl Rofer said...

I find it remarkable that those who feel that others are making Obama into a "Messiah" are disappointed that he has not solved all the world's problems in nine months.