Saturday, October 10, 2009

Nobel Peace Prize often Given for the Effort

America does not exist in isolation. The isolationist policies that existed prior to World Wars I and II cannot work in the global economy of today. One can argue that they didn’t even work back then, since those wars might have been prevented by a United States that was more engaged in world affairs.

The United States, if we are to be a world leader, needs to have the respect of the nations we are leading. During the eight years of the Bush administration, we did not have that global respect. Our enemies loathed us to the point of actually attacking us, which enemies often do. But enemies are also often open to diplomacy. But the Bush administration wanted none of that.

Our friends did not respect us and often criticized the saber-rattling policies of the Bush administration. They were more than willing to stand behind us as we attempted to weed out terrorists in Afghanistan and elsewhere, but when we decided to invade a sovereign nation using the unproven excuse, which later turned out to be totally false, that Iraq was somehow tied to the 9/11 attacks and was hiding weapons of mass destruction, our friends mostly refused to go along with us. The countries that did back us did so tentatively and out of a sense of obligation, not admiration.

But in the few months that Barack Obama has been president, we have gotten our friends back abroad. The U.S. is still reviled by its enemies, but the rhetoric has been toned down and some of them are eager to engage with us in diplomacy. The nations of Europe, our staunch allies since World War I, are proud to have the U.S. as a friend again. We no longer stand as a monolithic war-mongering black-sheep nation. We are no longer a nation of peace that has gone rogue. No one has reined us in; we reined in ourselves, thanks to the policies and promises of our new president, Barack Obama.

So why did Obama win the Nobel Peace Prize? Some are wondering why. Some of Obama’s supporters are wondering why. And his detractors are out right livid that he won. Never mind that it speaks volumes of how the U.S. is perceived by the rest of the free world. Never mind that the award is a great honor to its recipient and his country. Obama detractors and the right-wing party of “no” can’t bring themselves to squeak out a limp congratulatory comment. It doesn’t matter to them that the prestige of America is rising again or that we are now seen as a peace-making nation rather than a war-monger. All they care about is that Obama has gotten an award he, in their minds, does not deserve.

But I don’t wonder why he received the Nobel Peace Prize, not after hearing the explanation from the Nobel Committee. He received it for his extraordinary push for worldwide diplomacy, for his effort to bring nations together to figure out common solutions for our problems, and for advocating a nuclear-free planet.

Prior to his nomination last February, Obama campaigned on abolishing nuclear weapons worldwide. He campaigned on creating a policy of diplomacy. Once in office, he abolished torture as a national policy and signed an order to close the constitutionally-questionable Guantanamo Bay prison facility. He stopped the saber rattling of the previous administration. And he opened up a dialogue with the rest of the world, including the Arab world, urging cooperation over condemnation to solve the world’s problems.

Some of Obama’s supporters, though happy he received the award, say it might have been too early. Maybe he should have been in office at least a full year before being nominated. And his detractors say he should turn down the award; they claim he hasn’t done a thing to deserve it. But the Nobel Peace Prize is not always given to accomplishments; it is quite often given for effort.

Pres. Woodrow Wilson won the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts in creating the League of Nations, a world organization that was supposed to act to stop all future wars. There was no appreciable disconcert over the fact that he won the Prize, even though the League of Nations was a dismal failure. But Wilson’s effort was awarded nonetheless. If the Nobel Committee had waited to see if the League actually worked, Wilson would never have won the Prize.

Desmond Tutu of South Africa won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 for his effort to end apartheid. Never mind that apartheid did not end until 10 years later. Was the Nobel Committee premature in that case, or should it have waited until after apartheid had actually ended? It awarded the effort.

Pres. Jimmy Carter won the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts at bringing peace in the Middle East. If the Nobel Committee had waited until he succeeded, they would still be waiting to award him the Prize. Instead, they awarded his amazing effort.

After learning he had won the Peace Prize, Obama said he was humbled and that he didn’t feel he deserved to be placed in the company of previous winners. But he added this: “The Nobel Peace Prize has not just been used to honor specific achievement. It has also been used to give momentum to specific causes.”

While acknowledging that Obama’s achievements after only 10 months in office have been few, his efforts toward achieving lasting world peace have been awe-inspiring. After only a few months as president, he has finalized little in his bid for world peace, but he has put America on the right road to helping achieve it. It is a cause worth awarding.

A change of attitude can go along way, with individuals as well as countries. America has a new attitude, thanks to Obama. The rest of the world recognizes that. It’s just too bad the right-wing zealots who are automatically against anything Obama does or says or accomplishes are so busy hurling insults at our president that they refuse to acknowledge that the world might actually be a safer place now than it was a year or so ago, not so much because of specific accomplishments, but because of a change in attitude.

Only our enemies and those at home who call themselves conservatives do not understand why Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize. It’s sad that the right-wing party of “no” has more in common with America’s enemies than it does with the aims of their own president.

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