Obama as Nobelist, Obama as game-changer

I was listening to National Public Radio on the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to President Barack Obama, and they brought on some nonentity from one of Rupert Murdoch’s faux “magazines,” who delivered himself of the remark that when he heard the news, he broke out laughing. He laughed at Obama. He is being paid by the Aussie media monopolist, the billionaire bully, to laugh at Obama.

The Right in the US objected to Obama getting the peace prize on the alleged grounds that he had not yet done anything to deserve it. But the Right in the United States is to peace as velociraptors were to vegetarianism. They don’t believe in the ideal for which the award stands in the first place. And they find President Obama laughable, so they can’t imagine him getting any awards. They have underestimated him badly and will probably pay a price for that. They misunderstand the Nobel Peace Prize and its history, and the Rupert Murdoch Right (he pays for a lot of this pollution of our airwaves) would not have agreed with any of the past awards.

Alfred Nobel outlined in his will the grounds on which the Peace Prize was to be given, saying it should go annually to the person who “shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding of peace congresses.” The modern committee considers work toward the reduction of nuclear arsenals in the same light as the reduction of standing armies, hence its award to Linus Pauling.

The American Rightwing would not have approved of Woodrow Wilson getting the prize for helping found the League of Nations. They do not believe in international cooperation or multilateralism in the first place. They think America should cowboy it. They are the tribe of ‘bring’em on’ and ‘wanted dead or alive.’ They are about trapping the country in quagmires so as to throw cash to their cronies in the military-industrial complex. They like wars, not peace. They don’t care how many people they kill in the global south. A million Iraqis dead? They deny it or justify it or blame it on someone else. They are bottom feeders.

They would have considered Frederic Passy, the first peace Nobelist, as woolly-headed dreamer and laughed at a Universal Peace Conference organized just a little over a decade before the mass slaughter of World War I. They would have dismissed Jane Addams as a “socialist.” And what would have provoked them to more gales of laughter than the 1935 award to the German pacifist Carl von Ossietzky. How’d that work out, they’d snicker as they elbowed each other (with any luck breaking some of each other’s ribs). If there is anyone they find more laughable than Barack Obama, it is Jimmy Carter (the greatest ex-president in American history), the 2002 awardee. Mohammad Elbaradei of the International Atomic Energy Agency repeatedly got in the way of the American Right’s war plans, so presumably they didn’t rejoice at his 2005 prize. They don’t believe in climate change or global warming and want us to switch to the dirtiest coal possible, so Al Gore’s 2007 prize set them giggling, as well.

Matt Corley explained at the time how Murdochians insisted that Al Gore had no accomplishments worthy of the Nobel Peace Prize and that it should have gone to Gen. Petraeus instead. I admire both men, but by the criteria outlined in Nobel’s will, it was Gore who had a claim on the prize.

Barack Obama was given the prize because he is a game-changer. Obama has dedicated himself to reducing and ultimately scrapping the nuclear arsenals that threaten the world with nuclear winter or a destruction of the ozone layer; either event would be catastrophic for human beings’ existence on the planet. Obama has already made a substantial change in relations between the US and the Muslim world. Two years ago we were talking about whether Cheney could convince Americans to go to war on Iran. Now Washington is engaging in direct talks with Tehran that have eased tensions.

Whether she or he actually achieves peace or not is unpredictable, but game changers are clearly visible to everyone. The hand shake between Rabin and Arafat in the early 1990s was potentially a game changer, and the Oslo deal would have profoundly enhanced world peace if it had worked (it might even have averted 9/11 and the subsequent wars). Al Gore’s campaign for the environment was a game changer. Shirine Ebadi’s dedication to a rule of law in Iran is a game changer, and she gives hope to many otherwise cynical youth and women.

For those who are giggling and demanding concrete improvements, it is worth noting that most of the recipients have been idealists rather than practical persons. Obama is both, and therefore he has a real shot at vindicating the social worth of his policies in future. Rightwing policies were tried for 8 years and they failed. Miserably.

End/ (Not Continued)

33 Responses

  1. How much of a "game changer" is Obama really? Obama's administration has pursued the same policies as Bush with respect to Iran: the same insistence on "zero enrichment", the same cowtowing to Israel, the same "all options are on the table" (which, incidentally, as a threat of force constitutes a WAR CRIME and a violation of the UN Charter) the same endorsement of the policy of first-use of nuclear weapons even against non-nuclear adversaries … not to mention the same on the use of torture, etc.

