Obama and the Nobel Prize
By Clemens Heni and Leslie S. Lebl
In battle, they say that achieving surprise is often key to winning. Well, the Nobel Peace Prize committee achieved surprise in its choice of President Obama as this year’s recipient, but it’s not sure what advantage accrued as a result.
First, the sudden nature of the announcement deprived the mainstream media of a badly-needed moment to compose themselves and respond with appropriate decorum. Instead, we got some honest statements, like the one by political commentator Peter Beinart: „I like Barack Obama as much as the next liberal, but this is a farce.“
Interestingly, the announcement also jolted some German commentators into a moment of candor. For example, the online version of Der Spiegel, the most-read news magazine in the mainstream media, asked bluntly “for what” Obama received the prize. A jarring thought, considering that German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier were simultaneously expressing their pleasure with the choice.
Second, the timing couldn’t have been worse. Liberals have been criticizing the President for weeks now. In early October that criticism turned into ridicule, in the form of a Saturday Night Live spoof with an Obama impersonator reeling off a list of all the things he hadn’t done. Other commentators remarked that the Peace Prize arrived just as Obama was agonizing over how to wage war in Afghanistan – a litmus test, if there ever was one, for “peace” and Obama’s strategy (supposedly fixed last spring but now apparently open to revision) to achieve it.
Third, the committee has raised all kinds of questions about the reasons for its choice. It didn’t actually award the prize based on achievements, since applications had to be submitted by February 1, when Obama had been in office for less than two weeks. But surely the committee members were influenced by subsequent actions.
Presumably, they have been dazzled by Obama policy initiatives such as: courting the Muslim world in general and the Saudi king in particular; displaying hostility to Israel, to the point that his public support there has plummeted from 70% to 5%; negotiating with Iran regardless of Iran’s human rights violations or its documented progress in developing nuclear weapons and their ballistic missile delivery systems; dithering about the war in Afghanistan; and crushing Hondurans who don’t want a president for life.
A common thread running through many of Obama’s words and actions is sympathy for Islam. That may explain why he is so popular in Norway, and in Europe more generally. There, appeasing Islamic jihad is in fashion, and those who dare to criticize Islam are attacked. Take the recent case of Thilo Sarrazin, a former Social Democratic politician in Berlin. He had the temerity to say that, statistically, many fewer Muslims get high school diplomas, compared with other immigrant groups like Vietnamese, Russians or Poles. None other than the Central Council for Jews in Germany accused him of being like “Goebbels”.
Most likely, Obama’s reaction to the human rights protests in Iran also earned him points within the Norwegian political elite. Unlike the New York City based group, Artists4Israel, which on October 9 awarded their own peace award to the youthful Iranian opposition battling the mullahs and the Islamic Republic, Obama supports the murderous regime in Tehran. Negotiating with fascists like Ahmadinejad is apparently acceptable, while the committee was undeterred by Obama’s delay in condemning the murder of innocent young students like the female activist Neda. Ahmadinejad congratulated Obama immediately after the news and said Obama could prove his commitment to peace by not using his veto power at the UN.
The Norwegians may also have been impressed by Obama’s stance toward Israel. In recent years, according to the PewResearchCenter, 49% of Americans have said they sympathize more with Israel in its dispute with the Palestinians. In contrast, 43% in France said they sympathize more with the Palestinians; the number was 29% in Sweden and Britain, and 27% in Spain. Now, at last, an American president sees Mideast peace the European way.
There is one problem in all this: how all these policies actually contribute to making peace. Don’t worry, though; once their heads have stopped spinning, the mainstream media will explain it all to us.