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.
Fareed Zakaria explains the award well. So does Juan Cole at Informed Comment:
“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 🙂“
5 thoughts on “Obama prize: for the people”
I was initially stunned when I heard the news, though in hindsight it is not that surprising the Nobel Peace Prize has become politicized. Awarding it to Obama is a disgrace and the Nobel Organization stands to lose a great amount of credibility because of it – though not for the reasons the right are slinging around. This is a president who initially told the world he would end the occupation of Iraq – he has not and is not planning to. He is escalating the occupation of Afghanistan and destabilizing Pakistan. He has done nothing but threaten Iran since he has been in office – so much for diplomacy. He gave Israel the green light for the massacre in Gaza earlier this year and despite his pledge to reach out to the Muslim world, his actions point to the exact opposite. He is right, he does not deserve the award.
Obama didn’t do anything to deserve that award
What gives you the right to say he does not deserve the award? Are you in office? Are you presented with the numerous challenges this man faces…..through no fault of his own? Are you faced with the tough decisions for a nation on a daily basis?
Sure you have free speech and free will and so does the Nobel Prize committee to give the prize to whoever it chooses…..luckily the choice the committe made was unanimous.
May god keep you in his light Obama……….
Hm, if I recall correctly, Israel timed its invasion of Gaza before Obama was inaugurated, probably because they knew he would not give them a “green light” and that it was their last chance for a Bush-era-style carpet bombing of the strip.
As concerns your other points, it would be interesting to hear a response to my post… or to Juan Cole’s or Fareed Zakaria’s…
Let’s push Obama for more, but not underrate the opportunities his presidency continues to present to us. Strikes me as a cop-out to throw your hands up and just declare he’s no better than all the rest.
Because the Nobel Peace Prize can be viewed as a prize for the excellence of a person’s ideas and efforts, I think its appropriate for it to be awarded to Obama. Lets see if the world allows Obama to go forth with them, with suggestions such as yours Eamon