  2. Well, you're managing to be more hopeful than I can bring myself to be what with waiting for Obama to lower the boom on Afghanistan and stuff like that. I have nothing against the man. I just don't see it. Not a bit.

  3. Obama is a "game-changer" ?? He is trying to reduce nuclear weapons? Obama has not said ONE SINGLE WORD about Israel's nuclear weapon arsenal. Obama has promised not to say a word about Israel's massive nuclear arsenal. Professor, you are VERY WRONG to call Obama a game-changer.

    I agree with Michael Moore's comments yesterday that Obama has to earn the Nobel Peace Prize.

  4. Excellent paper, Juan, and a breath of fresh air after reading the Washington Post and such.

  5. Well, I am not a member of "the Right", Murdochian or otherwise, and there are not many Nobel winners, Peace or otherwise, to whom I would object (certainly Kissinger is a major exception). But my initial reaction to hearing that the commander in chief of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the man whose secretary of state and other high executive branch colleagues seem far more eager for, if not war against Iran then "regime change", who continues the US role of Israel's arms supplier, diplomatic body guard, and occupation enabler in chief, who insists that "we must look forward, not backward" in defiance in international and domestic law requiring the investigation of Bush, Cheney, Rice, Wolfowitz, Yoo, Addington and others for torture — that this person, who has done what, exactly — was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace — in one fell swoop the stature of the prize has been infinitely diminished, and the chasm between Obama's oratory and reality placed in ever greater contrast than had been the case. Why shouldn't the "Murdochian right" laugh? Just because one is a right-winger doesn't mean that you can never be right.

  6. Perfect. That's it in a nut shell.
    Right wing militarism is not directed at a cause, it just feeds a habit.

  7. Excellent remarks Dr. Cole.
    In my opinion, Rupert Murdoch and Co. have no respect.

  8. There is only one thing Obama could do that would meet the approval of the Republican Right: buy a gun and blow is brains out. Even then, there would be some criticism, but overall it would be approved.

  9. Hysperia: Even in Afghanistan, the US policy is changing. Gates, McChrystal and Hillary Clinton were pushing for more troops; Obama is instead holding to the current number for now, while he considers the new overtures from the Taliban. Biden and the professional foreign-policy folk are urging Obama to acknowledge reality, as noted in Prof. Cole's last post, and allow the Taliban an official political role in Afghanistan in order to get their aid in nailing Al-Qaeda.

  10. "They are about trapping the country in quagmires so as to throw cash to their cronies in the military-industrial complex."

    While I think there is a substantial number of war profiteers, do not discount those who just plain like war for its own sake. They glory in the exercise of American power and the preservation of "American Exceptionalism," and they seek war to expand the sense of glory that they can experience in being American.

    I'm sort of in the middle. I take pride in a sitting American President receiving the award, and I agree that he has done everything that you say. He has also remained silent and complicit on Israel's nuclear arsenal, and he has embraced the "war on terror" with significant fervor.

    No question, though, I applaud the Nobel Committee for its decision.

  11. Juan,

    Mr Robert Murdoch, although Australian born, is now an American citizen. A mere technicality I suppose reflecting the existing political structures, given that we all have a primary responsibility to the Earth Community.

  12. The people who criticize the Professor's use of the phrase "game changer" to describe Obama have lost touch with reality. It is probably useless to ask them to explain how they think he or any mortal could have done the miracles they demand that he should have produced in 9 months in office. There is no point in reminding them that all those miracles would have just been the start of curing the diseased condition the Right Wing flew away and left this country with. They just didn't fly far enough away. I also have an idea that they don't believe half of their own rants.

  13. Judged purely on merit, I don't think that Obama should have been given this award.

    However, whether intended or not, I think that one of the effects of awarding Obama the peace prize is to constrain US policy vis-a-vis Iran. It becomes that much harder to launch a war against Iran when the one who has to make this decision was recently awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

    I think the US right understands this, and its one of the reasons that they are so upset.

  14. The people telling us that Obama does not deserve the award are the same people who told us Iraq would be a cake-walk.

    I do not need to justify the Nobel committee's decision; it is theirs to make as they see fit. The people who criticize the decision are the same ones who tell us we cannot allow the government to morph a profit-driven health care business into a national health-care system that actually places public health above private wealth. We do not need to listen to their whining and their lies.

    The right-wing/neo-con/Murdoch minion set chooses to ignore Obama's accomplishments. They are:

    1) First African-American president.

    2) Did not use race as an issue to get elected. Does not use it now.

    3) Bold steps to prop up a financial system his critics had ruined.

