Obama Wins Nobel Peace Prize

Nice work, O!

There are, of course, some skeptics on the right and on the left (and guess who I think has a bit more of a point). Yglesias rightly points out that Obama has a lot left to accomplish when it comes to promoting peace — brokering an Israel/Palestine peace deal, normalizing relations with Cuba and promoting international climate agreement. And PZ Meyers adds that Obama hasn’t done away with some of the worst leftovers from the Bush years.

On the right, they’re crying “affirmative action” — because, you know, all the qualified people on the entire planet are white. They’re also “stunned,” and suspect this may be the Nobel committee’s way of criticizing George W. Bush. But hey, at least they’re on the same page as the Taliban — how’s that for international diplomacy?

I’m not sure it’s a criticism of the Bush years as much as a reaction to the fact that George W. Bush destroyed our international reputation and earned us more than a few enemies. Obama has a lot to repair, and has made responsible statesmanship central to his presidency. That’s a good thing.

We absolutely should push Obama to do better — and he has a lot to improve — but the attacks on him for being awarded such a prestigious prize are disturbing. We have a sitting president who won a Nobel Peace Prize. That was unthinkable a year ago. I realize that a lot of people on the right are sore losers, but this is getting ridiculous. The Nobel conversations are already sounding like the flipside of the conservative reaction when Chicago didn’t get the Olympics — there, conservatives were giddy that America had lost something just because Obama wanted it; here, conservatives are devastated that an American leader won something, just because Obama is that leader.

I was in the Chicago area (in the suburbs, not the city) when the news of the Olympic rejection broke, and it was disconcerting to see that right so celebratory when most Chicago residents looked like this:


Admittedly hilarious photos aside, right-wingers were just bad sports about the whole thing. It’s disappointing, but not surprising, to see them being jerks about Obama’s Nobel prize win.

To be clear, there are lots of reasons to criticize Obama winning the Nobel while Guantanamo is still open and the U.S. still tortures people. But “OMG he’s black and liberal and therefore obvs not qualified!!!” is not one of them.

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12 comments for “Obama Wins Nobel Peace Prize

  1. October 9, 2009 at 12:27 pm

    I’m glad he was awarded. This will both place an increased mandate upon him to pursue peace talks as well as give his words added weight in the global community.

  2. William
    October 9, 2009 at 1:33 pm

    I know this is kind of off-topic, but “most Chicagoans” were not shocked and dismayed to see the Olympics go elsewhere. Some of us were ready to celebrate. The city, and by that I mean the people who were going to miss work because of traffic, lose their homes to eminent, and foot the bill for the olympics through higher taxes, city layoffs and furlough days, and reduced social services budgets, did not need the Olympics. The Olympics were about a handful of well-connected builders and businessmen who would have stood to make a lot of money and a double handful of wealthy, primarily white, well-connected folks who would have been able to afford tickets. Saying that “most Chicago residents” were heartbroken by not having a major international excuse for a corrupt racist to fuck us for the next six years is ridiculous, especially given the incredibly low public support poling data.

    Also, not to be difficult, but why on earth does Obama, or any national US politician for that matter, deserve a peace prize? Guantanamo is still open, we’re still openly torturing prisoners, we have the largest prison population in the world, we’re the aggressor in two colonial wars, and we aggressively support one of the belligerents in the middle-east conflict. Obama hasn’t changed any of that and, in some cases, he’s moved to make some of the abuses permanent.

  3. October 9, 2009 at 1:36 pm

    Yeah, I didn’t say that most Chicago residents were heartbroken, though. I do think it’s fair to say that a lot of people were surprised and disappointed that Chicago was knocked out in the first round. That, to me, is what the picture conveyed. To be fair, I probably shouldn’t have used the word “most.”

  4. Katie
    October 9, 2009 at 2:04 pm

    Obama has continued some of the worst human rights abuses of the Bush administration and bombed civilians. His administration threw Van Jones under the bus and he denies that he’s affected by racism. This is the man who’s in the same league as MLK, Jr. and Aung San Suu Kyii? I don’t think so.

  5. Morningstar
    October 9, 2009 at 2:08 pm

    “We absolutely should push Obama to do better — and he has a lot to improve — but the attacks on him for being awarded such a prestigious prize are disturbing. We have a sitting president who won a Nobel Peace Prize.”

    I disagree completely with this. The fact that he won this award while simultaneously protecting Israel from the Goldstone Report and while expanding the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan makes the award itself meaningless and even farcical.

    I get that this might be a means for the committee to pressure Obama in pursuing peace, but let’s face it: his *current* actions do not merit an award. Obama has essentially taken up Netanyahu’s plan for Palestine as his own, he is now backtracking on Gitmo, he’s failed to examine Bush’s torture policy, and his airstrikes are killing dozens, perhaps hundreds, of Afghan and Pakistani civilians.

    The day he puts pressure on Israel, the day he realizes that his Afghan war strategy is a failure, and the day he commits to less US troops in the ME should be the day he’s considered for this award.

    It’s entirely meaningless at this point.

  6. Morningstar
    October 9, 2009 at 2:14 pm

    Although just to clarify, you’re correct about the right-wing nuts who will always find fault with Obama no matter what he does or says. I just have problems with the idea that we should be proud of our president for winning this award before he accomplished anything.

