Peter Baofu, Ph.D.
What exactly has Barack Obama achieved for world peace to deserve the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009?
Polish President Lech Walesa, who won the Nobel peace prize in 1983, bluntly said when asked about the decision to award Obama the peace prize: “So soon? Too early. He has no contribution so far.” Rick Moran asked, in a news update by Charles Babington for the Associated Press (Oct. 09): “What's Obama done? What peace has he negotiated?”
The Economist, published in the U.K., also asked, in the Oct. 09 issue: “But is the award premature? Although the prize may be given in the spirit of encouraging Mr. Obama’s government, it might have been better to wait for more solid achievements.” Even Obama himself tried to calm down the gasps when he later confessed at the White House: “Let me be clear: I do not view it as a recognition of my own accomplishments….To be honest, I do not feel that I deserve to be…honored by this prize.”
So why should the Nobel Peace Prize Committee award such a prize to a man who has made no concrete contribution to world peace so far (and has become the President of the United States only for the last few months)? And why should Obama accept the prize at all, if he sincerely believes that he does not deserve it as he said so himself?
The award decision is all the more shocking, when one realizes that some supporters of Obama secretly submitted the nomination application to the Nobel Peace Prize Committee sometime before the mandatory February 1, 2009 nomination deadline, that is, either even before Obama officially became the President of the United State or even before he had the chance to settle down in his job as the President of the United States, let alone any “concrete achievements in peacemaking” to claim, as Karl Ritter and others revealed in the Oct. 09 AP news update.
The Norwegian Nobel Committee has its “official” explanation, however, in that the decision was made not on the basis of Obama’s concrete achievements in peacemaking (which he has none) but because of his rhetorical “inspirations” for a more peaceful world, as “Aagot Valle, a lawmaker for the Socialist Left party who joined the Nobel committee this year, said she hoped the selection would be viewed as 'support and a commitment for Obama'” - as reported in Ritter’s news update.
This official explanation by the Norwegian Nobel Committee, sadly speaking, is very disturbing, for two major reasons; the first is that Obama remains a war-making president, and the second is that the decision also raises serious questions about the ideological politics of the Norwegian Nobel Committee (and its dangerous consequences for world peace). Let me explain these two points below.
Firstly, the first point about the unconvincing official explanation by the Norwegian Nobel Committee is that Obama, in his presidency so far, is responsible for persistent violence (by the U.S. military) to Muslims in the Middle East, be it in Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, and Pakistan, just to cite four major examples - and, of course, the continued U.S. support of Israel against the Palestinians, especially in relation to the Hamas and the Hezbollah. I already went to great details to explain this in my previous article titled “The Silent Violence Behind 'Smart Power' in U.S. Foreign Policy.”
Many do not know that, as The Economist (published in the U.K.) pointed out in the Oct. 09 issue about the award decision, “Obama…remains a war president,” because of his policy for a “surge” in Afghanistan, his decision to remain occupying Iraq (with massive support troops stationed in numerous permanent U.S. military bases throughout that country, even after some U.S. troops are to leave, as part of the agreement arranged during the Bush administration), and his support of more “deadly counterterrorism strikes in Pakistan and Somalia” (with countless civilian deaths on a daily basis), as reported in Ritter’s news update.
It is no wonder that “the Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki called the Nobel decision 'hasty'” and added that “the appropriate time for awarding such a prize is when foreign military forces leave Iraq and Afghanistan and when one stands by the rights of the oppressed Palestinian people” - and “Taliban spokesman Qari Yousef Ahmadi in Afghanistan condemned the Nobel committee's decision, saying Obama had only escalated the war and had 'the blood of the Afghan people on his hands,'” as reported in Ritter’s news update. And Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh for the Hamas thus said, in response to the award decision: “We are in need of actions, not sayings. If there is no fundamental and true change in American policies toward the acknowledgment of the rights of the Palestinian people, I think this prize won't move us forward or backward.”
The Nobel committee also cited Obama’s inspiration for a “nuclear-free world,” but this is also questionable, as Obama has been trying to stop Iran’s nuclear program while allowing Israel, the U.S. (and other allies) to possess most destructive nuclear weapons. His talk with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on the reduction of nuclear weapons does not diminish the American dominance in nuclear weapons, nor it is even clear when either side will “act on the reductions” of the nuclear weapons (many of which, by the way, are redundant and useless in the post-Cold War era), as reported in Ritter’s news update.
