Obama must make the noble decision
President Barack Obama has been awarded the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize. In what was reportedly a tight race between 205 nominations, President Obama came out above Morgan Tsvangirai and ‘a Chinese dissident’ to win the prestigious award. The last sitting President to achieve this feat was Teddy Roosevelt.
While I am an avid (but not uncritical) fan (and loyal citizen) of President Obama, I found the choice odd and controversial. Of course, the simple fact that he is willing to engage in diplomacy – something completely neglected by Bush – has been one of the most positive developments in international relations of the past decade. But President Obama is not even a year into his presidency, and is facing a growing list of security threats and crises in Palestine, Afghanistan, Iran, North Korea and Iraq. His first steps have been positive – his speech in Egypt earlier this year, commitment to talks in Iran, support for Turkey in the EU – but whether he will follow through in his commitments and actually make good and noble decisions, particularly when it comes to the “Muslim world”, remains to be seen.
It is simply too soon to judge whether Obama is worthy recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. Instead of the Nobel Prize serving as recognition for noble decisions made, it will now have to colour Obama’s future decisions. For any of the myriad problems Obama faces, we can ask, is his decision worthy of a Nobel Peace Prize? This begs the wider question, what are the types of decisions that should be honoured with a Nobel Peace Prize? Consider the most pressing and significant decision facing the Obama administration, that of Afghanistan.
Obama must choose between increasing US troop levels to 40,000 as recommended by General Stanley McChrystal, or paring down the effort and radically shift the approach to pure counter terrorism policing, targeting only Al Qaeda while letting the Taliban and the Afghans fight amongst themselves?
The New York Times reported two days ago that, while a decision was still weeks in the offing, Obama and his team were very seriously considering a scaled back approach on the logic that it was Al Qaeda that posed a threat to the United States, not the Taliban. Many may argue, particularly on the Left, that this would be the decision most worthy of the Nobel, and that the opposite decision to increase troops and commitment – to in effect, escalate the war – would be contrary to the spirit of the ‘Peace Prize’. They would be wrong.
If the United States were to pull out of Afghanistan, or initiate a scaled down approach, it would amount to an immoral and unjustifiable abandonment of the Afghan people. The Peace Prize should be awarded for courage and commitment to look beyond the narrow security interests of the United States. Obama must acknowledge the moral duty the United States owes to the Afghans. Anything short of full commitment to the Afghan people would be an abrogation of America’s moral duty to Afghanistan and the spirit of the Nobel.
As a loyal Democrat I can finally take great pride in my President, and I think Obama has done an exceptional job thus far. However, many tough decisions lie ahead and it is simply too soon to judge whether Obama is worthy recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. His decision on Afghanistan will be a crucial test as to whether the award of the prize was just.