Sunday, October 11, 2009

President Obama awarded Nobel Peace Prize

On Friday, President Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. This NY Times columnist says a common reaction was "shock followed by laughter", the news becoming a comic convergence of truth and caricature. I was bemused when a co-worker told me the news - the president hasn't accomplished anything to deserve the Nobel Peace Prize. On its face, the award seems like a repudiation of President Bush's muscular liberalism, an award to the new American president for his rhetoric about global consensus and cooperation, and an endorsement for an America that continues to express liberal ideals but without the attendant dynamic exercises of power and leadership demands of others to actually advance them.

An interesting aspect is the reflection upon the Norwegian Nobel Committee's intent from the nominees who were passed over. I couldn't find a listing of the nominees on-line, but this article points to some of their backgrounds: "Speculation had focused on Zimbabwe's Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, a Colombian senator and a Chinese dissident, along with an Afghan woman's rights activist."

In terms of a political statement, choosing Tsvangirai, a Chinese dissident, or an Afghan woman's rights activist for the Nobel Peace Prize might have conveyed a call to action that the liberal West ought to better actively support the heroic liberal reformers fighting for change in illiberal non-Western parts of the world. Unfortunately, the current vogue of "peace" in the West (or at least Norway) is to be conciliatory and accomodating of illiberal regimes rather than bear the costs of challenging them, even if that means abandoning any realistic pressure to reform and, more poignantly, the local liberal reformers who rely upon Western support.

My hope is his Nobel Peace Prize will help President Obama rally the West in the War on Terror and advance the liberal strategy he inherited from President Bush, but I suspect the Nobel Committee does not mean to help us advance our version of peace, and instead, means to devalue American exceptionalism.



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