  7. melancholia
    October 9, 2009 at 2:22 pm

    I think the thing that gets non-rightwingers peeved about this is the hypocrisy from the left about all of this. Look at a sample of the left wing reaction to Bush’s mere nomination with Tony Blair in 2002:




    Each side likes to say the other side is a bad sport, not supporting America, or whatever, but I definitely think both the left and the right are guilty of selectively “rallying behind the USA.”

    And there’s no denying that the NPP is heavily political – the committee obviously favors Obama’s style of international relations over Bush’s. I personally hate the idea of giving the NPP to any sitting world leader because 1) it’s usually way to early to see what if anything they have accomplished and 2) In bestowing the prestige of the Nobel to a sitting leader you’re arming the supporters of said leader with a potent weapon to stifle dissent.

  8. October 9, 2009 at 3:38 pm

    Aren’t most of the critiques about substance and prematurity, vs whether he is black and liberal? While there is a segment of the right wing who will criticize Obama for anything (and, as melancholia points out, the same in reverse), there are rigorous critiques on both left and right.

    Greg Mortenson, the earlier favorite, actually had specific concrete “peace” accomplishments, vs just successful campaigns and the beginnings of an ambitious but as-yet unfulfilled agenda.

    In 1993, to honor his dead , Mortenson went to climb a mountain in northern Pakistan. After saving the life of another climber, after several months, he wound up in a small village, where he was cared for by the villagers while he recovered. Mortenson built a school for the village and fought to get funding for what became the Central Asia Institute. The mission of CAI—a non-profit organization—is to promote education and literacy, especially for girls, in remote mountain regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan. Mortenson was CAI’s first Executive Director.

    From wiki:

    “In the process of building schools, Mortenson has survived an eight-day armed 1996 kidnapping in the tribal areas of Waziristan, in Pakistan’s North-West Frontier Province; escaped a 2003 firefight between Afghan opium warlords; endured two fatwās by angry Islamic clerics for educating girls; and received hate mail and threats from fellow Americans for helping educate Muslim children.

    Mortenson believes that education and literacy for girls globally is the most important investment all countries can make to create stability, bring socio-economic reform, decrease infant mortality, decrease the population explosion, and improve health, hygiene, and sanitation standards globally. Mortenson believes that ‘fighting terrorism’ only perpetuates a cycle of violence, and that there should be a global priority to ‘promote peace’ through education and literacy, with an emphasis on girls’ education. “You can drop bombs, hand out condoms, build roads or put in electricity, but unless the girls are educated, a society won’t change”, is an often quoted statement made by Mortenson. Because of community ‘buy-in’, which involves getting villages to donate free land, subsidized or free labor (‘sweat equity’), free wood and resources, the schools have local support and have been able to avoid retribution by the Taliban or other groups opposed to girls’ education.”

    Obama has stated a vision that has been responded to well in the international community, and may someday be a viable contestant for this award. But how have his accomplishments to date, notable as they are, compared with those of Mortenson?

  9. Tom Foolery
    October 9, 2009 at 8:23 pm

    On the right, they’re crying “affirmative action” — because, you know, all the qualified people on the entire planet are white.

    This is an extremely facile description of what “the right” is crying. Even at the link you gave, the poster — though he opens with an Affirmative Action jab — offers substantive criticisms, which indeed have been mirrored in the comments thread here.

    Ultimately, it doesn’t matter who the committee gives it to — it was clear it was a joke when they gave it to Arafat. But given what we’ve seen of Obama’s policies thus far, I think defending his acceptance of the prize, or at least attacking those criticizing it, is ridiculous. He hasn’t closed Gitmo, he hasn’t forced any recriminations for the last administration’s torturers, he hasn’t ended or even taken steps to end either war we’re involved in, and he hasn’t rolled back any of the overreaches in executive power that the Bush administration grabbed. It’s only natural to dislike some of the people these criticisms — some of them are quite odious — but sorry, they’re right. He just doesn’t deserve it.

  10. Nik
    October 10, 2009 at 8:16 am

    I’m on the left with a healthy respect for the Nobel Peace prize, and whilst I don’t think it’s quite the travesty that many have claimed, I think it’s important to realise – as the Nobel press release strongly implies – that the award was in some sense strategic, to bolster confidence in the potential for change represented by Obama’s administration. If you consider that nominations for the award occurred in February some two weeks after Obama came into office, I think the aspirational aspect is even clearer.

    However, nothing Obama has done so far merits the award, and it does sadden me that a president fighting at least one illegal war, whose state has still not properly ratified human rights agreements (and oh, yes, the list goes on etc.), should be considered a model of good conduct.

  11. Nik
    October 10, 2009 at 8:18 am

    I might just add that, ironically, the “potential for change” I referred to was only created by previous US presidents. It’s a bizarre kind of circuit – wreak havoc, then receive a prestigious award for expressing the desire to clean it up.

  12. Morningstar
    October 10, 2009 at 9:25 am

    Not to I/P this thread, but why was it a joke that they gave it to Arafat, but not a joke that they gave it to Peres and Shamir?

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