Sunday, October 11, 2009

Does Obama Deserve the Nobel Prize?

If the enemies of Barack Obama were a barometer of attitude, then I should be happy that our president won the Nobel Peace Prize.

Not surprisingly, conservatives hate it and with good reason. The awarding of the Nobel prize had little, if anything, to do with peace. Even by the committee's own admission, the President of the US has done little by way of substantive accomplishments in the area. The real reason Barack Obama is $1.5 million richer is because his name is not George Bush (and because he has at least rhetorically separated himself from his predecessor). Every white right-winger in this country understands that much, which they should because the committee's choice is their way (and most of the rest of the world's) of giving them the middle finger. From that perspective, it makes me happy to see them burst a gasket at the very thought of being insulted, just as they do every time the president does something "socialistic" and "radical," like talk to school children and recognize the existence of uninsured people.

Still, if we are being truthful with ourselves, Barack Obama should not have won the award. Talking to the Muslim world in one speech in Egypt does not a peace maketh. What should matter is substance, and it is in results that Barack Obama is not only lacking but woefully so. The Israelis continue to blockade and barrage the Palestinians on a daily basis, an action that is by definition in international law an act of war and a war crime. The Israeli response is to elect the most violently reactionary government in its history, dedicated to the cause of continued warfare against Palestinians (if not their expulsion from the territories altogether). President Obama's answer was to demand the Israelis to stop new construction of settlements in the West Bank, which met with intense opposition, after which the administration caved. That is it. That is the summation of the peace process in the Middle East.

In Iraq, true, we are decreasing our military presence, which admittedly is positive, but we are not leaving Iraq--not now, tomorrow, or by the administration's own timetable of 2011. I have stated previously my willingness to bet anyone in the blogosphere that we will not be out by the end of the Obama presidency (be in 2012 or 2016). That bet still stands, if there are any takers. I doubt there are few people, no matter how supportive of the administration, who would disagree with that assessment. This is in spite of the fact that Obama made a name for himself politically in the 2000s as a vocal critic of the war and stated that we should have never invaded Iraq.

On Afghanistan, our current hot debate has centered around whether to send in 30-40,000 new troops or depend more heavily on drones and special forces, and whether we should be more concerned with internal political development in Afghanistan or hunting down al-Qaeda. Notice, there is no debate within the administration on whether or not we should even be there, even though a majority of Americans are now opposed or critical of our sustained military presence in Afghanistan. How is that promoting hope and peace?

The right-wing hates Obama because he is not more openly militaristic (and to a not insignificant number because he is black), but these are the same people who think you are a Communist for making them wait a week to buy a Glock. Nothing short of threatening the entire world's Muslim population with instantaneous ionization would probably make these Halo 3 armchair bombardiers happy. However, none of that should exonerate President Obama's very real deadly foreign policy choices that are watered down versions of the man he replaced. Until we are out of an Iraq, leaving Afghanistan, or until there is some kind peace accord between the Palestinians and Israelis, engineered by our president, I simply cannot as an honest person look at this award as anything less than a political stunt to say sexual penetration to you to those who voted for George Bush in 2000 and 2004. Understandable, yes; a real promotion of peace worthy of a prize, no.

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