And the prize goes to … Obama?

Obama’s uplifting oratory is no qualification for a prize based on results.

by Rania Abuisnaineh

As I am sure every one of you has heard by now, President Barack Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on Oct. 9 âÄî an award decision that has left me perplexed. I am sure I am joined by countless others scratching their heads. Reflecting back, it was an impressive rise to go from community organizer to law professor to junior senator to president, but to have already won the Nobel Peace Prize? Quite an ascent, indeed. Especially when one has difficulty explaining just what Obama won the prize for. Every person that I told expressed disbelief, then the same sentiment, âÄúWhat did he do to deserve that?âÄù Well, according to the Nobel Prize Committee, Obama received the award âÄúfor his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.âÄù Also, âÄúthe Committee has attached special importance to ObamaâÄôs vision of and work for a world without nuclear weapons.âÄù Oh, wow. I was certain he won the award for his basketball skills and those pictures of his bulky pecs at the beach. Yes, I suppose it is true that Obama has hit the foreign policy trail pretty hard, but isnâÄôt this a bit much too soon? Obama winning this award is really the expression of some sort of international sigh of relief at the fact that he is not President George W. Bush and that our presidentâÄôs foreign policy outlook is decidedly friendlier. Obama visited more countries than any other president in their first year on the job, and he also granted the first live television interview of his presidency to an Arabic television network, appealing to the Middle East that our relationship with them was going to be better. Obama has pushed forth reams of rhetoric about how the United States wants to strengthen its relationship with Muslim communities, as well. The problem is, unless there have been mass outbreaks of people of all ethnicities holding hands and singing âÄúKumbayaâÄù and proclaiming to be each otherâÄôs brothers and sisters, for all this talk, little has actually been accomplished by ObamaâÄôs âÄúextraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.âÄù While some might think that this award must be a nod to ObamaâÄôs world-class speech-giving abilities, it is a shame that the speeches are backed by little actual cooperation or action. The last time I checked, the United States was still fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with casualties on both sides continuing. The committee may have rationalized giving a âÄúpeaceâÄù prize to someone who is currently the leader of a country that is fighting two wars by telling themselves that these were BushâÄôs wars and that Obama is not the one with blood on his hands because of them. But this is an ignorant position. The wars have become ObamaâÄôs responsibility as the leader of the United States, so he certainly should not be receiving any peace prizes unless he orchestrates their end and makes actual peace. While Obama has announced that combat forces in Iraq will be withdrawn near the close of 2010, this is a promise for the future; it is something that could happen or could end up going terribly awry and not happening for much longer. It is not a guarantee, and it should not be treated as a certainty. Disregarding Iraq, where the promise to remove troops aids in justifying ObamaâÄôs award, more Afghani troops have been brought in to fight. ItâÄôs great that Obama can talk so much about bettering relationships and cooperation, fight two wars in the same area and then win a prize for being such a swell guy. The other part of the reasoning for ObamaâÄôs award was that he has worked hard toward lessening nuclear proliferation and is very serious about this goal of removing some of our nuclear cache and having other countries do the same. This has been very admirable of him, and while it is too early for him to be rewarded for this now, it could end up being one of the most important parts of his legacy. In a speech in the Czech Republic in April, Obama said, âÄúSome argue that the spread of these weapons cannot be stopped. Such fatalism is a deadly adversary. If we believe that, then we are admitting that the use of nuclear weapons is inevitable.âÄù A new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty with Russia is supposed to be negotiated by the end of the year as well, which would be a very important step in working toward non-proliferation of nuclear weapons. Though these things are good and bode well for a future with less destruction, the committee again awarded these beginnings too soon. The other side of this coin is that since gaining office, Obama has seen both North Korea and Iran take steps toward the construction of nuclear weapons. It is great that Obama wants to work towards lessening everyoneâÄôs current stash of arms, but to let new, volatile countries acquire them certainly negates that work. The field of candidates for this yearâÄôs Nobel Peace Prize must have been award-winningly terrible, because the committee has just tossed the blue ribbon to the piglet that seemed healthiest. Two years from now, Obama may deserve a Nobel Peace Prize, but to award it to him right now is simply ignoring the facts of the world and praying that his promises and words turn out to be something more than a bunch of fluff. Let us hope that they are. John Hauck welcomes comments at [email protected]