How the Nobel Could Hurt Obama…

The Last Thing Obama Needs Is the Nobel Peace Prize

US President Barack Obama speaks after winning the Nobel Peace ...

US President Barack Obama speaks after winning the Nobel Peace Prize. Obama sensationally won the Nobel Peace Prize just nine months into his term, prompting world leaders to urge him to use the accolade to step up efforts for global peace.

(AFP/Jewel Samad)

 

The last thing Barack Obama needed at this moment in his presidency and our politics is a prize for a promise. 

Inspirational words have brought him a long way – including to the night in Grant Park less than a year ago when he asked that we “join in the work of remaking this nation the only way it’s been done in America for 221 years – block by block, brick by brick, calloused hand by calloused hand.” (See pictures of Obama in Grant Park.)

 

By now there are surely more callouses on his lips than his hands. He, like every new President, has reckoned with both the power and the danger of words, dangers that are especially great for one who wields them as skillfully as he. A promise beautifully made raises hopes especially high: we will revive the economy while we rein in our spending; we will make health care simpler, safer, cheaper, fairer. We will rid the earth of its most lethal weapons. We will turn green and clean. We will all just get along. (See pictures of eight months of Obama’s diplomacy.)

 

So when reality bites, it chomps down hard. The Nobel Committee cited “his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.” Some of those efforts are faulted by his critics – those who favor a missile shield for Poland or a troop surge in Afghanistan or a harder line on Iran. But even his fans know that none of the dreams have yet come true, and a prize for even dreaming them can feed the illusion that they have. (See the top 10 Obama-backlash moments.)

Not the first, but the last : Message from President Barack Obama

Friend —

This morning, Michelle and I awoke to some surprising and humbling news. At 6 a.m., we received word that I’d been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 2009.

To be honest, I do not feel that I deserve to be in the company of so many of the transformative figures who’ve been honored by this prize — men and women who’ve inspired me and inspired the entire world through their courageous pursuit of peace.

But I also know that throughout history the Nobel Peace Prize has not just been used to honor specific achievement; it’s also been used as a means to give momentum to a set of causes.

That is why I’ve said that I will accept this award as a call to action, a call for all nations and all peoples to confront the common challenges of the 21st century. These challenges won’t all be met during my presidency, or even my lifetime. But I know these challenges can be met so long as it’s recognized that they will not be met by one person or one nation alone.

This award — and the call to action that comes with it — does not belong simply to me or my administration; it belongs to all people around the world who have fought for justice and for peace. And most of all, it belongs to you, the men and women of America, who have dared to hope and have worked so hard to make our world a little better.

So today we humbly recommit to the important work that we’ve begun together. I’m grateful that you’ve stood with me thus far, and I’m honored to continue our vital work in the years to come.

Thank you,

President Barack Obama
 

Maybe the prize will give him more power, new muscle to haul unruly nations in line. But peacemaking is more about ingenuity than inspiration, about reading other nations’ selfish interests and cynically, strategically exploiting them for the common good. Will it help if fewer countries come to the table hating us? To a point. But it’s a starting point, not an end in itself.

 

At this moment, many Americans are longing for a President who is more bully, less pulpit. The President who leased his immense inaugural good will to the hungry appropriators writing the stimulus bill, who has not stopped negotiating health-care reform except to say what is nonnegotiable, whose solicitude for the wheelers and dealers who drove the financial system into a ditch leaves the rest of us wondering who has our back, has always shown great promise, said the right things, affirmed every time he opens his mouth that he understands the fears we face and the hopes we hold. But he presides over a capital whose day-to-day functioning has become part travesty, part tragedy; wasteful, blind, vain, petty, where even the best-intentioned reformers measure their progress with teaspoons. There comes a time when a President needs to take a real risk – and putting his prestige on the line to win the Olympics for his hometown does not remotely count.

 

Compare this to Greg Mortenson, nominated for the prize by some members of Congress, whom the bookies gave 20-to-1 odds of winning. Son of a missionary, a former Army medic and mountaineer, he has made it his mission to build schools for girls in places where opium dealers and tribal warlords kill people for trying. His Central Asia Institute has built more than 130 schools in Afghanistan and Pakistan – a mission which has, along the way, inspired millions of people to view the protection and education of girls as a key to peace and prosperity and progress. (See an interactive guide to Obama’s first 100 days as President.)

 

Sometimes the words come first. Sometimes it’s better to let actions speak for themselves.

(See pictures of Obama’s European tour.)

See pictures of Obama’s college years.

 

Courtesy:  Time.com

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