Friday, October 9, 2009

Obama wins Nobel Peace Prize

It was announced early this morning that President Obama will be awarded the Nobel Peace prize, and that leaves me in utter shock. Dr. Hollander pointed out this AP story that shows I'm not alone.

Apparently the president himself was unaware that he was even nominated. I have to say, I'm not surprised. He's now the fourth U.S. president to win the prize. Jimmy Carter won in 2002 long after his term in office expired; needless to say he had racked up an impressive resume both in and out of office. The other two presidents to win were still in office. Theodore Roosevelt won in 1906 for negotiating a peace between Japan and Russia. Woodrow Wilson won in 1919 after negotiating an end to WWI and beginning the steps to create the League of Nations, which was later replaced by the United Nations.

Obama seems a bit out of place in that group. I think he is an intelligent, well-intentioned man who most certainly has made "extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples," as the Nobel committee has stated. But are efforts enough? Other U.S. presidents who won the prize has results, but Obama is yet to deliver on that front.

I find it odd that the prize is going to a sitting president who has failed to close the Guantanamo Bay prison, failed to speedily end the war in Iraq, and is seriously considering escalating the war in Afghanistan. War and peace don't really work together unless you're Leo Tolstoy, but I guess the Nobel committee thinks differently.

I think Obama would do well to decline the award. I know people spend a lifetime of effort to win one of these things, but it's clearly questionable as to whether he is deserving. An exercise in humility would do him that much more good on the international stage.

As for the home front, he's fucked either way, as conservative pundits will have a field day questioning the legitimacy of this award if he accepts(some of them don't even think he's legitimately the president); if he declines they'll argue that even he thinks he's not all that great.

In the end that choice would be mostly a personal one. I like Obama, I really do, but I'm just not convinced that he is the effective leader we all hoped for, and I certainly don't think he has the resume to justify this honor. Hopefully his future endeavors will prove me wrong.


  1. I think it speaks more to the intentions of the committee than Obama's accomplishments. CNN is saying that they were being intentionally riskky in an effort to guide global politics. If an award has the power to give a young leader the boost he needs to promote world peace i'm for it i guess. Obama accepted it as a 'call to action.'

  2. I hate to disagree with you, my friend, but that's exactly what I'm going to do.

    You say that Obama has failed on three key points (all of which sound eerily similar to Fred Armisen's parodical SNL skit). Regardless, if we examine these points individually, I think you'll see that Obama has accomplished more than you think.

    Point one: Closing Guantanamo Bay

    Obama said that he wanted to close Guantanamo in 2010, which gives him more than a year to do so. Congress has been reluctant to support him, but he pushed for it. One may say that he has failed to create support for the effort, but it is a decidedly difficult thing to do. Where are these prisoners going to go if we close Guantanamo? Do people in your state want them? If we do take them, do they deserve protections under the Constitution (e.g. can they invoke the write of Habeas Corpus?). Ultimately, his decision to go against the previous administration's draconian prison standard is an accomplishment in and of itself.

    Point two: Iraq

    Actually, Obama never promised to have troops out of Iraq during his first year. However, he directed (after meeting with top military brass) the commanders in Iraq to begin planning for a responsible exit from Iraq. The fact that he has been cautious and left many of these decisions to military experts is a matter of course. No president (save maybe Eisenhower) is capable of making such a decision on his own. It would be imbecilic to move on Iraq without careful, informed planning.

    Point three: Afghanistan

    Obama supported increased efforts in Afghanistan throughout his campaign. The fact that the situation there has worsened is not his doing, but he is committed to the destruction of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda insurgents in the area, both of whom have wreaked havoc in Iraq and neighboring Pakistan. As such, he will send two additional brigades to Afghanistan to establish control of the area and to destroy the influence of the criminally oppressive Taliban.

    You can say that Obama should return the award, but I think you'll find in his brief acceptance speech the spirit of cooperation and international community that other winners (such as Yasser Arafat and Henry Kissinger) did not exhibit.

    In short, the folks in Sweden decided to give Obama the award based not only upon his accomplishments, but upon his promise. If they are wrong in their decision, shame on them. But if they are right in encouraging Obama's plans, they may have chosen the best candidate.

  3. Sorry, that's the "writ" of habeas corpus, not the "write".

  4. As John Dickerson said yesterday: "The award also offers the opportunity for all of us elites to do what we do best, which is miss how regular people might react. While we're talking about how the Nobel committee has jumped the shark, some people might like that a president who they elected, in part, to improve America's image in the world has been rewarded for it."