    4) Stopped needless saber rattling against Iran.

    5) Stopped needless saber rattling against Russia.

    6) Addressed/recognized 1/4 of the world's population as people who deserve respect.

    7) Provided Iran a means to lawful nuclear power, thereby short-circuiting any excuse she might have for seeking nuclear weaponry.

    8) Told Israel to stop the war crimes.

    9) In one nomination, placed on the SCOTUS a person who will foil the Scalia/Roberts/Thomas trifecta.

    10) Actually hired people of merit for the various agencies, e.g. a physicist for Dept of Energy, and left the knowledgeable Bernanke in place, though with marching orders to abandon the dark side.

    I am waiting for more the of true nature of Obama to emerge, and I suspect it is this: with the mindset of a community organizer, he has issued marching orders (same metaphor twice – sorry) for almost every issue he could address. Give the people time to get something done. I suspect Obama will reveal his true character when he gets to the part of the plan where he says, "OK, I gave you [name of department head] a job to do. What have you done so far?"

    I think the people of the Nobel committee see this capability in Obama, and they think he has already done enough to earn the award. If the award is a wakeup call for anyone or any group, it is a wakeup call directed at those of use who supported Obama and the message in the wake-up call is, "Get off the sidelines. Support your president."

  15. Along with other friends who voted for President Obama, I was nonetheless appalled that he should be awarded a prize he has in no way earned and appears to be doing any number of things not to earn. I voted for Obama because there was no other choice, but never will I vote so again.

  16. I agree with Michael Moore's comments yesterday that Obama has to earn the Nobel Peace Prize.

    I agree. And I believe the Nobel committee agrees with it, too. In fact, that's exactly what they say they have in mind. He has to earn it, so it's actually more likely that he will work for it rather than take the easy way out. It will also give him legitimacy.

  17. Mr. Cole, you are making a straw-man argument by focusing on the republicans. The DNC has already dealt with them by stooping to the level of Karl Rove:

    "The Republican Party has thrown in its lot with the terrorists – the Taliban and Hamas this morning – in criticizing the President for receiving the Nobel Peace prize," DNC communications director Brad Woodhouse told POLITICO."

    link to politico.com

    Why are you ignoring Obama's more lucid critics such as Glen Greenwald or Howard Zinn?

    Greenwald: The Nobel Committee "apparently — and rationally — won't believe that America will actually change from a war-making nation into a peace-making one until there are tangible signs that this is happening. It's because that has so plainly not yet occurred that the Nobel Committee has made a mockery out of their own award.
    But far more important than the lack of actual accomplishments are some of the policies over which Obama has presided that are the very opposite of peace."

    Zinn: "I was dismayed when I heard Barack Obama was given the Nobel peace prize. A shock, really, to think that a president carrying on two wars would be given a peace prize. Until I recalled that Woodrow Wilson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Henry Kissinger had all received Nobel peace prizes. The Nobel committee is famous for its superficial estimates, won over by rhetoric and by empty gestures, and ignoring blatant violations of world peace."

  18. Two things:

    * I like the coinage of "the Murdochian Right" but, unsurprisingly, prefer one of my own. That would be "Dead Jackals." It comes from the definition of a gentleman as someone who would rather be a dead lion than a live jackal. The person I learned this from would then say he'd prefer to be a live lion, so he didn't qualify. Many of the Right these days would clearly prefer to be Dead Jackals — both carrion eaters and sufficiently unpopular to not win elections.

    * The little noticed thing about the Dead Jackals is how they gussy themselves up as law'n'order types, but disdain the actual rule of law. Here that's illustrated by the number of times the Nobel Peace Prize is criticized negatively in ways that make an absolute hash of the wording of the will. Because, after all, it's more important that the tribe come to the right consensus than the law be observed.

    OK, three things:

    * …which only reminds me of Adam Gopnik and his observation that in France, journalists wouldn't have "fact-checkers" but "theory-checkers" because for the French facts are mutable, but theory is all. It's extraordinary the degree to which, post the Cult of Personality with George W. Bush, the GOP and the Right are so, so… French in their attitudes.

  19. Hi Juan,

    Recent research has revealed that velociraptor was actually an omnivore, and not a great deal larger than a turkey either. So maybe not the best metaphor you've got there :)

    Jurassic Park unfortunately depicted velociraptor in quite an inaccurate manner.

  20. Hasn't George W. Bush done more than anyone to reduce the standing armies of the world?

  21. There is only one thing Obama could do that would meet the approval of the Republican Right: buy a gun and blow is brains out. Even then, there would be some criticism, but overall it would be approved.

