The news that Obama has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize travelled around the world today like wildfire. Obama said he was surprised that he had been chosen. I’ll go one better and say that I’m positively flabbergasted.
It seems that one can now be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on the basis of words alone. After all, Obama talks about peace at every opportunity, but what has he actually done to achieve it? Aren’t peace prizes supposed to recognise, oh, you know, actual achievements?
The Nobel committee applauded Obama’s approach of considered international diplomacy and the willingness to make concessions along the way. Whilst these qualities are, indeed, uncommon traits in American leaders, they’re not unusual per se. it does therefore seem as if Obama is being rewarded for the sheer contrast of his presidency with that of his predecessor. Eight years of idiocy, lies and greed from Bush and his cohorts continue to make Obama look better than he really is.
Obama’s approach to international diplomacy is nothing new. Certainly, it’s new for the usually belligerent, unilaterally operating nation over which he presides, but at a global level, one has to wonder why, if the bar is set so low, no other Western leader has received a Nobel prize in recent years. After all, they, too, have waxed lyrical about peace and freedom, urged for talks and emphasised the need for the all nations to share in the responsibility of building a safer world for us all to live in. I’m not suggesting that they also deserved a prize; I’m saying that they didn’t, and neither did Obama.
Looking beyond the poetic speechwriters’ prose, let’s look at a couple of things that Obama has actually done this year to influence peace:
He has deployed an extra 21,000 troops in Afghanistan and is currently considering committing a further 40,000.
He has refused to cut military aid to Israel, in spite of the knowledge that Israel repeatedly uses arms manufactured in the US to commit gross human rights violations, as independently determined by Amnesty International.
Those two facts a lone make a mockery of Obama’s being awarded a Peace Prize. Robert Mugabe must be waiting in the wings for a 2010 nomination.
Being seen to broker peace whilst arming one side of the conflict is the kind of hypocritical currency with which observers of US foreign policy are all too familiar. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Obama isn’t so very different from his predecessors.
In his favour, he is vastly more eloquent and charming. Add to that the fact that he has come along at a time when the American public have never been more desperate to believe in something, and his meteoric rise seems all but inevitable. That the gullible, television-fed masses of America are helpless, willing fodder for Obama’s hollow promise of a better world is one thing, but shouldn’t we expect a more considered verdict from a Nobel committee?
Perhaps not. These same people hand-picked Al Gore for the same prize just a few years ago.
At best, this award is a prize of encouragement, an expression of hope. It’s to say: you’re on the right track; we like what you’re doing; please continue. It’s not a reward for any achievement already banked.
To Obama’s credit, he recognises that his goals, not his achievements, are being rewarded and states that he feels ill at ease having his name mentioned in the same breath as some of the previous recipients of the prize. He feels his name doesn’t sit well next to theirs. On that much, at least, Obama and I can agree.
Obama has said he will donate the prize money associated with the award to a good cause. One can only hope he doesn’t choose to add it to the Israeli military aid budget.