Just like home team fans chant to the person in the outfield bleachers who caught a visiting batter’s home run, we too should chant to Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Barak Obama, “throw it back”. No offense to the President as he did not ask for the award and I have to believe that after last week’s Copenhagen debacle he was as surprised as anyone. However, Oslo’s temerarious decision to precipitously award its most famous prize renders peace making more challenging not less.
First, let’s look at some of members of the five person Nobel Peace Prize Committee that bestows this Award. In 2003, the Norwegian daily Aftenposten quoted Chair Thorbjoern Jagland, “If anything is a threat against world peace, it is the Israeli occupation.” Not to be outdone, committee member Aagot Valle has advocated boycotts against Israel for building its security fence, sought Norwegian asylum for Israeli felon Mordechai Vanunu and stated of the award, “Those who were in support of Bush in his belief in war solving problems, on rearmament, and that nuclear weapons play an important role … probably won’t be happy.” And then there’s Sissel Marie Roenbeck who in 2003 told an AP reporter doing a piece on the Nobel Committee’s regret with awarding the 1994 prize to Shimon Peres (the Nobel Committee jointly awarded the Peace Prize to Peres and Arafat, but regretted Peres’ receipt only) that, “the Israeli government (is) largely responsible for the conflict”.
Second, as many have already written, and as noted by Aagot Valle above, the Committee awarded President Obama the Prize because he is not George Bush. But I and a few billion others possess that same qualification and spite surly cannot be the greatest value for peacemakers.
Third, the Norwegians want a world without nuclear weapons and appreciate that Obama shares a similar vision. I always thought, however, that the Committee awarded actual accomplishments, not mere vision. If one day the President does in fact rid the world of these awful inventions, award him 20 Peace Prizes. Hell, name it after him. But as of October 9, 2009 the world is less not a single nuclear weapon than on January 20, 2009.
Fourth, I fear in fact that nuclear weapons will proliferate with rogue regimes making the world less not more secure. By awarding Obama the Prize now, the Committee is recognizing in particular the US’s engagement with Iran. The result of which may lighten the Administration’s use of tougher sanctions. Ironically though, only serious sanctions and non-removal of military options will render Iranian engagement successful.
Fifth, based on the Committee member’s background, they must appreciate Obama’s hard-line with Israel regarding its “settlements”, regardless of how counterproductive a policy. The Committee I’m sure thinks this anointment provides Obama with the cache and clout to bring heretofore immovable parties together. Instead, no one will want to be perceived as “giving in” on core believes just because a guy has a fancy necklace. Thus, everyone will dig in more to avoid being portrayed as weak.
Sixth, this Prize is bad for Obama. On the heels of Saturday Night Lives’ “I’ve done nothing” skit, an award for doing nothing only reinforces this building perception. The President needs this recognition like Britney Spears needs recognition for her mothering skills. It invites more scrutiny and raises expectations to unreasonable levels. This President can wait for recognition when his actions help resolve such trouble spots as N. Korea, Iran, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan. Then the Prize will have meaning for the President and for us.