Posted on 10-10-2009
Filed Under (Current Affairs, Foreign Policy) by Rashtrakut

The Nobel Peace Price is inherently political in nature. In the last couple of decades the leftward political ideology has appeared more marked.  Nothing prepared the world however for the shock of the 2009 prize.  A week after Republicans crowed about the limits of Barack Obama’s international appeal when Chicago was not awarded the 2016 Olympics, the Nobel committee awarded probably the most unexpected award ever. The most prestigious prize in the world has forever been linked to the audacity of hope (some would say hype). If Barack Obama falters the tarnish will attach to the Nobel Peace Prize.

The award seems ludicrously premature. Given the fact that Barack Obama had been president for about two weeks before the nomination period for the award expired, a huge component of the award seems tied to the fact that he is not George W. Bush (or even the bellicose John McCain who once sang a ditty about bombing Iran and last year was eager to get into a brawl with the Russian bear over Georgia).

This blog has generally supported the contours of Obama’s foreign policy. His calm handling of foreign policy has generally lowered the global political temperature. His speech in Cairo could be the springboard for a renewed American engagement with the Islamic world. He understood the limitations of American power in responding to the Iranian ferment this summer. The adults have taken control of American foreign policy with the removal of a missile shield that did not work from Eastern Europe that unnecessarily irritated the Russians. The feckless Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan no longer has a free pass. Obama has continued the withdrawal from Iraq on schedule.

However, so much more still needs to be done. The Netenyahu government in Israel is displaying intense paranoia about American intentions and seems willing to accept only a neutered Palestinian state. The Iranian nuclear crisis is still not solved and just how helpful Russia and China will be remains to be seen. The administration is engaged in a major debate on Afghanistan that could lead to a policy that stabilizes Afghanistan or (more likely) a withdrawal as Afghanistan relapses into civil war. Even though the drop in oil prices lessened Hugo Chavez’s ability to bite, the Venezuelan strongman is still an irritant in Latin America. Honduras is an embarrassment waiting to explode as the coup plotters have shown a knack for taking an initially justifiable assumption of power and then blowing it with inept overreach. The Hermit Kingdom stepped back from the brink recently, but Kim Jong Il remains as unpredictable as ever. Guantanamo still needs to be closed and the Obama Administration has repeated many of the Bush Administration’s assertions on notational security powers.

Things could go very very bad quickly though factors outside of Obama’s control. For better or worse, Barack Obama and the Nobel Peace Prize will be tied at the hip for at least the next 4 years.

To his credit Barack Obama appears to appreciate how premature this award is. For all the Republican hoots about narcissism (most recently repeated by George Will), his speech linked above acknowledging the award was artful in combining humility and tying it to the American ideals tarnished by the previous administration. Here is a fervent hope that he lives up to the initial promise of his foreign policy.

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