Friday, October 9, 2009

Obama's Down Payment for Peace

OK, Barack Obama winning the Nobel Peace Prize doesn’t have a lot to do with literature (of course everything has a little to do with literature), except it is a twist to the story, for sure. It must be the first time the Nobel Peace Prize has gone for good intentions and charisma. I mean, I adore Obama, he is my President, and I feel proud America elected him. But really, he hasn't accomplished much in the peace department just yet. I know here in the Middle East, his award was greeted with a singular, "What are you kidding me?"

Nominations for the Peace Prize closed February 1, which means that Obama was nominated after a scant 10 days in office. Granted, it was a good ten days, and the judges were allowed to consider the 270 or so that followed, but not a lot of Obama’s vision has been realized. My first thought was that it had a bit to do with how much the international community despised George Bush and his policies. So why not give a big fat smooch as well as $1.4 million to his successor to prove it? Another more optimistic follow-up thought was that it's the committee's way of endorsing Obama's vision and their way of placing a hopeful stake in the ground. It would be nice to think the award would help close a few deals, but speaking from the Middle East, I don't think folks here really care.

But why does Obama need this? So far, the award has been greeted with nothing but confused pride by those who admire Obama, and sneers and ridicule by those who don't. Even Obama seems a bit confused.

As the New Republic best puts it, "at best, then, the award is a mixed blessing." That’s why Obama should consider the advice of Alex Massie from The Spectator, and others and, in a gesture of his humility, refuse to accept it. It would be the right thing to do in principle. It might also be smart politics.

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