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Tilting at Windmills

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October 9, 2009

NOBEL ANNOUNCEMENT.... President Obama's Nobel Peace Prize seems to be driving international discussion quite a bit this morning, and for good reason. It's a startling development.

I was struck by something Josh Marshall wrote.

[T]he unmistakable message of the award is one of the consequences of a period in which the most powerful country in the world, the 'hyper-power' as the French have it, became the focus of destabilization and in real if limited ways lawlessness. A harsh judgment, yes. But a dark period. And Obama has begun, if fitfully and very imperfectly to many of his supporters, to steer the ship of state in a different direction. If that seems like a meager accomplishment to many of the usual Washington types it's a profound reflection of their own enablement of the Bush era and how compromised they are by it, how much they perpetuated the belief that it was 'normal history' rather than dark aberration.

For all the recognition of George W. Bush's unpopularity, it's easy to overlook the ways in which the international community was truly mortified by the U.S. leadership during the Bush era. The irreplaceable leading nation could no longer be trusted to do the right thing -- on use of force, torture, rule of law, international cooperation, democratic norms, even climate change. We'd reached a point at which much of the world was poised to simply give up on America's role as a global leader.

And, love him or hate him, President Obama changed this. I doubt anyone on the Nobel committee would admit it, but the Peace Prize is, to a certain extent, an implicit "thank you" to the United States for reclaiming its rightful place on the global stage.

It's indicative of a degree of relief. Much of the world has wanted America to take the lead again, and they're rightly encouraged to see the U.S. president stepping up in the ways they hoped he would. It's hard to overstate the significance, for example, of seeing a U.S. president chair a meeting of the United Nations Security Council and making strides on a nuclear deal.

This is not to say Obama was honored simply because he's not Bush. The president really has committed himself to promoting counter-proliferation, reversing policies on torture, embracing a new approach to international engagement, and recommitting the U.S. to the Middle East peace process. But charting a new course for American leadership, breaking with the recent past, no doubt played a role.

As outraged as American conservatives are this morning, notice the international reactions. Praise was not universal, but Mohamed Elbaradei, for example, said, "I cannot think of anyone today more deserving of this honor. In less than a year in office, he has transformed the way we look at ourselves and the world we live in and rekindled hope for a world at peace with itself." Mandela, Tutu, and Gorbachev, among others, also praised the announcement.

The most angry international responses came from Hamas and the Taliban.

The president is scheduled to speak from the Rose Garden at 10:30 (eastern) and is expected to comment on the award.

Steve Benen 9:35 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (44)

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Comments

You're correct that the American reaction isn't what counts here -- what the rest of the world is saying is very illuminating.

Posted by: shortstop on October 9, 2009 at 9:36 AM | PERMALINK

OK, when did the TALIBAN become the go-to for reaction on an international PEACE PRIZE?! Am I the only one who wanted to rip his eyes out when I heard major news networks quoting the Taliban's reaction? I'd like to know who the actual reporter was that called them up this morning. Seriously, anyone have a name?

PS, doesn't this put conservatives and the Taliban in the same basket? Oh, wait, they already were. . .

Posted by: eadie on October 9, 2009 at 9:38 AM | PERMALINK

Obama -- plus the fact that a majority of Americans selected him our leader -- has given the rest of the world hope in America again, and this reward reflects that.

It's now incumbent on Obama to prove that he (and we) deserve this great honor.

(Plus, what the hell, I'm just loving the Republican fits going on this morning!)

Posted by: K in VA on October 9, 2009 at 9:43 AM | PERMALINK

I gotta say this isn't really an award for Obama -- it is a slam on Bush.

Anyone else remember the campaign by some right-wingers to get Bush the Nobel Peace Prize?

Posted by: Go, Sestak! Or Hoeffel! on October 9, 2009 at 9:45 AM | PERMALINK

This is a sick joke, but the nobel peace prize has been a sick joke for years.

The last winner who truly deserved it was Dr Henrey Kissinger.

Posted by: Al on October 9, 2009 at 9:46 AM | PERMALINK

IMHO, today's Nobel Peace prize went to BHO, but the Swedes were really giving it to the American voters, for taking the nuclear codes out of the hands of warmongering fool Republicans.

It's a reward richly deserved, if I don't say so myself, and on my own behalf I'd like to thank the Academy.

Posted by: jimmy on October 9, 2009 at 9:49 AM | PERMALINK

The Company They Keep

Okay, so the GOP is aligned with the Taliban and Hamas on this Nobel prize thing. And they cheered the US being rejected for hosting the Olympics.

