Obama’s Nobel Prize an investment in things to come
Giving awards is one thing which always incites criticism. In the western world, who is worthy of what and why is a question for which everyone and their grandma has concern.
The big award of the year, the Nobel Prize, has caused many to question – or at least consider – what factors warrant the crown of those illustrious words: “peacemaker,” “innovator” or “genius.”
The most surprising controversy kindled by this year’s Nobel is undoubtedly President Barack Obama, whose peace initiatives, or youth or both, have prompted the world community to tip their hats to the U.S. leader.
It is fair to say that, to world media sources, Obama is something of an anomaly. When coupled with the hokey image of his predecessor and his 10-gallon hat, the non-effrontery by which our current President commands his image naturally suggests that there is a bit more to the man.
The contrast is something more than just black and white. The images encircling Obama’s media persona have led many outside the everyday American experience to believe he is a born mover and shaker, which he might be. But pictures have a very seductive way about them. Certainly, the Norwegian Nobel Committee was impressed.
Obama’s victory has also revived a question that first came up in the weeks following his election: Is a president supposed to qualify the dubious decisions of the past with loaded guarantees of the future?
Many would argue that is not what this year’s award was for. It seems that the effusive global applause was the result of Obama’s peace initiatives, which seek to restore the diplomatic way of doing the same old dirty work.
It is no illusion that the Peace Prize was offered to Obama “on-spec,” as they say in the journalism industry. This means that among the global community, his credit is still good, and that he’s trusted to pay back the prize with results – and interest.
Among Obama’s ambitious peace portfolio is the Middle East, insurgency in Afghanistan and coercing the Iranians either into nuclear confessions or making them say Uncle Sam with arm-twisting sanctions.
Obama even hopes to make progress with the Russians. In conjunction with President Dmitry Medvedev, Obama’s initiatives have also led to a fruitful discussion about the reduction of nuclear arsenals in both countries. There is also talk of a cooperative missile defense project, which could provide a further deterrent for Iran.
But the pressure is on for more substantial results. Although in office for a mere 10 months, the thought is already going around that if anything, the Peace Prize highlights the inefficiency and floundering attempts of the President’s foreign policy.
From a recent article out of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, it seems Israel worries that the Nobel Prize could, in fact, weaken Obama’s stance towards Iran. They suggest that the prize will undoubtedly effect what role the American military will take, if Iran proves uncooperative.
It is apparently feared that the award might go to the president’s head, and, as some said about his election, satisfy his immediate need for personal accomplishment.
The JTA, in the same article, expressed further concern that, “the praise the Norwegian Nobel committee heaped on Obama’s advocacy of a nuclear-free world could exacerbate their predicament.” A bizarre paradox, but a possible one none the less.
Other explanations for his Nobel victory: President Obama is the first American in a long while to have enraptured European audiences. They see in him not only a progressive, younger politician, but an individual – something which always scores points with Europeans. He’s a finely polished makeover of the American image, which to global perspectives, has lapsed into a 3,000-mile slump of homogeny and war.
On top of that, there is the generational difference. There exists in the Western world now a whole new political front, which for better or worse, is inspired out of youth and progressiveness: There is Obama, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, President Medvedev, among others. This out-with-the-old, in-with-the-new mentality seems to center around Obama, probably contributing to the Nobel decision.
Of course, Obama isn’t King Midas, although his career suggests something like that. But he’s snappy enough to evade the brand of enduring, scoffing, European judgment – he plays his cards close to his chest, yet that is how he’s continued to find favor at home and abroad.
Nevertheless, pushing will come to shoving soon, it seems; there are several hot issues on the table, not least of which is General Stanley McChrystal’s demand for more troops, which will put Obama’s peace initiatives to the test. Then America and the world will really know what kind of man they are dealing with.
But until then, we’ll all just have to wait.
Evan Haddad is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.