The Peace Surprise
When Barack Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize, suffice to say the world went into shock. While they celebrated on the streets of Kenya, in Washington D.C. the mood was more sombre. That is not to say the Obama administration was not happy for his award, but in a way it was something they really could have done without. He is under immense pressure to pass the health care bill, worried sick about how to effectively deal with climate change and on the very day he was awarded the prize he was supposed to sit down with his war cabinet to discuss how many extra troops to send into Afghanistan, 40,000 or 60,000. Yes, the Nobel Peace Prize was given to a man who inspired hope around the world, but as actions speak louder than words, and for the most part all we have are words.
When Obama took to office, he was often characterised as the man who promised a lot with his words but had done precious little to back them up. He was a first term senator who took up the presidency and a lot was expected of him. What the world and the US got after his election was uninspiring to say the least. On his first day in office he said he would close down Guantanamo Bay in a year, three months from that deadline and it is clear to see that will not come to materialise. He promised to end the war in Iraq and then chalked out a three-year exit strategy, not quite the time frame people were thinking about. Last but not least he has turned the Afghan war into his pet project, as he plans to scale up the US presence in Afghanistan he intends to finish off Al-Qaeda once and for all, even if that means entering into the sovereign territory of Pakistan. That seems to be an issue the world has forgotten, when he was campaigning against Sen. John McCain for the presidency he made his stance on Afghanistan clear when he said he would hunt down terrorists even if it meant going into Pakistan. Surely the Nobel committee could not have forgotten that statement, when they gave him the award for his, "extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples."
There is a lot one can say as to why he doesn't deserve the prize but every coin has two sides. His approach to international diplomacy has been heartening to say the least. When he said he would meet a clenched fist with an open hand, people thought that his naïve move would spell foreign policy disaster for the US, and while for some time it seemed like that was what was going to happen eventually his new way, albeit in a limited way. A few weeks ago the US and Iran had both multi-lateral and face-to-face talks that eventually produced an agreement that at least temporarily keeps additional sanctions for Iran at bay. Iran will also permit inspections at its new uranium enrichment site along with a promise to transform much of its uranium into non-weapons grade material. This open hand policy also seems to be working with the case of North Korea. After insisting that they meet in the six party talks, the administration now has agreed to the possibility of face-to-face talks with Pyongyang.
But as is the case with any president, Obama's new way has been criticised by many within the media. Of his many critics Jackson Diehl the assistant editorial page editor at The Washington Post was one of the voices that people respected. With a widely read column at the Post he often criticised Obama's foreign policy as weak and ineffectual, to which the think tank Foreign Policy in Focus said, "Diehl might as well criticise Obama for not bringing about world peace, achieving global prosperity, and writing another best selling book in his first few months in office. He's president, not God." They summed up the criticism against Obama perfectly, but now as it so happens Diehl cant even complain about Obama not bringing about world peace, according to the Nobel Prize committee he is the person who has come closest to that unachievable goal, the only question that lingers is if he deserved it.
Truth be told he probably did not deserve the award for his, "extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples," because that in itself does not seem like enough to warrant an award of this stature. By giving him the award for his efforts they are in fact handing out the prize for starting a race well, not finishing it. When the Nobel Peace Prize is concerned, a little more thought should go into who it is awarded to, he has been in office for less than 10 months and not done much of real importance on the global stage, yet they felt he was the right man for the accolade. Maybe they see something in him which to be honest people around the globe see as well, the fact that he is leader who could just as well end up changing the world. But the fact of the matter is that to date he has not, and to give him the medal for his efforts shows a distinct lack of foresight from the committee. He could very well be the man who takes soldiers into Pakistan's borders, how would he be promoting world peace then?
The award should be given to people who have done something worthwhile, while there is no doubt that Obama is on his way to doing something worthwhile during his time in office, the fact of the matter is that as of now, he has done nothing. What he has done is change the global perception of the US and that is a feat in itself after eight years of Bush Jnr, but even that does not and should not make one eligible for a Nobel Prize. A few days ago Saturday Night Live joked that Obama got the award "for not being Bush" and now it seems like that is no longer a joke, but a real possibility.
Nader Rahman is the Assistant Editor of Forum.
(R) thedailystar.net 2009