Yet somehow, it's still the Democrats who are the unpatriotic traitors. The Dems really need a better PR organization...

Posted by: Zandru on October 9, 2009 at 9:50 AM | PERMALINK

jimmy: "IMHO, today's Nobel Peace prize went to BHO, but the Swedes were really giving it to the American voters..."

The Peace Prize is awarded by the Norwegian Nobel Committee. Sweden gives out the science prizes. Common mistake.

Ironic that the US president wins the peace prize on the same morning the US bombed the Moon.

Posted by: Grumpy on October 9, 2009 at 9:59 AM | PERMALINK

I guess I can see the idea of the world's relief that Dumbya is no longer president, but wouldn't Joe Biden deserve it more because he replaced Cheney? I am delighted to see Hamas, the Taliban and the GOP heads exploding over the selection, but I wonder if the Academy was not trying to influence Obama's decisions on Afgahnistan? Personally, I do not think there is a chance in h*ll that it will--Obama simply does not strike me as that venal, but you know that unless Obama agrees to send another 500,000 troops to Afgahnistan and to start using tactical nuclear weapons along the Pakistan/ Afgahn border, there will be some on the right who will say it is because of the Nobel Prize and point to it as another example of Obama being under European influence. In other words, I do not see any upside for the President, only a downside.

Posted by: Terry on October 9, 2009 at 10:01 AM | PERMALINK

The anti-Obamaites will stage dramatic demonstrations of their shock and disappointment that a green president should win the prize without surviving significant competition in the arena of peace and war. Before they show yet another facet of their hypocrisy, they might want to pause to consider that their boys--Chainy and Butch--conducted an eight-year campaign to destroy the brittle infrastructure of international peace. It was their boys who lowered the bar.

Obama wins a prize for being for peace, in stark contrast to his predecessors, whose attraction to evil was so strong that it fueled them with the audacity to be against it.

Posted by: Boolaboola on October 9, 2009 at 10:02 AM | PERMALINK

Boy I bet Bill Clinton is pissed.

Posted by: Christopher on October 9, 2009 at 10:03 AM | PERMALINK

Sadly, this will only give the black helicopter crowd more ammuntion. Not that they really could be convinced, but I'm worried it will help spread the whole "the world is against us and the U.N. is trying to take over" meme that much more easily.

Posted by: Ben on October 9, 2009 at 10:03 AM | PERMALINK

Hey Americans! This prize is not about America! And it isn't handed by America. Close away your egotistical world view for three seconds: this is about the world feeling MUCH saver now than one year ago, simply because Obama reinstituted the rule of reason and diplomacy again.

I know you usually don't give a shit about the rest of us. But we do. And we have a voice. And the NPP is OUR comment. Not yours.

Listen and learn.

Posted by: Vokoban on October 9, 2009 at 10:05 AM | PERMALINK

Well, anything that pisses off the Red State crowd is OK by me.

Frankly, the only difference I see between Cheney era policies and Obama era policies in regards to war and civil liberties is that when the Obama administration tells us that the wars will go on, and the renditions will go on, and the patriot act will go on . . . they do it with a smile on their face, not a Cheney scowl.

Viva la difference. I'm sure the prisoners at Gitmo are really happy this morning.

Posted by: Joesbrain on October 9, 2009 at 10:05 AM | PERMALINK

P.S. I'm with ... above. Being committed to peace is not the same thing as making peace. Obama's good intentions can't compare with, say, negotiating the end of the Russo-Japanese War or founding the League of Nations.

Maybe, just maybe, the Nobel committee is hoping that Obama will be able to deliver on his promises more effectively with a Nobel medal around his neck.

Posted by: Grumpy on October 9, 2009 at 10:06 AM | PERMALINK

This is a sick joke, but the nobel peace prize has been a sick joke for years.

@Al

You're thinking of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Posted by: Winkandanod on October 9, 2009 at 10:11 AM | PERMALINK

Grumpy...I think you have the Nobel committee's intention correct. Perhaps they believe that with Obama winning this prize, it puts more pressure on him to deliver on his promises. Let's hope so because at this young stage in his Presidency, the comments made by Joesbrain above ring true.

Posted by: whichwitch on October 9, 2009 at 10:18 AM | PERMALINK

Of course it would be sweet if at the acceptance ceremony Obama announced that he will be donating his prize money to ACORN.

Man, wouldn't it be fun to see Limbaugh's head explode?

