Saturday, October 10, 2009

More thoughts on a Nobel Peace Prize

Did Barack Obama deserve the Nobel Peace Prize? He, himself, said that he didn't think he deserved it, but received it humbly on behalf of the American people -- that is those Americans who value diplomacy and seek good will in the world. Apparently many on the right don't value such things, their ill-will directed at the President says more about them than it does about whether the President deserved it or didn't deserve it. Then there are those on the left who also sneer at the awarding of the prize.

In response to both, I say, let him be. He never promised to be a pacifist president nor did he promise to save the world.

Barack Obama has been in office for only a short time. He hasn't had time to achieve great breakthroughs. The prize may be commending him more for potential than accomplishment. It might be a statement of gratitude that there is a new administration that is less bellicose than the previous one.

As the NY Times Op-Ed points out, this is not only a mixed blessing for the White House, but they may have rather not have been so honored. Had they known this was coming (the prize that is) they probably would have foreseen the ugliness of the American response. Yes, I said ugliness. When the rest of the world (minus Iran and the Taliban) hail Obama for changing the tone in Washington, the response I hear coming from the lips of Americans is not only disheartening but shameful.

America's ideals are wonderful, but in practice we so often undermine them by hubris, pride, and a lack of willingness to celebrate that which is good amongst us. To be liked by others in the world, apparently is a bad thing. To be honored by another country is a bad thing. I'm sorry, but I'm appalled at what I'm hearing.

I'm proud that our President has changed the tone of conversation. No, he's not ended the wars. He's not closed Guantanamo. He's not brought manna from heaven either. He's not perfect. He's made mistakes. I've not agreed with all his decisions. But he's working hard to make a difference in the world. That's something worth lifting up.


Anonymous said...

Consider me stifled then.
It's your blog. David Mc

John said...

While I agree with the award, I sympathize with those who fear that Obama has become too much of a rock star on the world scene, and that praise and accolades come too easily. Is it possible that we are nurturing a demagogue?


Thom Stark said...

Well said.

Thom Stark said...

Well said, Bob, that is. Not the commenters. :)

Pastor Bob Cornwall said...

When you are continually being attacked by left and right, I don't think you have to worry about becoming a demagogue!

Lisa said...

I think the Nobel Prize is an honor for the President, he was very gracious about accepting it.

Allan R. Bevere said...


I appreciate your thoughts, but I am wondering if you are missing the point here. I direct you to the latest editorial by Lee Siegel, an Obama supporter. I think he has some thoughts worth considering:

Pastor Bob Cornwall said...


Obama isn't being criticized because of problems with the Nobel Prize, but because -- on the Right -- he's Obama and we can't say anything nice about him. And on the Left because, well he's not walking the party line.

My point here is that whether deserved or not, he's been given the prize. He graciously accepted it on behalf of the American People.

Allan R. Bevere said...


I hear what you are saying, but I cannot help but thinking what is the point. He received an award from a bunch of white guys in Norway. That is not his doing to be sure. Those who are going after him on this have missed the matter entirely. At the same time, however, I cannot understand why those on the other side are so excited about this.

Lisa said...

I think the Nobel Prize is an honor for the President and our country. Hopefully, this means we can end the war.

Anonymous said...

Hopefully, this means we can end the war.

You means wars. There are several.

Mystical Seeker said...

And on the Left because, well he's not walking the party line.

Obama is being criticized from the left because he is not of the left. He is a centrist, not a progressive, and he has never claimed to be anything but that. Before he was elected he took clear positions that were contrary to what progressives stand for--his support for capital punishment, his vote for FISA, his association with the Carter administration hawk Zgib Brzezinski, and so on. When he was elected he made it clear that he was going to govern as a centrist, not from the left. A lot of progressive projected their own image onto Obama and naively though that Obama was a progressive, mostly probably because Obama had opposed the Iraq War. It is only after he became president that it became clear that he was not one of them.

Far from deviating from any party line, I would argue that Obama is very much in tune with the neo-liberal, free market, pro-corporate ideology of centrist Democratic Party politics. he is toing a party line--just not the one that the left agrees with.

My reason for objecting to giving a "peace" prize to a man who is fighting two wars ought to be self evident. It is true that Obama never claimed to be a pacifist, which I think is sort of the point--he isn't a pacifist, so why give him a prize that is ostensibly dedicated to peace? The American Friends Service Committee and Martin Luther King have won Nobel Peace Prizes as tireless advocates for peace, and they deserved those prizes. It is really hard to put Obama into the same category as those others.

I would also suggest that giving him credit for being less unilateral than Bush, or for using diplomacy more, is not in and of itself meaningful in this context. He did not win the Nobel Diplomacy Prize, and diplomacy per se actually has no direct relationship with peace. Using diplomacy to get other countries to join you fighting wars, for example, is an illustration of this point. Multilateralism can be used to promote the joint imperialist or corporate economic interests of the parties involved, or to use the tools of military might to achieve those interests. So the fact that Obama may be more interested in multilateralism than Bush was is not really germane, as far as I am concerned. In a way, I think part of the problem is that Bush set the bar so low that anyone would seem better by comparison.

Anonymous said...

It's the award stupid. At least I didn't call you ugly.

Anonymous said...

I hope you caught the political catch phrase:

It's the economy, stupid!

It's the Deficit, Stupid!

It's the Corporation, Stupid

It's the Math, Stupid

It's the Voters, Stupid