Friday, October 9, 2009

And the Winner is...

This morning it was revealed that Barack Obama won the Nobel Peace prize "for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen national diplomacy and cooperation between peoples." Now I'm not going to sit here and knock Obama down for receiving the award. At the end of the day, the Nobel Prize Committee is a private organization and they can bestow whatever accolades they wish on any person. But I have to say this is one more crooked feather in the cap of that committee. I just think it's become almost a joke; does anyone think the nominations reflect actual substantive efforts to reach peace or is it merely, as I posit, a showering of political affection and affinity?

Let's look at the U.S. presidents who have been bestowed with this honor:

  • Woodrow Wilson
  • Theodore Roosevelt
  • Jimmy Carter
  • Barack Obama

Now, without pointing out the obvious commonality in the political bent of these nominees, I think it's safe to say that these people did not win by improving their peoples' standard of living with great economic policies. But if the Nobel Peace Prize is about fostering peace, exactly how did these bozos get on the ticket? I do have to give some slack to Jimmy Carter here. Although he did, almost single-handedly, prove Keynesian spending to be anachronistic at best, he actually was, and remains, a huge proponent of peace...not to mention that he's probably the most intelligent president, academically speaking, we've ever had. But these other guys are no friends of peace given their record.

Even Obama has yet to prove this. Awarding the prize to him seems to me to have been a reflexive response to the abhorred foreign policy of the Bush years. Yet, Obama in his tenure thus far has followed through with, if not escalated, those policies. Granted he TALKS a lot more about peace. And yet, he's still on the same timeline Bush left for Iraq, he's ramped up operations in both Afghanistan and Pakistan, and (amazingly) his administration seems to be preparing for possible military action to impede Iran's nuclear development. Rhetoric is fine, but one would hope that some type of actionable achievements to those ends would have been brought to bear for such an adornment.

Of course, it doesn't take a brain surgeon to see that the committee has put their political views and current sentiment before the quality of their nominees a few other times in its history. It's a little hard to ignore the fact that they've failed to nominate Mahatma Gandhi or John Paul II but have nominated, among others, Stalin, Mussolini, and Hitler. That's one hell of a track record. And if that doesn't convince you that politics is prime here, consider that nominations start in September (before Obama was even elected) and ended in February (less than two weeks after Obama became president). Now maybe in that short time span, Obama had achieved some kind of miraculous move towards world peace that I wasn't privy to, but I'm more inclined to believe that the Nobel Peace Prize is just what it appears to be; less about the actual realization of world peace and more about a throw-away to contemporary neo-liberal sentiment.

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