Obama and the Nobel Peace Prize

Here’s a thought.

Many people had the impression during the Bush Administration that Bush himself wanted to go further in the War on Terror. He was limited to a certain extent by a few people in his Administration,and of course limited to a great extent by Congress. It scared most of us to think that maybe he and Cheney wanted to force most of the Arab world into a sort of globalization-driven peace by the end of a gun. That in the end, stability would naturally arise out of privatization of resources and the wealth that would inevitably follow and flow. Jesus,what an evil, scary bastard.

Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize,which shocked just about everybody,and there was an instantaneous flood of criticism,mainly focusing in on how his words are meaningless compared to his position as Commander in Chief of two wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

But consider this: I get the impression that Obama believes what he says. I think of what Bush wanted to accomplish in office,and I get the shivers and I’m relieved that somehow more rational… well,perhaps less irrational actions finally emerged. I believed that Bush’s words did matter,and what he wanted to do mattered,because it scared the hell out of me.

Now that Obama is in office,that idea hasn’t changed. It does matter what he says and what he believes.

I think asking why Obama deserves the Nobel Peace Prize is a valid criticism,one that the Nobel committee ought to address. Think of this from a different perspective: who else should have won the peace prize? I’m not sure what the criteria are. I think of the Dalai Lama,Ghandi, MLK,Jimmy Carter – not as president,but his efforts after his presidency. There’s more people whom I’ve never heard of than the names I do remember that have won the prize. I don’t know if I can answer that question.

This perspective works both ways,though. To say Obama doesn’t deserve it,you need to provide some significant evidence of someone who does deserve it. I assume the prize is awarded to someone who is significant today. Slim pickin’ in this century,and there’s only so many times they can give it to Carter for his never-ending tour.

I made the joke earlier today that he won the peace prize,because anything looks like peace after Bush.

The argument is that words are meaningless. Politicians are seen with an extremely cynical eye throughout the world – probably worse in other countries than in America itself – and we easily ascribe the "talk is cheap" argument against them. It has a certain fundamental truth: you can lie,and your actions will affect the world in a much more tangible way.

Obama is involved in two wars,and he is actively Commander in Chief for a nation still technically "at war." His actions have a direct effect on many people’s lives,and deaths.

If I had to pick something out to justify Obama winning the prize,it would be that same argument: his words.

Ask yourself this: Were Martin Luther King’s words empty and hollow? What made his words take meaning,while Obama’s do not? Do Obama’s actions inspire hope,or do his words? Would his words mean more if he were to withdraw from Afghanistan? Would they mean more if the Taliban regained control and began raping and abusing women? If Iraq devolved into further chaos? Or any other consequence of a more direct approach to peace?

Here’s my modern fundamental principle: there is no such thing as "mutually exclusive." The real world represents an extremely complex and dynamic moral arena. There are consequences to every action,good and bad,peaceful and warlike,and our judgement can’t remain ignorant of one factor over another because of generalizations and broad categorizations.

Obama has to act in a world consumed in violence and war. He can’t simply pretend that any country or any human can simply withdraw from the Earth,hide in peace,and ignore its consequences.

Of course,this isn’t an open justification for various foreign policy and military decisions in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is,however,a reason for believing in Obama’s words,yet accepting the sad fact that our world is far from peaceful and that Obama cannot and will not always be able to act in an ideal non-violent way. Whether that earns him a Nobel Peace Prize is up to you.

But words do matter. I like his.

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