Friday, October 09, 2009

Obama? WTF?

Obama doesn't deserve the Nobel Peace Prize. Not yet. I mean, I voted for the man, and I'd certainly vote for him again tomorrow against anyone the Republicans could come up with, but let's get real here. He hasn't done much of anything yet except not be George Bush or John McCain (admittedly a big step towards a more peaceful world, but still).

Glenn Greenwald summed up why I don't think Obama deserves the award:

Obama has changed the tone America uses to speak to the world generally and the Muslim world specifically. His speech in Cairo, his first-week interview on al-Arabiya, and the extraordinarily conciliatory holiday video he sent to Iran are all substantial illustrations of that. His willingness to sit down and negotiate with Iran -- rather than threaten and berate them -- has already produced tangible results. He has at least preliminarily broken from Bush's full-scale subservience to Israel and has applied steadfast pressure on the Israelis to cease settlement activities, even though it's subjected him to the sorts of domestic political risks and vicious smears that have made prior Presidents afraid to do so. His decision to use his first full day in office to issue Executive Orders to close Guantanamo, ostensibly ban torture, and bar CIA black sites was an important symbol offered to the world (even though it's been followed by actions that make those commitments little more than empty symbols). He refused to reflexively support the right-wing, civil-liberty-crushing coup leaders in Honduras merely because they were "pro-American" and "anti-Chavez," thus siding with the vast bulk of Latin America's governments -- a move George Bush, or John McCain, never would have made. And as a result of all of that, the U.S. -- in a worldwide survey released just this week -- rose from seventh to first on the list of "most admired countries."

All that said, these changes are completely preliminary, which is to be expected given that he's only been in office nine months. For that reason, while Obama's popularity has surged in Western Europe, the changes in the Muslim world in terms of how the U.S. is perceived have been small to nonexistent. ... People who live in regions that have long been devastated by American weaponry don't have the luxury of being dazzled by pretty words and speeches. They apparently -- and rationally -- won't believe that America will actually change from a war-making nation into a peace-making one until there are tangible signs that this is happening. It's because that has so plainly not yet occurred that the Nobel Committee has made a mockery out of their own award.


Beyond Afghanistan, Obama continues to preside over another war -- in Iraq: remember that? -- where no meaningful withdrawal has occurred. He uttered not a peep of opposition to the Israeli massacre of Gazan civilians at the beginning of this year (using American weapons), one which a U.N. investigator just found constituted war crimes and possibly crimes against humanity. The changed tone to Iran notwithstanding, his administration frequently emphasizes that it is preserving the option to bomb that country, too -- which could be a third war against a Muslim country fought simultaneously under his watch. He's worked tirelessly to protect his country not only from accountability -- but also transparency -- for the last eight years of war crimes, almost certainly violating America's treaty obligations in the process. And he is currently presiding over an expansion of the legal black hole at Bagram while aggressively demanding the right to abduct people from around the world, ship them there, and then imprison them indefinitely with no rights of any kind.

It's certainly true that Obama inherited, not started, these conflicts. And it's possible that he could bring about their end, along with an overall change in how America interacts with the world in terms of actions, not just words. If he does that, he would deserve immense credit -- perhaps even a Nobel Peace Prize. But he hasn't done any of that. And it's at least as possible that he'll do the opposite: that he'll continue to escalate the 8-year occupation of Afghanistan, preside over more conflict in Iraq, end up in a dangerous confrontation with Iran, and continue to preserve many of the core Bush/Cheney Terrorism policies that created such a stain on America's image and character around the world.

Nobel Peace prizes, it seems to me, should be awarded for what people have actually done, or at least what they're clearly trying to do, not for what they say they want to do. Talk is cheap, after all.

I think the most, um, "noble" thing for Obama to do would be to decline the award. I'd like to see him say, "I haven't done anything yet. Come back in three years and see if you still think I deserve it." That would be all kinds of awesome. But I guess that kind of thing doesn't happen in the real world.

Anyway, though, at least we'll get to enjoy the spectacle of the rightwing going absolutely apeshit over this.


  1. I don't know why I can't post a link...but Yahoo! News/AP has posted the common misconception on the Nobel Peace prize. It SHOULD be awarded to the action accomplished but they did say it could be awarded to ENCOURAGE the person to see the action through.

    I agree with you he shouldn't take it just yet. But now the pressure's on to proof himself worthy of the prize.

  2. They've given the prize before to people whose work on peace didn't come to fruition (Arafat and Rabin, for example), but this just seems way too preliminary. He's still fighting two wars, for crying out loud. The prize should be for something more than "setting a tone" I think.

    But I hope you're right, and he takes this as pressure to be a peacemaker.


What do you think?