09 October 2009

Idiots of the Week: The Norwegian Nobel Committee

With all due respect to the President of the United States, I had been under the impression that the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to people who had actually accomplished some mission of peacemaking. When Theodore Roosevelt got it a century ago, for instance, it was for his role in brokering an end to the Russo-Japanese War. What war has Obama ended? If anything, he's going to escalate the Afghan War, and one might think that alone would disqualify him, no matter what you make of developments in Iraq.

Let's be honest: Obama is receiving the Peace Prize because he is not George W. Bush and not a neocon or neocon-friendly Republican. The Committee makes this clear in its press release. It states: "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." But if Obama is being rewarded for better American behavior, where's the practical proof of it? I'll give him credit from backing off the provocative missile-defense installations in Eastern Europe, but over this weekend you should be able to find numerous left-wing bloggers to tell you what a travesty this award is. I look forward to reading Alexander Cockburn's comments in particular. Until he posts himself, here's an angry commentary from Counterpunch, the website Cockburn co-edits. For every leftist who protests the award, of course, there'll be a Republican who treats it with contempt precisely because he thinks Obama earned it through some form of "appeasement." Wait for Charles Krauthammer in particular on that point. But Republican criticism of the award can be ignored because Republicans are contemptuous of peace on anything but their own unconditional terms. The true, substantive criticism will come from the "anti-imperialist" left, which for some observers will confirm the rightness of Obama's course.

My own complaint is that Obama is being rewarded for no more than good intentions. That these impress the Committee so much only reflects its understandably low regard for American diplomacy over the last eight years. But shouldn't the keepers of the world's most prestigious peace prize hold recipients to a higher standard? I suppose not, based on the recent trend of making it a kind of "Person of the Year" award for philanthropists, human rights activists and so forth. Al Gore got it for writing books and making speeches, not for anything he did when he had some real political power to make a difference in the world. Obama has gotten it for using real political power to make speeches. But, as Churchill is said to have said, "To jaw-jaw is always better than to war-war." Unfortunately, people are focusing on the jaw-jaw to the point that they seem to miss the war-war still going on. We could look at Afghanistan (or Pakistan) three years from now and decide that the Committee was even more idiotic than I think them now -- but let's hope not.

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