    They'd rejoice for a couple of days and then notice that there was still a Democrat in the White House. Now if he'd agree to wait until the Republicans took the House and chose a Republican speaker and then shot himself and Joe Biden . . .

  22. I think it's a great award and will push Obama (and the world) in the right direction.

    But why do you admire Gen. Petraeus? I was surprised to read this. We watched the principled generals retire, and we watched the bad ones stay on and do evil under Bush. I would not wish to blame anyone in the lower ranks, but the "betray us" jibe seemed to me quite fitting for those bootlicking generals, and especially for this political general who often appears to be prepping for 2012 or 2016.

    But maybe I am missing the facts. If there are good things I should know about Gen. Petraeus (or McCrystal), please make me reconsider.
    .

  23. The comment by Zinn about Teddy Roosevelt (and the larger zeitgeist TR is undeserving) shows a profound lack of a sense of history.

    Roosevelt won the Nobel peace Prize specifically for negotiating an end to the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-05. That was a real war, and the peace that came out of those negotiations a real peace. Whatever one may think of TR's other actions does not detract from that.

    link to en.wikipedia.org

  24. Thank you, Dr. Cole. Your calm assessment of this has helped my morning get off in a positive direction. My appreciation.

  25. Juan
    Nice to see you now describe 'Blackwater employees' as mercenaries.(you might recall our disagreement on this issue in 2003)

    Please note that Rupert Murdoch is now an American citizen. We here in Oz managed to get rid of him some time ago.

    On the Nobel Peace Prize I believe that the nominations closed 11 days after Obamas' inauguration.

    Enough said.

  26. Hal,

    Accusing Howard Zinn of lacking knowledge of US history is ridiculous.

    The quote, in context, can be read here (sorry for not providing the link in the first place):

    link to commondreams.org

    He clearly states,

    "Sure, Theodore Roosevelt brokered a peace between Japan and Russia. But he was a lover of war, who participated in the US conquest of Cuba, pretending to liberate it from Spain while fastening US chains on that tiny island. And as president he presided over the bloody war to subjugate the Filipinos, even congratulating a US general who had just massacred 600 helpless villagers in the Philippines. The Committee did not give the Nobel prize to Mark Twain, who denounced Roosevelt and criticized the war, nor to William James, leader of the anti-imperialist league."

    Greenwald's full statement is here:

    link to commondreams.org

  27. Anonymous: Misquoting someone is equally ridiculous, especially since one and all can simply scroll up and see how you're misconstruing my words.

    I did not say Zinn, "lacked knowledge." I said his comment, "shows a profound lack of a sense of history." The distinction to be drawn is Zinn's comment is knowledgeable but completely misses the point (perhaps he does Linux tech support in his spare time?). Your longer quote of him shows the problems: Zinn's view is that Roosevelt was such an evil person in general that any action of his, no matter how virtuous, is indelibly tainted. Further, it is better to praise Twain and James for actions that had no effect on the war at all than to praise Roosevelt for actually, you know, ending the war.

    That's all OK if one believes in the Great Man theory of history, and thus the way to view history is to judge people. If, however, one believes human beings to be complex creatures capable of many different actions, some virtuous, some heinous, and it is for these individual actions one should be judged — then Zinn's position rings of gross oversimplification. And, yes, lack of sense — worse, willful lack of sense. It would, in some ways, be better if Zinn did "lack knowledge," because then at least he'd have an excuse. Instead, his criticism is just as prejudicial against Roosevelt as the Dead Jackals' railings against Obama.

  28. Remember, not long ago the Nobel Peace Prize went to Menachim Begin, inventor of the car bomb as well as an architect of Israel's nuclear weapons development, expansion of settlements, war against Palestinians, etc., etc.

    The Nobel awards committee sees itself as representing a moderate-liberal wing of the capitalist class internationally. This is obvious in Obama's award, as well as year-in year-out in the prizes for economics. One recipient today even got it for research that shows large corporations are more efficient than smaller companies, which is why it's more effective to regulate "abuse of power" than company size. As if Karl Marx had never been born…

  29. If I'm not mistaken, the nobel committee asked critics to name someone who has done more for peace in the last year. Given the things James_speaks liisted earlier (a mixture of genuine accomplishments and work-in-progress), Obama does have a claim.

    29 comments so far, after all, and no one has named someone more deserving.

  30. Whether you like it or not, Obama has won the Nobel Peace Prize.

    That is a fact that no opinion, laughter, disagreement or political posturing can change.

    Har har har.

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