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On the President’s Peace Prize

So Barack Obama has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.  With this he joins a decidedly mix bag of recipients ranging from the heroic to the undisserving to the, arguably, villainous.  For what great acts of international and humanitarian conciliation was this prize bestowed on our President?  Well, none.  He didn’t end a war like Theodore Roosevelt.  He didn’t peacefully usher a nation into independence like Lech Walesa.  He didn’t rebuild a continent and unite a war-torn and fractured continent like Gen. George Marshall.

Actually, he hasn’t done much anything at all.  In fact he’s come through on none of his peace-related campaign promises.  He still supports the indefinite and untried detention of prisoners of war at Guantanamo.  He’s taking his sweet time easing US service-men and -women out of Iraq.  He’s sending more troops to the increasingly directionless and purposeless war in Afghanistan.  He continues to support the violent, costly War on Some Drugs which is ruining lives and even taking them in increasing numbers every year.

To look at Obama, one would be tempted (or I am at least) to paint him as a useless lifetime politician who has done nothing to advance the state of human life or brotherhood on this planet.  Or at least certainly nothing on the scale of fellow Nobel Prize recipients

No, instead the Nobel Prize committee has taken an unprecedented step by giving the award to Obama for things he says he’ll do in the future.  To quote MSNBC:

“…[the Nobel Prize Committees] stunning pick was meant to build momentum behind Obama’s initiatives to reduce nuclear arms, ease tensions with the Muslim world and stress diplomacy and cooperation rather than unilateralism.”

Now, the Nobel Prize Committee is an organization beholden to no one but the Parliament of Norway.  So I have no standing whatsoever to say that they’re wrong.  If they think that Barack Obama deserves to receive the prize, then so be it.  That being said, I find the choice profoundly unsatisfying.  If the Nobel Peace Prize is meant to be a recognition worthy of international acclaim, which it purports to be and was at one time, then Barack Obama simply doesn’t make muster.

It’s clear (in fact they’re making no secret about the fact) that they intend this prize to sway the President’s behavior.  Obama’s done nothing worthy of the prize so far, but a bunch of Norwegian appointees think that they can force his hand and compel him to be a force for peace in the world by lavishing him with honors (and indeed, a fat sack of cash*).  If this can be seen as anything other than bribery, well, I’m not rightly sure what it might be.  The committee certainly appears to be trying to purchase Obama’s further commitment to peace and brotherhood the world ’round for the price of ~$1.4 Million dollars and really spiffy looking medallion.

I, for one, am left with to draw no other conclusion that this: Obama’s prize is, simply put, not meant to be an honor.  It’s meant to be a payment on future services rendered.  With no retainer against poor performance and no indication that said services will be forth coming. In short, the prize committee has laid down honor, prestige, and money, with very slim odds of getting what they want in exchange.

So while I initially thought that the folks in Oslo had made a poor choice in who to honor, I’m starting to think that their mistake was really in making a poor investment.

Time, I suppose, will tell.

*Obama, of course, is keeping none of the money.  But then again as with most politicians, I’d imagine that Obama’s more excited about the prestige than the cash.

Posted in Politics.