What the Nobel Prize reveals about the world
By Steve Biegun Perhaps in the breast of the most ardent supporters of President Obama there beats a proud heart — proud that their man has been so recognized as to receive a Nobel Peace Prize a few months into his presidency; proud that the world (via the Nobel Committee) has affirmed the greatness that ...
By Steve Biegun
Perhaps in the breast of the most ardent supporters of President Obama there beats a proud heart — proud that their man has been so recognized as to receive a Nobel Peace Prize a few months into his presidency; proud that the world (via the Nobel Committee) has affirmed the greatness that they see in him. Still, even there one will no doubt find whispers of doubt.
It is hard not to think that the Nobel Committee did the president a disservice by (prematurely) awarding him the Peace Prize. It is not his fault, and it is largely not within his control as one can hardly expect that he could gracefully decline such an honor. It is, however, valuable commentary on how the world sees America and, perhaps as we will see in the next few days, how America sees the world.
From the actions of the Nobel Prize Committee we can surmise what angst the United States must have caused in so many corners of the world over the past many years. Anxious about wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, anxious about unilateralism, about a seeming lack of urgency on climate change, about the financial crisis, Guantánamo Bay, Texas, religion and so many other things that they do not like nor understand about us, they see Obama — or anyone else but Bush but especially Obama — as truly the answer to their hopes.
From what will undoubtedly be a divided response to this great honor among the American public, we will see that, even under this president, America remains fundamentally different and out of step with the aspirations represented by the Nobel Prize Committee. Americans still — even in the midst of two protracted wars and an economic recession — seem to intuitively understand that the path we must walk as a nation is very different than that of other nations. What may look to some allies and adversaries as a choice of how we conduct the affairs of state is seen by many Americans as our responsibility.
It is easy to believe that a successful Obama presidency for America will in the end disappoint those confirmed this award. Lasting peace in the Middle East will require far more sacrifice from the Arabs than from Israel. Ending Iran’s nuclear ambitions will get much harder before it gets easier — and the same with North Korea. Fixing climate change will require every nation at the table, and more countries than the U.S. have thus far been sitting it out. Closing Guantánamo Bay will require others to share the risks that America faces daily for her efforts to keep other nations safe, or for seeking to bring peace and liberty to distant lands like Afghanistan.
On the other hand, an unsuccessful Obama presidency could meet all the aspirations of the Nobel Committee and still leave America, and Norway, and so many other nations in greater peril than ever before in history. That chapter is yet to be written, and will unfold in the three or seven years that President Obama has yet to serve. Let us all hope for the best, and hope that the president remains unaffected by the award he received today.
It is easy to believe that were Jimmy Carter’s presidency to have followed Ronald Reagan’s, he too might have been so honored months after taking office simply for being anybody but Reagan. One wonders how that decision would have stood the test of time — in America or in the many corners of the world that owe their freedom to Reagan’s leadership in the world.
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