Glancing at the last week of posts, and then the weeks-long gap of posts before it, I see it’s been all sports, flu, and otherwise silence around here lately. So let me add my couple of words on Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize.
I heard the news a bit after 6 AM on Friday, driving to school. I’d actually turned over to NPR in the middle of their analysis of it, so I couldn’t be sure what they were talking about. I called Jen, hoping she was near the computer. “I think Obama’s just been given the Nobel Peace Prize,” I said. She confirmed it. We both were a bit stunned.
I suspect whether you were “shocked” or “stunned” when you heard the news depends on whether or not you like Obama. Conservatives were clearly shocked, expressing outrage (how could they!?) while simultaneously dragging out the old dead horses so they could beat them some more (see how liberal these Europeans are!). Readers of this blog know I’m a supporter, so again, stunned. But not shocked.
I think what’s most interesting here is that most of the criticism of Obama on the left, like from Glenn Greenwald, is that all he’s done is talk. That may be legitimate criticism when it comes to health care, or DADT. But in foreign affairs? It seems to me that most of the work politicians engage in when they’re working towards peaceful resolutions of conflicts… is talk. That’s it. And he has talked to people we’d alienated, especially large swaths of the Muslim world and the Europeans, exposed Iran’s lies about secret nuclear facilities before the UN, and had a successful negotiation for political prisoners in North Korea. I thought, and many, many others thought, that his election provided an opportunity to make the United States esteemed again in the rest of the world. But having those opportunities is not the same as taking them. He has taken them.
Is the award committee left-wing? Of course it is. But as Anne Applebaum wrote for Slate, “there is something profoundly left-wing about the very idea of promoting peace congresses in the first place.” If you don’t think so, you weren’t listening to Sean Hannity’s show Friday afternoon, where he defined “peace” as ensuring that we have the capacity to kick whichever asses in the world we think need kicking. Or words to that effect.
Would I have rather had them wait a couple years, to avoid the obvious “it’s too early” criticism? Sure. Were there other deserving candidates? Probably. (Andrew Sullivan had some fine suggestions.) But to call it a joke is to misunderstand the purpose of the prize. He’s put the US on a path where we can exert leadership in the world other than with the threat of force. Surely that’s not “nothing.”