On my morning drive last Friday, I heard surprising news that President Barack Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize “for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.” I think I speak for nearly everyone, including the president, when I say “really?”
The awarding of the prize to our still-new Chief Executive has been widely described as “stunning”. Other words with a less neutral tone are being used by Republicans but, let’s be honest, there’s nothing surprising about their outrage. They must feel a little left out of the Nobel loop, considering the last Republican to receive the honor was Henry Kissinger. Kissinger was co-awarded the prize in 1973 for working to bring the Vietnam War to a close, though the war would continue for another four years. Here’s a tip, Republicans: don’t love war so much. You get more Peace Prizes that way.
Obama has been fairly criticized recently for being unable to deliver the changes he promised. Since he took the Oath of Office only twelve days before the close of nominations for the Nobel Peace Prize, there are legitimate questions about what he could have possibly done to deserve the award. Nine months after taking office, there are still ominous gaps in the delivery of health care reform, immigration reform, economic recovery, resolution of military conflict, and the detention of political prisoners. It doesn’t seem like he’s done anything to achieve peace beyond a white cop and a black professor.
One simple accomplishment of President Obama’s has helped bring about a more peaceful world: he is not George W. Bush.
It must be disheartening for Republican thinkers to know that the world loves our current president primarily because he is not our last president. Someone they stood with through eight years of poor policy and constitutional abuses because he was the kind of guy they’d “like to have a beer with” is seen with such derision by the rest of the world (and more than half of our country) that the international community is giving away prizes simply for not being him.
Bush had his chance. He really did. After the attacks in New York and D.C. in 2001, the entire world was on our side – on his side. World leaders joined us in an admonishment of “not cool, terrorists”. The world saw those attacks as undeserved and misguided, and supported our reach into Afghanistan to remove the Taliban and capture Osama Bin Laden. Instead of shouldering the responsibility of the power that came with that support, though, Bush and Cheney and Rumsfeld, et al. chose instead to exploit it. They used world-wide goodwill to sell their allies and the American public on an unjust and illogical assault on Iraq. Bush’s need to outshine his father, and his cronies’ greed for the money they could extract from Iraq, corrupted the international support derived from September 11th. It was the slow but certain reveal of Iraq’s non-involvement in the terror attacks that turned the opinion of the world’s nations against America and its then-president.
Imagine what Bush’s legacy could have been. Instead of attacking Iraq, what if we had remained focused on the real issue? What if our resources had instead gone to increasing the pressure on Pakistan, Afghanistan, and, yes, Saudi Arabia, to find and capture Bin Laden? Imagine Bush and his Cabinet facing off against the economic power of Middle-Eastern oil with the full support of Europe. Picture the peace that might have resulted if Bush and the Republicans had used Bin Laden’s capture to show strength against extremists, but also acknowledged that the attacks were driven by Palestinian discontent. A brokering between Israel and the Palestinians may have been Bush’s to claim if his handling of global political capital had been focused on peace over war.
So, Obama gets the Peace Prize, probably mostly because he isn’t Bush. That doesn’t mean it’s without justification. Obama’s election, as I’ve mentioned elsewhere, sent a signal to the rest of the world that our country was taking a step forward. The rejection of neo-con policy by American voters encouraged other nations to invite America back to the table. There is no mystery in the relationship between cooperation and peace. Obama’s presence alone makes the world more willing to cooperate with the U.S., and promotes “fraternity between nations”, to quote Alfred Nobel. Has anyone done more with less?
Jake Negovan strives to shine a light on truth and hypocrisy when the mainstream media overlooks those small details. “…For the People,” Jake’s column, is his platform to address the issues that our country faces as we continue growing toward a society of equality.