My initial reaction was, like so many Twitterers and Facebookers, “It’s too early.” Obama has not nearly dismantled the GWOT to the degree I want to see, he’s still presiding over two specific wars, he hasn’t taken a position on the Goldstone report or condemned the bombing of Gaza or Israeli nukes, he may send many more troops to Afghanistan. My expectations are high, and there’s too much about American policy that continues to reek of war and imperialism.
But as a day has passed, I’ve grown more and more excited about his award. One person whose opinion I greatly respect prodded us on Twitter:
“It’s the height of cynicism, and the triumph of punditry, to scoff from the sidelines at President Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize.”
I don’t think all the negative reactions to the award from the left have been simple, sarcastic scoffing. Many are related to the continuing hugeness of the American war machine, the missile strikes on civilians in Afghanistan, the failure to satisfactorily shut Guantanamo.
But it’s a big mistake to dismiss Obama. Whatever he has or has not done so far, his election — and his galvanizing of Americans across color and class lines — represented a rejection of some of the most destructive forces in modern history. It was a mighty blow against the racism that has so long been a pillar — not just a blemish, but an integral part — of American society (even if this is not the reason given for the award). It was a sign that Americans possess the capacity to think outside of the confines of belligerence, militarism and xenophobia. Having spent my entire adult life under a democratically elected fascist regime, I had nearly given up on that capacity.
“For those who are giggling and demanding concrete improvements, it is worth noting that most of the [historical Nobel] recipients have been idealists rather than practical persons. Obama is both, and therefore he has a real shot at vindicating the social worth of his policies in future. Rightwing policies were tried for 8 years and they failed. Miserably.— Juan Cole, Informed Comment
One Syrian friend put it better than anyone in a Facebook message. I leave you with a quote from her, and beseech all you lefty Americans to stop complaining that your prez got the Prize. Instead, let’s enjoy it for what it is, and do something with the momentum.
“I personally think he got it for what his election represents to the world. It is about a leader who managed to mobilize the masses after 8 dark years. It is also about a nation that transcended issues that the rest of the world is still unable to think beyond (race and father’s name for example). It is to send a strong message to Americans that the world welcomes a sane negotiator after all the damage that the insane warlord did! I truly believe it is a well deserved prize! Obama made the world look up at America again! So yes celebrate this president and his well deserved prize 🙂 Congratulations 🙂“