Many of my friends have been asking what in the world Obama has done to deserve the Nobel Peace Prize, and today my friends at the New York Times gave us the answer. You can read their complete take here: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/10/opinion/10sat1.html, or you can get the basic outline from me, along with my own snarky comments!
According to the Times, Obama has done 8 things that make him worthy of the Nobel Peace Prize:
1. "...countering the ill will Mr. Bush created around the world is one of Mr. Obama’s great achievements..."
It is possible that Obama has countered 'the ill will Mr. Bush created around the world.' I suppose it is grammatically possible to call this an 'achievement.' Quite frankly, all he had to to counter 'the ill will' was to get elected. Of course, this makes a huge assumption - that there is some huge value to the cause of world peace to 'countering ill will.' The ill will is countered, but George Mitchell, Obama's 'special envoy' to the Middle East returns to the U.S. today having made no progress at all on Middle-East peace, and NATO-member nations in Europe have all politely said 'no thank you' to Obama's request for more troops in Afghanistan. My good liberal friends at the NY Times put it very bluntly today: "Even with the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to his boss, Mitchell appeared to have made little progress in persuading the adversaries to soften their positions." http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2009/10/11/world/AP-ML-Israel-Palestinians.html.
2. "...Obama’s willingness to respect and work with other nations is another."
In general, I would admire any U.S. president that indicates a willingness to respect and work with other nations, but I can't imagine that it is worth a Nobel Peace Prize.
3. "...Obama has bolstered this country’s global standing by renouncing torture, this time with credibility."
I am all for Obama renouncing torture - as a matter of fact, the promise to renounce torture was one of the reasons that I voted for......McCain. I'm not sure what 'this time with credibility' means - Bush publicly embraced torture. I guess the Times remembers an older president who denounced torture without credibility. Obviously their memory is better than mine.
4. "...by pledging to close the prison camp at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba;"
I am all for 'pledging to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay.' In fact, the promise to do so is why I voted for......McCain! By the way, I would worry that this comment is going to cause me to lose all of my close conservative relatives, but I'm pretty sure I lost them all after #3.
5. "...by rejoining the effort to combat climate change..."
So Obama has 'rejoined' the effort to combat climate change. If he is 'rejoining' the effort, then someone must have 'joined' it at one time. Oh yeah, that would be Bill Clinton - who sent a negotiator to Kyoto to help negotiate the Kyoto treaty, then decided to not send the treaty to the Senate to be ratified. Note to both presidents - if the Senate doesn't ratify a treaty, than the U.S. hasn't joined the treaty! So the Times is convined that Obama is leading the U.S. to rejoin the fight - I guess they are expecting him to negotiate another treaty and forget to submit it to the U.S. Senate. Maybe the Nobel committee is remembering the last U.S. President that won the Peace Prize. Woodrow Wilson did submit the Treaty of Versailles to the U.S. Senate. Senators Lodge and Borah then destroyed Wilsons' political career, his health, and the League of Nations by voting the treaty down. The Times believes that it is wiser not to submit a treaty to the Senate and lose, so they must be hoping that Obama will follow Clinton's path, not Wilson's.
6. "...and to rid the world of nuclear weapons;"
Obama has also 'rejoined' the effort to rid the world of nuclear weapons. This really is fiction - yes, the U.S. has signed and ratified the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. And yes, that treaty does say that all of the signers are committing to the goal of a nuclear weapon-free world. However, no U.S. president has ever taken this seriously - the understanding has always been that the treaty is intended to make the 'nuclear club' exclusive - the members get to keep their nukes, but no one else gets to join. Of course, this has driven the North Koreans and the Iranians crazy, and both countries are now openly defying the treaty. Israel, Pakistan and India kept their defiance more low-key, but they still went ahead and built nukes.
I actually admire Obama for being consistent with a treaty that the U.S. has ratified. If we never had any intention of completely giving up our nukes, we never should have signed the treaty. Obama is just saying out loud what the treaty has always said. Later in their editorial, the Times does admit that he hasn't actually done anything yet regarding nuclear disarmament - that might really merit a Nobel Peace Prize!
7. "...by recommitting himself to ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict;"
Middle-East peace - as I pointed out earlier, Obama's 'special envoy' just came home today to announce the complete and total failure to make any progress at all. Verbally Obama is no more or less committed to Mid-East peace than any recent president, and so far he has nothing to show for his efforts.
8. "...and by offering to engage Iran while also insisting that it abandon its nuclear ambitions."
Obama has certainly 'offered to engage with Iran.' Many saw this as a positive - rather than making Iran an outlaw state that the U.S. would refuse to negotiate with, Obama committed himself to active engagement with Iran and their 'elected' president, Ahmadinejad. (Don't be too impressed, I had to look up the spelling.) Iran has always resented Bush refusing to 'engage' with them, which may have made their behavior even more intransigent. On the other hand, what Obama promised was to sit down at the negotiating table with a man who insists that the Holocause is a lie, and who promises to wipe the nation of Israel off of the map. Obama seemed helpless as Ahmadinejad's government crushed the protests after the last election - 'engagement' didn't seem to result in Iran paying any more attention to Obama than they had to Bush. As a matter of fact, just today Iran sentenced 3 of the election protestors to death.
The Bottom Line:
I'm actually going to disagree with a lot of my right-wing friends, and say that the Nobel committee's choice of Obama was not totally ridiculous, at least not if you expect the committee to try and be consistent. This is a group that awarded the peace prize to Woodrow Wilson, Henry Kissinger, Le Duc Tho (a member of the North Vietnamese government), Yaser Arafat, and Al Gore. This is the same group that 5 times voted not to give the prize to Gandhi. Even the award to Martin Luther King Jr. was premature - the award was given before the passage of the Voting Rights Act, MLK's greatest triumph. The Times admits this at the end of their editorial - that Obama is getting the prize for what people hope he will accomplish, rather than anything that he has already accomplished. If he really does use all of his good will to bring lasting peace to Afghanistan, North Korea, Iran, Israel, and Palestine, while ridding the world of nuclear weapons, secret prison-torture camps, and global warming, then I will be his biggest supporter for the Nobel Peace Prize!