Reading about the creeping descent into war with Syria, the first civilian death from a drone strike since Obama's counter-terrorism speech, and the ongoing revelations of the vast, unaccountable surveillance state, it is difficult not to see a rather bitter irony in the fact that President Barack Obama is a Nobel laureate. The Committee in Oslo awarded to Obama on October 9, 2009, just eight and a half months after his inauguration.
Almost four years hence, the language of the press release announcing the award seems quaint and ironic. The U.S. has ended combat operations in Iraq, but not out of choice and not without a residual military presence. Obama has overseen an escalation of the drone war, that violates both the U.S. constitution and international law. Obama authorized the surge in Afghanistan, that left the country less stable. There were well over 9,000 civilian casualties in Afghanistan in Obama's first term. The president violated the War Powers Act in his intervention into Libya. To turn toward another aspect of international affairs, the U.S. has continued to undermine international climate negotiations. The list could go on. The Nobel Committee sure knows how to pick a winner!
Rather than continuing to catalog examples of unchanged U.S. foreign policy, I'll just post the press release for your reading pleasure. I look forward to your comments.
The Nobel Peace Prize for 2009There's an acute irony in the second to last sentence: "For 108 years, the Norwegian Nobel Committee has sought to stimulate precisely that international policy and those attitudes for which Obama is now the world's leading spokesman." In 1906, ardent imperialist, nationalist, warmonger, and apologist of torture Theodore Roosevelt, who thought war was a necessary purifying force in effete bourgeois modern society, won the Nobel Peace Prize for his arbitration of the Russo-Japanese War. Ardent imperialist Elihu Root, who suppressed the independent movement in the Philippines, helped design the Platt Amendment (which demanded military and economic concessions from Cuba, including the naval base in Guantanamo Bay), and WWI preparedness advocate, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1912 for his work on international arbitration. Woodrow Wilson, who invaded Mexico, initiated a 19-year military occupation of Haiti, and "kept us out of the war" until, of course, he got us into it, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1919 for his work in negotiating the Treaty of Versailles, which enabled Britain and France to expand their imperial reach. In 1973, everybody's favorite war criminal Henry Kissinger won the Nobel Peace Prize for his work on the Paris Peace Accords, ending the Vietnam War. The Nobel Committee, unfortunately, has awarded the "international policy and attitudes" represented by the Obama administration in the past.
The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided that the Nobel Peace Prize for 2009 is to be awarded to President Barack Obama for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples. The Committee has attached special importance to Obama's vision of and work for a world without nuclear weapons.
Obama has as President created a new climate in international politics. Multilateral diplomacy has regained a central position, with emphasis on the role that the United Nations and other international institutions can play. Dialogue and negotiations are preferred as instruments for resolving even the most difficult international conflicts. The vision of a world free from nuclear arms has powerfully stimulated disarmament and arms control negotiations. Thanks to Obama's initiative, the USA is now playing a more constructive role in meeting the great climatic challenges the world is confronting. Democracy and human rights are to be strengthened.
Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world's attention and given its people hope for a better future. His diplomacy is founded in the concept that those who are to lead the world must do so on the basis of values and attitudes that are shared by the majority of the world's population.
For 108 years, the Norwegian Nobel Committee has sought to stimulate precisely that international policy and those attitudes for which Obama is now the world's leading spokesman. The Committee endorses Obama's appeal that "Now is the time for all of us to take our share of responsibility for a global response to global challenges."
Oslo, October 9, 2009