The Nobel committee also cited Obama’s inspiration for fighting climate change, but there is no fundamental change of the U.S. position, while “Obama-backed legislation” is “still stalled in Congress,” as reported in Ritter’s news update.
In the end, for the critics, rhetorical inspirations are less important than concrete achievements in awarding a peace prize to a candidate. Perhaps Nancy Gibbs in her Oct. 09 AP news update about the award decision said it best, when she wrote that “peacemaking is more about ingenuity than inspiration, about reading other nations' selfish interests and cynically, strategically exploiting them for the common good.” So, this then raises some disturbing questions about the decision by the Norwegian Nobel Committee (and thus leads to my second point below).
So, secondly, another important point is that the Norwegian Nobel Committee, in this case, is shaped by its own leftist ideological politics, with Scandinavian characteristics, as explained below.
To start, as Ritter and others reported in the news update, “[u]nlike the other Nobel Prizes, which are awarded by Swedish institutions, the peace prize is given out by the five-member committee elected by the Norwegian Parliament. Like the Parliament, the panel has a leftist slant, with three members elected by left-of-center parties and two right-of-center members.”
Aagot Valle, for instance, is a member of the Socialist Left party who served in the five-member Nobel committee, led by the leftist majority. The often leftist (or socialist, for some critics) worldviews of Obama are very compatible with those of the Left like Valle and her colleagues.
Were Obama to be a rightist, not a leftist, and to hold a rightist worldview like the rightist mindset of George Bush, his predecessor, then the leftists like Valle would not have awarded him the prize. In fact, this is exactly what Valle said when she was on the defensive in a rare interview to defend the disturbing decision of the committee: “Those who were in support of Bush in his belief in war solving problems, on rearmament, and that nuclear weapons play an important role…probably won't be happy” with the award, as reported in Ritter’s news update.
The fact that the committee went so far as to change its fundamental criterion of not focusing on concrete achievements of a candidate but instead speculating on what a candidate may achieve in the future shows how desperate and zealous the committee led by the leftist majority is in advancing its leftist ideological worldviews and power interests.
Those who hold the leftist views which are compatible with the members of the committee will be rewarded, and those who do not will be subtly ignored and even publicly criticized. And this is so, even when the candidate in question has no concrete achievements to show, and all he has is to hold views which the committee members like.
In other words, if the committee were funded by, and presided by members who are from, Iran, North Korea, the Hamas, the Hezbollah, Venezuela, Russia, or China, the prize would have been given to someone else instead, certainly not Obama.
This ideological politics of the Nobel committee constitutes a travesty of justice to those who have spent their whole lives to make concrete achievements to world peace, not by words (rhetorical inspirations) but actions (successful peacemaking deals). And the committee ignored them and decided to give the prize to someone else who has made no contribution to world peace; the only thing that the committee can show is to speculate on what that person (Obama) may achieve (or may not) in the future, based on his inspirations which the committee members like to hear.
This is a shameful slap in the face of fairness in promoting world peace. Some of other nominees in this year are “Colombian activist Piedad Cordoba, Afghan woman's rights activist Simi Samar and Denis Mukwege, a physician in war-torn Congo who opened a clinic to help rape victims,” and they are more deserving for the peace prize than someone like Obama who has contributed nothing so far, precisely because these other individuals have spent their lives to make concrete achievement for peace, not on the basis of cheap words and star power.
Even Michael Steele, himself a black, thus said, as reported in Babington’s recent news update: “What has President Obama actually accomplished? It is unfortunate that the president's star power has outshined tireless advocates who have made real achievements working towards peace and human rights.”
The official citation of the decision is “unanimous,” for the good publicity of the Nobel committee, as its decision-making process remains secretive. It is not clear if this so-called “unanimity” is true; should it be true, however, it would reveal a dangerous sign of groupthink in the Norwegian Nobel committee, with the political zealousness for its leftist ideological interests.