Posted by: Joesbrain on October 9, 2009 at 10:19 AM | PERMALINK

After the horrors of the Bush Administration in everything from Rule of Law to Rule of Science, it was the American people who put Obama into office. This was an illustration, as if we needed it, of how strong democracies are in a sense self-correcting.

I think the Prize is as much an expression of relief as an acknowledgment of our worthy democratic process.

We should all be proud of this.

Posted by: leo on October 9, 2009 at 10:20 AM | PERMALINK

i think this prize is because not only some americans wept with joy on january 20, 2009... for many urgent as well as historical reasons.

it is surreal to wake up to this good news, and to already hear the repugnants and the right wing moan and howl from their very stunted ugly Weltanshauung.

They seem so odd, mean and tragic.

Posted by: neill on October 9, 2009 at 10:25 AM | PERMALINK

"Ironic that the US president wins the peace prize on the same morning the US bombed the Moon."

Posted by: Grumpy at 9:59 AM

That's great. Now we've got to occupy the damn thing and bring democracy to the craters.

Posted by: burro on October 9, 2009 at 10:27 AM | PERMALINK

and don't forget burro, we've got green cheese flying everywhere due to our actions....What havoc have we reaped - egads! I love Friday's comments and especially this Friday...the GOP'ers and hate media are going berserk...over another news item, but still...ain't it a great day!

Posted by: whichwitch on October 9, 2009 at 10:45 AM | PERMALINK

Email from Swedish relative this morning (Norway, not Sweden, bestows the Peace Prize):

"Obama gets the Nobel peace prize! Isn't this PRETTY big??? I feel so excited, what a surprise!

Great to hear something positive about USA in the international "debate". Obama will change how people over here look at USA.

Hope Iran doesn't "fly off the handle" because of this. I hope this will start even more positive processes around the world. I hope Obama himself will feel encouraged to continue his peace work.

Isn't it great? I think it is."

Posted by: FC on October 9, 2009 at 10:51 AM | PERMALINK

Hamas, Taliban, The Limbaugh Wing of the Republican Party...

yeah..feels about right...

peas in a pod...

Posted by: justmy2 on October 9, 2009 at 10:52 AM | PERMALINK

That's quite a "lovely parting gift" for not getting the Olympics.

Posted by: ML on October 9, 2009 at 11:04 AM | PERMALINK

Mandela, Tutu, and Gorbachev, among others, also praised the announcement.

I'd still like to hear from Bono, though.

Posted by: Stefan on October 9, 2009 at 11:14 AM | PERMALINK

Obama hasn't done much to deserve the prize -- yet -- and there are strong indications that he is continuing way too many of Bush's policies (including torture & war without a specific goal).

My first thought about it is that Obama is being awarded the prize for being, you know, someone other than George Bush. His rhetoric certainly delivers. So far it's mostly empty words, but he is a very intelligent man. In that respect alone, he's very different from the doltish Bush & his overly simplistic view of right & wrong.

& my best guess is that Obama is standing in for the award the Nobel Committee could hardly give out instead: to the American voters who, after a very long time, have actually voted a decent and intelligent man into office. Clinton was very smart and was a very good president, but you'd have to go back to Carter & his (unfairly imo) misbegotten presidency to find a US president so willing to use diplomacy to solve the world's ills.

Posted by: zhak on October 9, 2009 at 11:16 AM | PERMALINK

Further evidence of how meaningless the Nobel Peace Prize has become...

Have a teaspoonful of sugar. Cuts the bitterness.

Posted by: Tom K on October 9, 2009 at 11:43 AM | PERMALINK

"And, love him or hate him, President Obama changed this."

How has he done that? He's been continuing the policies of George W. Bush, not changing them.

Posted by: Crawdad on October 9, 2009 at 11:53 AM | PERMALINK

Hmmm perhaps the prize is for Obama indeed. "Hey, dude, we're really happy you're the new boss, but start walking the walk, cause so far you're scaring the sh*t out of us with this whole Iran thing and your clumsiness In dealing with your domestic problems..."

Posted by: Justme on October 9, 2009 at 12:29 PM | PERMALINK

Am I the only one who wanted to rip his eyes out when I heard major news networks quoting the Taliban's reaction? I'd like to know who the actual reporter was that called them up this morning.

Posted by: eadie on October 9, 2009 at 9:38 AM

I had that same reaction (though my eyes are still intact). Does the Taliban have a Public Information Officer now? A press secretary? Did they ask one of the 5,736 "number two" guys we've supposedly caught?

