QuickNews, Friday, Oct. 2.
OBAMA WINS NOBEL PEACE PRIZE
ONLY THIRD U.S. SITTING PRESIDENT TO BE HONOURED, AFTER T.R. AND WILSON.
STUNNING DECISION - NOMINATIONS CLOSED JUST TWO WEEKS AFTER OBAMA TOOK OFFICE.
OSLO PANEL'S MESSAGE: SUPPORT FOR OBAMA ON HUMANITARIANISM AND
NUCLEAR NON-PROLIFERATION.Once you catch your breath - Obama has been on the world stage for less than a year - the decision makes perfect sense. More than other Nobel categories, the Nobel for peace goes to a cause, and only ostensibly to an individual or group.
With Lester Pearson, the award was for diplomatic resolutions of conflict. With Martin Luther King, it was for non-violent pursuit of justice. Two relatively obscure Irish women were honoured for spearheading a non-violent resolution to the Troubles. Jimmy Carter, in 1992, was honoured for diplomatic outside interventions in regions of escalating or potential violence. And Al Gore and the U.N. climate change panel for raising awareness of the climate-change threat and methods of heading it off.
The recognition of Obama is based on his campaign message last year, his speeches and bestselling books since entering public life, and his career as a social worker in Chicago's gritty South Side when he could have opted for a six-figure income on Wall Street or a prestigious corporate law firm. This is an endorsement of the humanitarian instincts that have marked Obama's adult life, which the committee is imploring the U.S. president to keep faith with in his latest role.
The committee especially wants the U.S. president, holding a uniquely powerful and influential office at a time of peril from global warming and terrorism, and a shift in geopolitics with the rise of China and India, each traditionally isolated from the West, to retain and use those instincts in the cause of meaningful global unity and a diplomatic rather than violent approach to problem-solving.
The Nobel peace panel is notoriously mischievous in taking chances on relatively unknown commodities, being so powerfully inclined to send a larger message. Obama has been more tested in office than most of his Oval Office predecessors at this point in their tenure. Yet obviously he has not been truly tested, as only time can do. In Afghanistan alone, Obama faces the prospect of committing to another potential Vietnam quagmire or abandoning the chronically failed state to its own devices - neither a happy option. And thus far Obama's conduct in the "war on terror" bears too many hallmarks of the previous administration (his continued detainee renditions to third countries, for instance).
But the panel will have noted Candidate Obama's reaction last year to Russia's invasion of Georgia, which was calmly deliberative. Obama's reaction in the heat of the moment was to find blame with both sides and call for an immediate ceasefire - an accurate assessment of conditions, recently validated by a lengthy EU investigation of those events. John McCain, reacting long before the facts were in, announced on the day after the Russian invasion that, "We're all Georgians now." As ill-considered as the Kremlin's actions were, it would be revealed that Russia had been relentlessly provoked by Georgia into taking them. Obama, who majored in international relations at Columbia, is not inclined to "take sides," impulsively or otherwise, and has rued those rare occasions when he has done so, as in the Henry Louis Gates house arrest.
Likely another deciding issue was Obama's recent decision to scrap Bush's missile-shield gambit in Eastern Europe, which had needlessly antagonized Russia. For years Obama has cited the imperative of harmonious relations with Russia in order to track down "loose nukes" from the Cold War era before they fall into the hands of terrorists. One "dirty bomb" in a suitcase carried by a suicidal terrorist into Manhattan or St. Petersburg would kill at least a quarter-million people. This is the greatest threat to America over the next two decades, even more than the gradual if accelerating pace of global heating.
In the Nobel committee's words:
Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world's attention and given its people hope for a better future. His diplomacy is founded in the concept that those who are to lead the world must do so on the basis of values and attitudes that are shared by the majority of the world's population.
This is not an unalloyed honour for Barack Hussein Obama. For all the world to see, the Nobel committee has singled him out as a man of whom the world can expect great things. Every time Obama falls short of these noble expectations, as he has and will, the setback will be highlighted in the unforgiving context of Obama's status as a Nobel laureate. Which is precisely the committee's intent, of course. Should the committee ever look so favourably on me, I would wish it to do so in my dying days, and not with so much of my life's work ahead of me. For those blessed with a reputation for noble intent, living up to that reputation can be hellish. It will be especially trying in the fishbowl of the U.S. presidency.
* James Fallows (Atlantic): Obama's Nobel remarks: four very skillful paragraphs.
* Michael Elliott (Time): Obama got humble Nobel remarks just right.
* Peter Beaumont (UK. Guardian): Prize could hinder rather than help Obama's diplomacy.
* Der Spiegel: A decision few would have predicted.
* Politiken (Denmark): Danish politicians rejoice at decision, cite nuclear stance as deciding issue.
* Newsweek (pundit roundup): Rush says "Nobel gang just suicide-bombed themselves." Liberal blogger says Obama the Nobel winner in chemistry, too: "He's just got great chemistry."
* Time: Muhammad Yunus and Wangari Maathai, Nobel peace prize winners: Why Obama deserves the honour.