AWARD OR REWARD?
(October 9, New York, NY) Oslo Norway is a world away from Dallas Texas, the home of former President George W. Bush. Despite the geographic distance, the two locations are sites in the nexus allowing the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize to be bestowed on our current President Barak Obama.
There are not many real surprises in Washington DC politics aside from scandals however, the news from Norway in the predawn hours this morning that Obama had won the Nobel was a major, stunning and, in some quarters, outrageous news surprise. Obama is the first sitting United States President since Woodrow Wilson to win the international honor. To some, the award is a true testament that the world views our President as a transformative figure. To many others, particularly those on the conservative Right wing of American politics, Obama as a Nobel Laureate is something more akin to being name Homecoming King. The truth of the matter lies between these disparate perspectives.
Whether conservatives and Obama’s opponents like it or not, we are part of the world community. Yes, we are the lone Super Power and need not ask permission from the United Nations, NATO or any other nation when it comes to making decisions about our own national security, defense and economy. But, we are the strong giant on a crowded planet and, without international cooperation, some vital initiatives that do in fact impact us directly, including in some components of our national security, we can not accomplish that which we need to. We need only look back in our most recent past, the eight years of the George W. Bush Administration to see where “going it alone” has gotten us.
As loudly as many here on the political Right will protest, it does matter what the world thinks of us. For example, we have a long and proud history of being generous and magnanimous in victory. Not seeking an empire, we helped rebuild the world economy after World War II and, by being temperate in our relations with other nations we were able to forge strong, reliable alliances and to further cement our bond with our historical European Allies. This matters.
George W. Bush’s disdain for the rest of the world and his basically unilateral war of choice in Iraq, alienated America from many of our long time Allies and created generations of new haters particularly in the huge, global Muslim population. We cannot afford to create enemies and to ignore our Allies. The world does indeed watch America and, for better or worse, we set the tone for how much of the rest of the world behaves. Globalization has made it increasingly vital that we act in concert with other nations, that we seek compromise and agreements to avoid tension and conflict.
Naturally we should always act from our strength and in our best interest. There are times when our best interest is just that, ours and ours alone. So be it. However, the majority of the time, our interests coincide with the interests of other nations; coalitions and alliances are more apt to succeed than isolationist unilateralism.
Barak Obama’s Presidency and now, his Nobel Peace Prize, were made possible by George W. Bush and the policies, attitudes and practices of the Dick Cheney Administration. Together, Cheney and Bush did more to destroy the relationships with our Allies and reverse the foreign policy philosophy America had espoused since our birth as a nation. There can be no doubt that Obama’s Nobel is a high profile rebuke to Cheney / Bush and that , in and of itself, is meaningful. World opinion does matter; how we are perceived globally directly impacts our national security.
In some ways the world has become virtually borderless. War and famine cross national borders and disease knows no boundaries or borders. A global pandemic would quickly illustrate the necessity for us to work with other nations for our own good. We have recently witnessed just how interdependent the global economy is; each nation is just a link in a tightly coiled chain of commerce, finance, and trade. We alone can exert little pressure against nation states we view as “bad actors.” If we wish to exist in a perpetual state of war and conflict, than we can go it alone. No one would deny that we as a people would rather live securely among our global neighbors. A huge contributor to our current deep recession has been the cost of fighting a war in Iraq for six years virtually unassisted by our Allies. Our on going mess in Afghanistan is another example of what we can get mired in without strong international, sustained support. The NATO presence in Afghanistan is diminishing as our leaders are debating our future mission in that troubled land.
By his own admission early here today in his brief acceptance speech, President Obama said he did not feel “deserving” of the award but would travel to Oslo in December to accept it. According to CNN, the President , “said he viewed the decision less as a recognition of his own accomplishments and more as "a call to action." The Nobel committee recognized Obama's efforts at dialogue to solve complex global problems, including working toward a world free of nuclear weapons.”
The Nobel Peace Prize Committee sited President Obama’s "extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples." Thorbjorn Jagland, chairman of the Nobel committee, said the decision was "unanimous" and came with ease.
International reactions have largely been congratulatory towards Obama with many world leaders praising his efforts to “change the dialog” and improve the perception of America around the globe. It is a sad testament to the state of domestic politics that the Republican Party is using Obama’s award in a fund raising campaign. The derision and insults from the GOP seem not only unpatriotic and ignorant but also embarrassing. They challenge the Nobel Committee for awarding Obama on the grounds that he has “not accomplished” anything. The retort from the Committee has been that Obama’s presence alone in the White House and his embracing of a more open and thoughtful foreign policy as sufficient justification for their surprising action.
One senior White House official speaking not for attribution commented, “Every American can be and should be proud that our President has been recognized by the Nobel Committee for his efforts in forging a new foreign policy. The fact that so many here on the right are engaging in insulting, negative commentary show just how far out of touch with reality they have become.”
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