Posted by: electrolite on October 9, 2009 at 12:46 PM | PERMALINK

Yep, the Taliban has a spokesman.

From Reuters:

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, speaking to Reuters by telephone from an undisclosed location, said it was absurd to give a peace award to a man who had sent 21,000 extra troops to Afghanistan, and Obama "should have won the 'Nobel Prize for escalating violence and killing civilians.'"

From Agence France Presse:

"We have seen no change in his strategy for peace. He has done nothing for peace in Afghanistan," Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told AFP.

"We condemn the award of the Nobel Peace Prize for Obama," he said by telephone from an undisclosed location.

"When Obama was elected president, we were hopeful he would keep his promise to bring change. But he brought no change, he has continued the same old strategy as President George W Bush.

"He reinforces the war in Afghanistan, he sent more troops to Afghanistan and is considering sending yet more. He has shed Afghan blood and he continues to bleed Afghans and to boost the war here," he said.

Posted by: shortstop on October 9, 2009 at 1:17 PM | PERMALINK

I think to understand the import of this choice one need only look to the career of John Bolton, the man Bush tried to appoint as US ambassador to the UN; he is symbolic all the neo-con adventurism and dirty dealing done by that administration:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_R._Bolton
http://thinkprogress.org/2006/07/27/bolton-failure/

there was a LOT of dirt done in international affairs over the past 8 years. This award honors and reinforces the hope that Obama can successfully bring that era to a close. It will take time and support from we the people who put him in office and the rest of the world.

Posted by: JS on October 9, 2009 at 1:44 PM | PERMALINK

I always thought that Jimmy Carter's Nobel was the rebuke to Bush, and then Gore's, although I welcome as many rebukes of Bush as they would like to offer.

Posted by: haha on October 9, 2009 at 1:59 PM | PERMALINK

Obama's accomplishments are kind of light, so this is more for his speeches and his tone.

I wonder whether the stepped-up offensive against the Taliban in AfPak helped or hurt him in the considerations. I wonder what Sarkozy thinks about the choice, or the Iranian protesters.

About climate change, Bush bore the brunt of the Senate rejection of the Kyoto Treaty (Clinton did not even try to get it ratified after the Sense of the Senate vote 95-0 against.) It remains to be seen whether Obama can get a Waxman-Markey type bill through the Senate.

I'm happy for him.

Posted by: MatthewRMarler on October 9, 2009 at 2:11 PM | PERMALINK

Those pulling cowards then. Why should we have to shoulder the fucking burden? Now they can free-ride once more and blame us for every little thing that goes wrong or two shift blame.

Posted by: MNPundit on October 9, 2009 at 2:12 PM | PERMALINK

Vokoban: this is about the world feeling MUCH saver now than one year ago, simply because Obama reinstituted the rule of reason and diplomacy again.

If that is true, then "the world" is very foolish. Obama promised during his campaign to use military power to prevent Iran acquiring nuclear weapons, if necessary, and it looks like he will be challenged on that point. That and every other place on earth where there is violence was unaffected by Obama's election. The AfPak offensive that I mention above was initiated under Bush and carried out (up till now, at least) by Obama. Joesbrain and others have noted how the changes implemented by Obama are slight modifications of Bush's policies.

Posted by: MatthewRMarler on October 9, 2009 at 2:24 PM | PERMALINK

"The horrors of the Bush Administration"

That's one of the most ignorant and naive phrases I've read in quite some time.

Posted by: John Mackey Greene on October 9, 2009 at 2:30 PM | PERMALINK

"The horrors of the Bush Administration"

That's one of the most ignorant and naive phrases I've read in quite some time.

Greene's right. "Whores of the Bush administration" would be more accurate in describing 43's foreign-policy personnel.

Posted by: shortstop on October 9, 2009 at 2:39 PM | PERMALINK

I prefer to think of the award to Obama like the one-week sobriety chip at an AA meeting. It's not so much about the achievement as about encouraging more of the same.

Posted by: Qbert on October 9, 2009 at 2:50 PM | PERMALINK

Congratulations to President Obama!

Posted by: Constant Gina on October 9, 2009 at 2:54 PM | PERMALINK

This is great news. I am very happy that he won. It is especially fun reading all the haters comments.

Posted by: Chris R on October 9, 2009 at 2:55 PM | PERMALINK

That's a pretty good analogy, Qbert. Add to it the idea that the last prez was on an eight-year bender, and you've got it all wrapped up.

Posted by: shortstop on October 9, 2009 at 4:27 PM | PERMALINK

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