October 10th, 2009 at 09:20am
I awoke to the bizarre news this morning that US President Barack Obama has solidified his position as King Of The World by being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, and the even more bizarre news that I agree with him about something.
“I do not feel that I deserve to be in the company of so many transformative figures that have been honored by this prize,” he said.
This isn’t to say that he won’t be worthy of the award in a few years, as he may very well be worthy of it then, but right now, he hasn’t done anything to bring peace to the world. Yes, he has promised a lot, and yes he has talked about peace a lot, but he hasn’t actually brought about any changes which have resulted, or will soon result, in peace.
Obama is the third sitting US President to receive the award, behind Theodore Roosevelt in 1906 and Woodrow Wilson in 1919, however there is a large difference between them and Obama. They had actually done something momentous.
Roosevelt was honored largely for brokering an agreement between Russia and China, and Wilson took the award for his role in ending World War I and creating the League of Nations.
It’s far too early to compare Obama to either of his predecessors, said Allan Lichtman, professor of history at American University.
“They’re not comparable,” Lichtman said. “[Roosevelt and Wilson] were six or seven years into two-term presidencies, and Obama has not completed a single year of his presidency, so it makes very little sense.”
Obama possesses a great deal of “promise,” but the jury is still out, Lichtman said.
“It remains to be seen what his foreign policy legacy will be,” he said. “It is premature. This was to encourage rather than to recognize an accomplished fact.”
Update: As Clayton Northcutt has pointed out in the comments below, journalist Joshua Rhett Miller made a mistake. Theodore Roosevelt was awarded the Nobel prize for brokering an agreement between Russian and Japan, not Russia and China. End Update
And that’s the problem. The Nobel Peace Prize exists to reward achievement, not to recognise that somebody might achieve something. Anybody might achieve something, and there is no doubt that back when nominations closed on February 1, less than two weeks in to Obama’s term as President, he had the potential to achieve something, but to give the award to somebody who might achieve something, rather than somebody who has achieved something, is ludicrous, and cheapens the prize considerably.
So, who else was in the running for the prize? Well these six people for starters:
Sima Samar, women’s rights activist in Afghanistan: “With dogged persistence and at great personal risk, she kept her schools and clinics open in Afghanistan even during the most repressive days of the Taliban regime, whose laws prohibited the education of girls past the age of eight. When the Taliban fell, Samar returned to Kabul and accepted the post of Minister for Women’s Affairs.”
Ingrid Betancourt: French-Colombian ex-hostage held for six years.
“Dr. Denis Mukwege: Doctor, founder and head of Panzi Hospital in Bukavu, Democratic Republic of Congo. He has dedicated his life to helping Congolese women and girls who are victims of gang rape and brutal sexual violence.”
Handicap International and Cluster Munition Coalition: “These organizations are recognized for their consistently serious efforts to clean up cluster bombs, also known as land mines. Innocent civilians are regularly killed worldwide because the unseen bombs explode when stepped upon.”
“Hu Jia, a human rights activist and an outspoken critic of the Chinese government, who was sentenced last year to a three-and-a-half-year prison term for ‘inciting subversion of state power.'”
“Wei Jingsheng, who spent 17 years in Chinese prisons for urging reforms of China’s communist system. He now lives in the United States.”
Surely these people are more worthy of recognition and a $1.4 million award than Barack Obama.
But that’s not the worst part. As with anything which involves Barack Obama and the international stage, the whole thing has to be muddied by Obama’s apparent need to be seen as the busiest man of Earth, tha man who has to juggle running the world with being a father…a job that no man has ever had to do before.
Obama said his daughters, Sasha, 8, and Malia, 10, helped keep him in check this morning after he heard the news, reminding him about their dog’s birthday and Monday’s school holiday.
“Malia walked in and said, ‘Daddy, you won the Nobel Peace Prize, and it is Bo’s birthday.’ And then Sasha added, ‘Plus, we have a three-day weekend coming up’,” Obama said. “It’s good to have kids to keep things in perspective.”
It’s just a tad ironic that if anybody else paraded their family life in front of the world like this, they’d be accused of robbing their children of the childhood, or their privacy, or any number of other things…but when Barack Obama decides to combine the story of his Nobel Peace Prize, with his daughter celebrating the dog’s birthday, the media fall in to line.
Incidentally, just in case the last quote caught you as off guard as it caught Channel Nine this morning, and you think that Barack Obama found out about his prize from his daughters….bzzz, wrong. It was the man of many “ums and ahs” and little information, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs.
It was up to White House press secretary Robert Gibbs to make the wake-up call about 6 a.m. and deliver the news to Obama, whose reaction mirrored that of other administration officials, lawmakers and political leaders.
“I think it’s safe to say he was very surprised,” Gibbs said later at his daily briefing.
There is one upside to all of this. Except for the Nobel Peace Prize people, it’s very hard to find anybody who is not surprised by the award. It looks like the shine of Barack Obama is finally starting to wear off globally, and people are actually starting to scrutinise his work rather than be blinded by his “hopey changey” aura.