This is all the more revealing, in the public statement by Thorbjoern Jagland, chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, who told the Associated Press: “If everything goes wrong, then one cannot say that this was because of Barack Obama. It could be that it is because of us, all the others, that didn't respond” to his rhetorical inspirations.
This kind of fanatic zealousness to support a leader with ideological views compatible with one’s own reminds us the fanatic zealousness that many supporters of charismatic leaders in history have, in blindly supporting their leaders and, even when things go wrong, in fanatically blaming the failures of their leaders on others. When Stalin and Mao committed mistakes which led to the deaths of countless innocent civilians, their supporters wasted no time to blame others who were accused to have betrayed their leaders, but not on Stalin and Mao themselves.
The fact that the Norwegian Nobel Committee made no mention (in its official citation) of the countless numbers of innocent civilians who died because of the U.S. military strikes in Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, and Pakistan, for instance, in this year alone under Obama’s leadership, speaks volumes of this fanatic zealousness of the committee members. And this fanatic zealousness is all the more compounded when the committee went on to change its most fundamental criterion (by lowering the standard, that is, by ignoring concrete achievements), so that a black man (as many of his supporters regard him so) can win a Nobel peace prize with no concrete achievements for world peace, simply on the basis of his rhetorical inspirations which are compatible with the leftist worldviews of the committee members and which they use to speculate on what he may or may not achieve in the future.
This is a version of affirmative action program which is so often seen in Scandinavian countries with their European socialist orientation. In fact, Erick Erickson made this very point when he said, in Babington’s news update: “I did not realize the Nobel Peace Prize had an affirmative action quota for it, but that is the only thing I can think of for this news. There is no way Barack Obama earned it in the nominations period.” And the British magazine The Economist even suggested, in the Oct. 09 issue, that one of the reasons for the Nobel committee to award Obama the prize is that “the prize givers might have felt moved by Mr. Obama’s personal story” (of mixed race origin).
To say that this decision is scandalous beyond reasonable doubt is an understatement. In the end, the Norwegian Nobel committee, in this case, becomes an instrument of leftist ideological politics, with its Scandinavian characteristics. Many ordinary folks believe that the Norwegian Nobel committee makes decisions which are based on objectivity and fairness. Unfortunately, this is true only in a fairy tale.
Instead of promoting world peace, the Norwegian Nobel committee uses the occasion to advance its ideological interests and to perpetuate the leftist and rightist divide, this time, to be led by the leftists - instead of the rightists, who, under the leadership of the neocons during the Bush administration, had the chance to plunge the world into misery and suffering.
The West is now entering into another ideological divide, this time, under the charismatic spell of the Left, led by Obama and its supporters outside the U.S., into a new groupthink, while those who dare to oppose it will be sidelined to the margins.
History has seen this cycle of charismatic spell before. Charismatic leadership, by its nature, is inherently unstable, as it comes and goes as history moves on. At its peak, charismatic leaderships breed blind supporters, with their fanatic zealousness, in continuously supporting their leaders even when they have no concrete achievements and blaming the failures of their leaders on others. And in its end, it reveals disillusion and suffering; by then, however, all the damages will have already been done.
As Obama’s charisma grows further in the next months and years ahead, this blind fanatic zealousness among his supporters will further spread to other innocent souls and receptive social institutions.
But they have to confront a different new world order which is no longer dominated by the U.S. (and for that matter, the West), that is, what I originally called “the post-post Cold World era” in my book titled “Beyond the World of Titans, and the Remaking of World Order” (2007).
In the final analysis, the important point to remember here is that Obama does not deserve the Nobel peace prize. If he is a decent man, it is honorable for him to decline the prize and let the Nobel committee to give it to someone else who has concrete achievements to show for world peace in 2009. But don’t count on Obama and the Nobel committee to let this happen.
About the Author: Dr. Peter Baofu is the author of 27 books in many different fields. His recent books on world affairs include “Beyond the World of Titans, and the Remaking of World Order” (2007), “The Rise of Authoritarian Liberal Democracy” (2007), the 2 volumes of “Beyond Democracy to Post-Democracy” (2005), “Beyond Capitalism to Post-Capitalism” (2004), “The Future of Capitalism and Democracy” (2002), and the 2 volumes of “The Future of Human Civilization” (2000).