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Rejecting Nobel’s Audacity of Hope

October 21, 2009

This article appears in North of Center.  I hope everyone in the downtown Lexington area picks up a copy.

Rejecting Nobel’s Audacity of Hope:  Why We Should Not Appreciate Barack Obama’s Peace Prize

When the Norwegian Nobel Committee announced that it would give President Barack Obama the 2009 Peace Prize, I, like many people, reacted bitterly.  Having won a Peace Prize, Obama stands alongside Al Gore, Mikhail Gorbachev, and Henry Kissinger, political figures and past Nobel Prize winners who have perpetuated military and economic violence in the name of national security.

U.S. citizens should not continue to uphold the Peace Prize as worthy recognition for leaders like Martin Luther King, Desmond Tutu, or Mother Theresa, Nobel Laureates whose legacies of sacrificial reconciliation and peacemaking have been hijacked by an international community who is enamored with Obama’s charismatic appeals to Hope and Change.

The fact remains that President Barack Obama is a warmonger.  I don’t think this is an overly-pejorative term.  Obama has merely taken the Bush-era foreign policy of violence and conquest in Iraq, where the United States military industrial complex sponsored a relentless pursuit of oil, and transferred it to Afghanistan, where we are now waging another amorphous war against terrorism and spending billions of dollars in the name of “national security.”  The Huffington Post reported this week that our exploits in Afghanistan are far more dangerous than the Iraqi campaign has been.  At least 800 U.S. soldiers have died in Afghanistan, and many more civilians have lost their lives at the hands of U.S. military aggression, which has indiscriminately chased Taliban forces through the rugged Afghani landscape.

President Obama no more deserves a Nobel Peace Prize than does George W. Bush.  Yet so many political pundits and uncritical liberals give Obama (and the Norwegian Nobel Committee for that matter) the benefit of the doubt.  This is a preemptive award, they say, one that may compel Obama to steer U.S. military policy in such a way that would make him a worthy Peace Prize recipient.

I think this is magical thinking.  Since his administration took office, President Obama has selected hawks like General Stanley McChrystal to further entrench the United States in overseas combat.  We may remember McChrystal as one of the brass responsible for the Army’s shameless cover-up after the Pat Tillman friendly fire death.  Obama has increased the troop level in Afghanistan by 33 percent; he has sent an additional 21,000 men and women to fight in 2009 alone.  General McChrystal, whom Omama handpicked to head the campaign in our new rendition of the war on terror, has asked for at least 40,000 additional troops, and Obama, even as he accepted the Peace Prize with humility, refused to rule out the possibility that he would grant McChrystal’s request.

Now, thousands of U.S. soldiers, many of whom have already served multiple tours in Iraq, are preparing for lengthy deployment in Afghanistan, where they face the insurmountable task of creating a democratic order ex nihilo.  According to the Nobel Committee website, the Peace Prize is bestowed upon those individuals who “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 prnobel coinomotion of peace congresses.”  Obama has precipitously increased the standing army of the United States, and his actions have encouraged other world leaders to do the same.

We should not be proud of our President as he accepts this award.  His unwavering financial support of Israel’s military aggression has not fostered peace in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  During the 2008 Democratic National Convention, Obama kept his critic (and former Peace Prize winner) Jimmy Carter away from the convention and allowed him only a brief video message.  Obama’s underlying fear was that Carter’s role in Middle East peacemaking would cost him votes.

By default, the Commander-in-Chief of the world’s most powerful military should be ineligible for a Nobel Peace Prize, if that award is to signify anything meaningful.  Of course, an award is just an award, and Barack Obama can bring about peace in ways that most world citizens cannot.  But the aftermath of the 2009 Peace Prize award is a familiar echo of an international trend.  We support Barack Obama without holding him accountable for his actions.

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