Friday, October 09, 2009

What Is A Peace Prize For, Then? [UPDATED]

Far be it from me to rain on the parade when our President wins the Nobel Peace Prize, but.

Um. How can I put this...

Are you kidding?

We're still in Iraq, and we have escalated in Afghanistan.

When Nobel chairman Thorbjoern Jagland says that President Obama has created "a new climate in international politics," I am wondering about actual climate change and how little President Obama has extended himself to confront it.

It is true that Obama has shown more skill at diplomacy, and perhaps more respect for the art, than his predecesoor -- but this is not saying a whole lot. The Nobel peace prize? With little being done about militarism or the ecological crisis, a rational transition to sustainable energy sourcing, or even our own health insurance problem or the international food crisis.

Far from reducing the 1000 military bases we have around the world, it does not even appear he will be able to fulfill his own order to close Guantanamo Bay. Our trade in military arms is expanding. Do they really give Nobel peace prizes for expanding enterprise in arms trafficking and for escalating ongoing wars? The logic eludes me.

What about our private "contractors" abroad, who have engaged in the murder of foreign civilians? What about the antics at our embassy in Kabul? About which we have done nothing more than "review" the contracts of the companies responsible? (In the case of Blackwater, now known as Xe, the Obama Administration continues to issue billion-dollar contracts to the company.) The number of these contractors has also expanded -- armed and largely unaccountable mercenaries unleashed in other countries.

A Nobel peace prize?


This is not an occasion to slam President Obama, although that is of course what it has become for his political opponents. Rather it is one in a series of opportunities to ponder the nature of this prestigious award itself. It was given to Henry Kissinger in 1973, with the Viet Nam war roaring; it was given to Yassir Arafat, who did not prove to be much of an agent for peace.

President Obama is still new to his office and could advance real initiatives to move us toward peace. How much power he really has to do that, even if he has the will, remains to be seen.


Kelly said...

I did wonder a little about this.

Nathan said...

I don't get it either. Then again, Kissenger also got a Nobel Prize, as did Arafat among others.

Pam said...

I like Obama but this is just policital pandering from the countries that detested Bush.

Kind of diminishes the prize when it becomes about something other than 'peace'.

Hey, I have good intentions, too. Can I be in the running next year? :)

Pam said...

Yes, some people are using this issue to slam Obama, but others (even those Obama supporters) question whether this was simply used to get back at the hated Bush era or a reflection of Obama's super star status.

There are other worthy people who have a body of work over time to merit this award.

I like our President and he has many good intentions. It's too early to see any real fruits from his intentions. It's premature.

What is does, as you question, is raise the question as to the purpose of this award.

Algernon said...

Although I have used this post to question the nature of the award and the committee's thought process, I must reject the notion that this is somehow about George W. Bush.

The Fox Network is playing that up because that's their business. I may think the Nobel committee has made some misguided choices of recipients, but I don't think they are so petty as to give it to Obama simply because he isn't George W. Bush. Would they have given it to Hillary Clinton if she had become president?

More likely, the committee is thinking about his 2008 speech about nuclear weapons, and perhaps they were inspired by his promises at the beginning of his administration regarding torture and prisons on foreign soil.

A friend of mine who worked as a White House staffer under President Clinton wrote to me that while some of the previous recipients "didn't make the world peaceful...they either provided hope or made significant progress toward that goal."

This argument only invites comparisons with other crucially important peacemakers -- one of whom has been under house arrest for years and is in constant danger of losing her liberty or even her life.

It's nice to make the argument that the Nobel peace prize is seeking to encourage new developments -- but it is not the "Nobel Hope Prize" or the "Nobel Terrific Speech about Peace" prize. Nor is it the "Nobel Thank You For Electing a Reasonable President" prize.