Let me start by saying that I voted for Barack Obama but I feel the Nobel Peace prize award to President Obama was premature. He has not done enough during his nine months in office to justify the award. Sure, he has proclaimed some noble goals and has made a concerted attempt to integrate the US into the world community after the eight years under Bush when the attitude was “my way or the highway” – to use an American expression.

But what is unseemly to the point of being totally bizarre is the spectacle of right-wing wackos in the US condemning the award to an AMERICAN president! This comes on top of the scenes of cheering by right-wingers when the International Olympic Committee announced that Chicago had been eliminated as a potential venue in 2016 in the first round. Imagine Americans cheering the decision that the Olympics were not going to take place in the US!

Much of this vitriol is directed against Obama who made a pitch for the games to be held in Chicago – his hometown. A loss for Obama is now viewed as more desirable than a victory for the US by the right-wing nuts. Equally offensive is the notion that the award of the Peace prize to Obama is considered so repugnant to this fringe group within the Republican party, that condemnation of the award takes precedence over any sense of pride that an American won the award!

Previous recipients of the Peace prize have occasionally been controversial and it has not always been based on true accomplishments. Consider the award made to Arafat, Peres and Rabin – it was an award based on hope more than real accomplishments. Henry Kissinger and Lee Duc Tho were awarded the prize based on a peace agreement between the US, South Vietnam and North Vietnam -even though it turned out to be a very tentative peace since the North over-ran the South subsequently – not to mention the involvement of Kissinger in other highly controversial policies with regard to Cambodia and Argentina. Menachem Begin, the prime minister of Israel, shared the award with Anwar Sadat, although Begin was the head of Irgun – a Zionist terrorist group – that was responsible for the bombing of King David hotel in which many civilians were killed.

This site has a list of some of the more controversial prior winnners.

One of the most glaring omissions in the award of the prize was as it pertained to Mahatma Gandhi.

The failure to award the Peace prize to Gandhi given his role in the non-violent movement was a travesty. Gandhi was more responsible than anyone else for accomplishing a transfer of power in India from the British with relatively minimal violence. Since his death he has been an inspiration to leaders ranging from Martin Luther King Jr to Nelson Mandela in their struggles for freedom and justice. Obama even had a picture of Gandhi with his spinning wheel in his Senate office. Yet, Gandhi never received an award during his lifetime even though he was nominated four times – and he never received one posthumously even though Dag Hammarskjold, a former Secretary General of the UN, was awarded it posthumously after he died in a plane crash during a peace mission.

IMO, the award to Obama was an indirect slap at George W Bush. After eight years under Bush’s leadership when it was made clear to the world that the US would act unilaterally disregarding the opinion of other countries there has been a great sense of relief that we now have a president who seeks to build international coalitions and does not espouse the “go it alone” approach that Bush advocated and practised. Realistically, can you imagine Obama winning the Peace prize if Obama had followed Bill Clinton as president instead of George Bush? For that matter is it likely that Obama would have been awarded the prize had George W Bush shown any of the wisdom and far-sightedness of his father in the field of international relations?

Controversy is not unknown when the winner of the Peace prize has been announced – controversy both with regard to the winners and those who did not win. What is unseemly is the lunatic fringe of the Republican party being at the forefront in criticizing the award being given to an American president! Even more outrageous is the Republican National Committee using the award to Obama as fund rasing tool. The chairman of the RNC in a fund-raising letter says:

“President Obama’s award of the Nobel Peace Prize puts the cart before the horse. Help us remind the Democrats that trendy slogans and international esteem don’t
create new jobs for Americans, reduce the national debt, or keep our
country safer in a dangerous world by making a secure online contribution
of $25, $50, $100, $500 or $1,000 to the RNC today.”

Talk about going from the sublime to the ridiculous!

4 Responses to “Obama, the Nobel Peace Prize & Related Controversies”

  1. Mona says:

    Don’t worry. The Republicans are painting themselves into a corner from which they will not be able to get out for many years to come (unless the healthcare reform turns out to be a dud!)

    (Chicago for 1916 Olympics? Sounds like your calendar is 100 years old!)

  2. TJ says:

    Mona, I think it will be the economy that will be the determinant as to how things play out for Obama in 2012. The economy has a habit of accentuating the positives and negatives of any president. If the economy has not significantly improved by 2012, then the odds are that Obama will be a one-term president. It is rarely that the American electorate has based its decision on other factors – one of the rare times was in 1968 when the Vietnam war was in full swing and war-fatigue set in.

    It seems like a distant memory now but just after McCain selected Palin, they actually had the lead briefly – and then the stock-market and the economy went into melt-down mode – and their lead evaporated and it was pretty much all over.

    Thanks for pointing out my outdated calendar! I should be getting used to being in the 21st century by now:)

  3. Mona says:

    Good point. I agree. Most of the economists now say that the economy is on the mend, based on the performance of stock market. But in an election, people vote based on factors which affect their lives most like the rate of unemployment, inflation, cost of healthcare etc. So, President Obama has a long way to go to assure his reelection.

    (Yes, I remember the scary period last year when McCain/Plain led Obama/Biden ticket!

    By the way, I feel that Jimmy Carter got elected in 1976 because of the aftermath of the Watergate scandal and the Nixon pardon .. not the economy)

  4. TJ says:

    You are right about the Carter election – the Nixon pardon may well have been decisive in Ford losing the election.

    I think it was George Will who made the point that since the second half of the 20th century, the only Democrat to have won two terms is Clinton. OTOH, Eisenhower, Reagan and W won two terms on the Republican side. Will argued that this is because Americans as a whole lean “right of center” and Democratic presidents in their first term are too liberal for the American populace at large and so they tend to refuse to endorse a second term.

    What the Democrats have going for them is the demographic change taking place in the US which hopefully should counter the South which has voted Republican in presidential elections since 1964 when Johnson spear-headed the civil rights legislation.

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