Monday, October 12, 2009

The Nobel Peace Committee’s Audacity of Hope (On the decision to award US President Barack Obama the Nobel Peace Prize)

By Siesta-friendly

The Audacity of Hope is now more than the title of a Barack Obama book.It also defines the Nobel Peace Prize committee’s actions – or inspiration - in 2009. For on October 9, 2009, the Norwegian Nobel Committee announced its award of the Nobel Peace Prize to US 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." [emphasis supplied]

To say that the announcement was stunning is an understatement for it is also bewildering.


First, it may be good to remember that in 1973, Vietnamese leader and peace negotiator Le Duc Tho who was made Nobel Peace Prize recipient (together with US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger) declined the award because Vietnam still had no peace agreement with the US.

Besides being the only recipient to have declined the peace prize, Le Duc Tho proved that if the Nobel Committee cannot acknowledge that the award is premature perhaps the recipient can be noble enough to do so.


Anyway, if the award is for accomplishments (and not hope), let’s begin by noting that pursuant to the rules of the Nobel Prize nomination and selection process, all letters of nominations must be “postmarked no later than 1 February each year.

Barack Obama was inaugurated as President only on January 20, 2009. Prior to said date, he had no experience, not even a reputation, for nuclear disarmament, multilateral diplomacy nor environmentalism. So all of Barack Obama’s work cited by the Nobel Committee as deserving of the peace prize must have been accomplished between January 20, 2009 (his inauguration) and February 1, 2009 (the deadline for submission of nominations). All within 12 days to be exact.

There have been no reports indicating those 12 days were filled with achievements worthy of the peace prize. In fact, within 3 days from his inauguration Mr. Obama ordered a military air strike on Pakistan killing more than a dozen people, possibly including children.

And beyond those 12 days? Well, the Obama Administration is already on its 9th month and the US:

  • is still leading 2 wars: in Iraq and Afghanistan - and actually increased military presence in the latter,
  • is still occupying Iraq,
  • has increased air strikes on Pakistan,
  • has not prevented Israel’s illegal actions (against other people’s sovereignty) and is continuously supportive of Israel (financially especially),
  • regularly threatens Iran for the latter’s perceived nuclear threat - against Israel not the US - at the same time refusing to admonish Israel which actually has nuclear missiles,
  • has not closed down its notorious prison in Guantanamo which holds prisoners of war deprived of rights to due process (and likely subjected to torture)
  • nor ratified the Kyoto Protocol.

The death toll and the effect on the lives of people terrorized, scarred, hungry, sick, homeless, aimless, displaced, disabled, abused, tortured, and orphaned as a result of, war are immeasurable.

For the hope and inspiration (even eloquence) he brings, Mr. Obama deserves all the prizes out there (maybe the Nobel Prize for Literature?). But Barack Obama is not (at least not yet) a man of peace. Unless the Nobel Committee has in fact impliedly acknowledged that war is peace and hope is enough.


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