On Being Nobel: President Obama Hand Back Your Peace Prize!

, by Daniel Fiott

On Being Nobel: President Obama Hand Back Your Peace Prize!

Is there anything more ingratiating, shallow or cheap than the Nobel Prize Committee’s decision to award President Obama the Peace Prize for 2009? Today, the dignity and respect of the Prize has been plunged into further discredit, depths that this author would have thought impossible after the award was given to Al Gore in 2007. The Committee can say all they like about the ‘new climate’ Obama has brought to international affairs, but in fairness even Hilary Clinton would have brought about such an environment after Bush Jnr. but would she have deserved the Prize? No, and neither does President Obama.

One sits in utter incredulity at the fact that the Committee could be taken in by the Obama personality cult: the cut of his suit, the timbre of his voice and calm poise. The award is supposed to represent concrete achievements in peace – has President Obama secured peace in the Middle-East? Has he managed to single-handedly solve climate change? Has he created a nuclear-free world? – and not, as the head of the Nobel Committee, Thorbjoern Jagland, states, for what someone ‘is trying to achieve’.

The Nobel Committee sites the way Obama has captured the world’s attention and the hope he has given the world for a better future. This argument is based on overly excessive and lugubrious utopianism, of the kind that believes - perhaps - that the US President is some sort of President of the World - a demi-god. President Obama, as has been aptly displayed by his difficulties in putting through his healthcare plans in the US, is not even fully respected back home in the US let alone in the world. And watch now how grounded President Obama will remain on the back of this prize – as if being President wasn’t enough of a boost to his overly lecturing, moralising and cocksure demeanour.

Many may argue that the prize is seen as more of an encouragement to President Obama than an award for services rendered.

Any leader should – especially those exercising great power – not have such a high opinion of himself, not be too driven by the ocean of world opinion he thinks is on his side (and likely to shift at any time) and should seek at all costs to avoid personal promotion. In this regard, the Nobel Committee have helped galvanise those petty and self-pitying individuals around the world who believe that a good speech is all that makes for good leadership.

In addition, the Nobel Committee seems to have a most elementary definition of the term “peace”. They must know that peace is not something that is had on a Monday and automatically kept until Sunday. Peace is the absence of conflict and war, and this takes a sustained effort by a group of individuals – peace is never achieved by any one individual. The term “peacemaker” – the Nobel Committee must think President Obama is one – is also far too subjective to be condensed into a gold medal, a certificate and USD 1.4 million. In any case, how is President Obama now going to look fellow leaders in the eye after such an award? It also places an excruciating amount of pressure on the President to now secure “peace”.

Supposedly setting the “re-set” button with Russia, speaking at the University of Cairo and flying to Copenhagen to promote your own city’s bid for the Olympic Games does not fit the bill of a dedicated peacemaker but a showman. These are just gestures: easy stunts that any politician with an ounce of bravado can master. Let’s see though if President Obama can really overcome the impasse he has created with Israel, and let’s see if it is not the Chinese and the Indian’s rather than the American’s who really pave the way for a climate change deal.

Many may argue that the prize is seen as more of an encouragement to President Obama than an award for services rendered, but they completely overlook the pressures any American president has upon his ability to promote ‘peace’. And here is the truth of the matter people: President Obama is simply that, a President – no less, no more. If one thinks that any President of the US will ever favour ‘world peace’ when it jeopardises the US national interest one is greatly mistaken. One only has to look at the headlines from earlier on this week which saw the US President decline to meet with the Dalai Lama on the basis that it would affect US interests vis-a-vis China to see this. Did the Nobel Committee choose to forget this or was the decision to confer the Prize on President Obama decided long in advance of him taking office?

Today, the Nobel Prize has sunk to a new low. If President Obama has any regard for what the Nobel Peace Prize should represent and any shred of humility, he would immediately decline to accept the Prize.

 Barack Obama, source: google images

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