by Frank Schnittger
Fri Oct 9th, 2009 at 08:07:35 AM EST
|In a triumph of hope over achievement, President Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize today for "his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples" according to the Nobel Committee. It's amazing what a few good speeches and switching the focus of attack from Iraq to Afghanistan can do.|
However perhaps the Nobel Committee were not so much rewarding his achievements as trying to influence his future actions as debate in Washington rages over whether to escalate the war in Afghanistan. President Obama is not the first reforming US President to be bounced into a military quagmire by the military industrial complex - President Kennedy suffered a similar fate in the early 1960s and his assassination put paid to his re-evaluation of that war effort.
Obama is the fourth US President to be awarded the prize, following Theodore Roosevelt in 1906, Woodrow Wilson in 1919, and Jimmy Carter (a long time after he left office) in 2002. At least these Presidents had some real achievements to their name. Let's hope that Obama's award - like that of Henry Kissinger - does not cheapen the world's most prestigious honour.
Perhaps this honour will strengthen the hand of the "doves" in Washington who seem to be fighting a losing battle against the hawks trying to get Obama to commit more troops to the war in Afghanistan.
However the comparison with Kissinger is perhaps apt. Has Obama yet shown that he is anything other than a Realpolitik practitioner when it comes to foreign and domestic policy? The contrast with the ideological neo-conservatives of the Bush era has been so great that it has been possible for Obama to differentiate himself from his predecessor without challenging the dominant interests in Washington in any significant way to date.
Even his much touted health care reforms are predicated on a deal with Big Pharma to guarantee their long term revenues in return for their support for his Health Insurance reforms. There has been virtually no progress on financial regulatory reform, and progress on climate change regulation has been desultory to date. Perhaps Obama's appearance in Oslo on December 10th. will coincide with a visit to the UN Climate Change conference in Copenhagen and a dramatic initiative on Climate change.
We can but hope, but perhaps this isn't so much about Obama and more about the world welcoming the US back into the comity of nations aka the civilised world? It would be a real pity if the inventors of hype and spin took from this award the lesson that all that was needed to gain the support and approval of the world was to appoint a better PR guy.
We need to see some real progress on the Middle East, Climate Change, Global Financial Regulation, and disarmament. Let this be a spur to greater ambition and achievement and not an excuse for a self-satisfied conclusion by the US ruling class that the world now endorses US policies without ever having to change them very substantially from the Bush regime.