This morning, I awoke to the news that President Barack Hussein Obama was the winner of the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize.
For the record, I wish to congratulate Mr. Obama on his award and wish him well. It is an achievement that has been won by many of the great men and women of the 20th and 21st century, 4 of whom were Presidents and Vice-Presidents of the United States. America has had many winners since the prize was first awarded in 1901. Indeed, more Americans have one the award than any nationality in the history of the prize. As an American, I feel a certain pride and satisfaction in this.
On November 27, 1895, Alfred Nobel signed his last will and testament, giving the majority share of his fortune, received in large measure from proceeds from his invention, Dynamite, to a series of prizes, known today as the Nobel Prizes. As described in Nobel's will, one of the prizes was dedicated to "the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses". Since the inception of the prize 23 American citizens and U.S. based organization have now been given this prestigious award, and now President Barack Obama becomes the 24th American recipient.
When you look ant the list of names and organizations, the record of achievement and dedication to the betterment of all mankind becomes clear. Some of the more notable American winners are President Theodore Roosevelt; for his efforts to bring a treaty of peace between the Empire of Japan and Imperial Russia. Another sitting President, Woodrow Wilson was given the award for his founding of the League of Nations, the precursor to the United Nations Organization we know today. American based organizations like The American Society of Friends (Quakers) Service Committee, the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War and International Campaign to Ban Landmines have all been recipients. Other notable awardees include Secretaries of State like Cordell Hull, George C. Marshall, for whom the Marshal Plan was named, and Henry Kissinger, who shares the prize with his North Vietnamese counterpart for their work to end the war in Vietnam.
Other notable winners include such persons as the Reverend Martin Luther King for his work in Civil Rights, Elie Wiesel, for his Chairmanship of the Presidential Commission on the Holocaust, which was charged with bringing the horrors of that genocidal act to the attention of the American people and to the world. Former President Jimmy Carter, who as a sitting President, helped negotiate a peace treaty between Israel and Egypt at Camp David, and who continued his humanitarian efforts even after leaving office. As the Nobel committee stated in his award citation: "For his decades of untiring effort to find peaceful solutions to international conflicts, to advance democracy and human rights, and to promote economic and social development".
As one can see, the list is a long, and distinguished.
The Nobel Committee has awarded this prize many times over that last century and all the winners have had legitimate and notable achievement. Agree or disagree on the actual effectiveness of their work, they made great efforts to promote peace, justice and the betterment of the human condition.
When one looks at the latest award, one is apt to ask, where is the notable achievement? Where is the noble work? What war has been stopped or prevented? What treaty has been struck? Where has a conflict been resolved? What proposition of peace has has been made? The Nobel Committee is free of course, to award to whomever it chooses, it is after all is said and done, THEIR award.... But when one looks at the people who have won this prize, when one looks at the body of work done by those who have achieved these accolades, President Barack Hussein Obama is NOT an obvious choice by any means. His nomination is reported to have been made two months prior to his ascendancy to the office of President of the United States. He had only achieved notoriety on the world stage by virtue of his running for office and for his campaign promises. Since his ascendancy to the office of President, he has made many speeches, mostly geared to presenting apologies to the world for the actions of the nation he now is chief executive of. He has made overtures to nations seen as tyrannical and dangerous. And in some quarters his actions have made America seem less strong, even weak and accommodating to those who suppress human rights and freedom.
Perhaps his more conciliatory tone is viewed as positive for world peace. It is conceivable that the Nobel Committee saw in the campaign rhetoric and in the sitting President we have today something more. According to the citation, the award was given for “his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples". A very noble sounding sentiment.... It is a grossly broad, nebulous and generalized sentiment.
Let’s review the record.
By his own account, Barack Obama had virtually no body of work beyond local (Chicago) community organizing. Indeed, until less than 2 years ago was just a candidate for the office of President, who has only recently attained office and any authority or real, meaningful public forum to “promote” anything. This award seems the act of individuals who have bought into the cult of personality instead of looking to actual good works in the name of peace. Is the world so bereft of deserving persons who have an actual record of achievement in forwarding the cause of world peace, that they felt obliged to give it to a man who’s only achievements to date are increasing his nations indebtedness, making a couple of apologetic speeches to a hostile audience deriding his own country and its foreign policy positions which have ensured the peace, security and the very existence of the western world for over 60 years? Where and what were the “extraordinary efforts” cited in the citation?
As an American, part of me is proud he won. It is hoped that it may set a good example to young and old people alike that great things are possible for those who strive to attain excellence. God knows, we need as many “Good Examples” as we can get. But on a deeper, less nationalistic or idealistic level, I am less than enthralled. It seems that the Nobel Committee is giving the award not for actual good works, actual “extraordinary efforts”, but for good intentions. His actual work, nothing except speeches and ideals and notions. I ask myself and indeed the committee: Does Barack Obama, the Apprentice President of the United States, meet the criteria of “the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses”?
Somehow I think someone, somewhere, was not keeping to the spirit or the letter of intent of the award. Was this the best possible choice? Was this the best the folks in Stockholm could do?
I had hoped for something more...
I had hoped for something real...