Saturday, October 10, 2009

Steve Clemons explains why Obama deserves the Nobel Peace Prize already

There have been a lot of people who have questioned why, after only nine months in office, Obama deserves the Nobel Peace Prize. It's interesting that until now, no sitting U.S. president since Woodrow Wilson has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. A lot of people are asking "Why now? Why Obama?"

Steve Clemons gives the answer. Keep in mind that the Nobel Peace Prize is for actions on the world stage. Since most Americans do not think about anything outside the U.S., they tend to be quite oblivious to what is happening on the world stage. By focusing on domestic U.S. events they have missed what Obama has done already in the globalized world. Here's Steve's explanation.
The world has been mesmerized by Obama since he started to run for the presidency. The battle between Hillary Clinton and Obama for the Democratic nomination did more to educate the rest of the world about real political choice -- and about a system in which no candidates had an automatic lock on victory -- than any USAID program could have achieved.

Obama's decision to make the ulcerous Israeli-Palestinian negotiations one of the first foreign policy challenges of his administration, rather than the last, defied most seasoned analysts' expectations. His message to Iran's citizens, marking the Persian new year holiday of Nowruz, and his powerful and captivating speech in Cairo, Egypt, communicated to Muslims all around the world that their lives and their faith and their expectations for a better world were vital and as valid as any others.

From his perch in the White House, Barack Obama affirmed the humanity of Muslims and told them that America does value Muslim lives.

Obama's posture and rhetoric have reversed the collapse of hope and trust that the world's citizens had in America and stopped the degradation of America's image during the tenure of George W. Bush and Richard Cheney.

Should a U.S. president get the Nobel Peace Prize if he's about to send more U.S. troops, armed drones, bombs, tanks and other military hardware into the war-ripped zones in Afghanistan?

Or should Obama get the prize if he hasn't even succeeded in getting Israeli-Palestinian negotiations going? Or if he hasn't gotten Iran to drop its nuclear ambitions and to re-enter the international system on constructive terms?

The answer is yes.


What is brilliant about Obama and why he deserves the Nobel Peace Prize is that he is a global leader who clearly saw the gains that could be made in changing "the optics" of the global order, upgrading the level of respect between the United States and other nations, making a point of listening to other leaders.

Obama saw that before the world could move to a more stable and better global equilibrium, it had to believe it could -- and this is what Obama has done in ways that no other leader has in memory.


...the Nobel Prize Committee has shrewdly given a key down payment for a kind of leadership it wants to see from the U.S. for many more years and given Obama another tool to help craft a new global social contract between the United States and other responsible stakeholders in the international system.
So that's why Obama deserves the Nobel Peace Prize now, even though he has only been in office a very short time. The next question is why the American right-wingers have reacted in such a negative and unpatriotic way to the award from Oslo.

The answer to that is reasonably clear, also. It comes from the nature of conservatives and from their frustration as Obama has slipped their grasp. They "know" that Obama is wrong as President. The President should always be one of their own. They thought that after this summer they were winning. They were returning America to the "proper" balance and were constraining Obama's ability to act. The Nobel Foundation's award of the Peace Prize to Obama threatens all of their progress. And that threat comes from outside the United States, which makes the conservatives even angrier.

Conservatives are by definition traditionalists. They dislike social change and they have a strong sense that there is a given social order, one they belong at the top of. For Obama to become President upsets the social order as they see it and represents the threat of change. Their reaction to that threat is to be viscerally upset, and they are reacting with anger and frustration. They have been escalating the anger since Obama won the election last November and they clearly thought that they were succeeding in limiting what Obama could accomplish in office. That was their message last week when they reacted in such delight when they watched the Olympic committee reject Obama's pitch to give the Olympics to Chicago. The reaction of the right-wing talk show hosts and the Republican political leaders clearly showed that they thought their team had one a big one in Copenhagen. They were on the hunt, and they had their rabbit cornered.

The Nobel Peace Prize Committee snatched away their prey.

Not only did Obama slip their grasp, the Peace Prize gives him a position that will provide protection from their attacks from now on. It's what the Nobel Committee did for Martin Luther King, Lech Wałęsa, Desmond Tutu and for Aung San Suu Kyi. The conservatives thought they had Obama and they were going to return America to what they know is the way it should be. The Nobel Committee has yanked that away from them in a way they never expected possible.

It was a brilliant decision by the Nobel Foundation.

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