October 9, 2009
By James Jay Carafano, Ph.D.
Waking up to a Nobel Peace Prize may not have been what
President Obama wanted. Here's why:
The Nobel Committee awarded the prize on the basis of hope for
what he'll do in the future, rather than on his past
Public diplomacy, nuclear disarmament, working through the
United Nations and reaching out to the Islamic world were all put
forward as hallmarks of the Obama way. The problem is that all
these instruments rely on cooperation, so depending on them gives
enormous power to the people you have to cooperate with.
The president's credibility rests not only on showing progress,
but also on using these tools to advance the cause of peace. Those
he needs to cooperate with can now demand a pretty high price for
playing ball. Or they can withhold collaboration to embarrass the
White House. It increases their potential to hold the White House
The Kremlin's hand, for example, has been greatly strengthened.
Obama hopes to eliminate nuclear weapons by negotiating arms
control treaties. The Russians can now demand a pretty high price
to make a deal, knowing that if the White House walks away it will
cost the president's program a good deal of credibility.
It could be argued that the prize committee's decision was
shortsighted, actually making the cause of peace harder by
weakening the president's flexibility in trying to drive the hard
bargains required to make real progress.
Also, politicization of the award -- handing out a prize
essentially for good intentions rather than substantive achievement
-- cheapens its significance. Particularly when dissident leaders
in China, Zimbabwe, Cuba and other dictatorships are passed over
despite their substantial achievements.
Some past winners risked all for their world-changing
accomplishments. Lech Walesa led the Solidarity movement to free
Poland from brutal Soviet oppression. Mother Teresa received the
prize for a lifetime of humanitarian service. Former Israeli Prime
Minister Menachem Begin and Former Egyptian President Anwar Sadat
made the "peace of the brave" that cost Sadat his life.
President Obama should accept the award. Not for what he has
done, but on behalf of the service and sacrifice of the American
people. The Nobel Prize committee should have given him the
opportunity to meet these weighty expectations, rather than
diminish past achievements with a public relations award.
However, the Nobel organization is a private one -- and it has
every right to give this award to whomever it chooses. The real
measure of success for Obama will be how well he serves the
American people, safeguards our sovereignty and keeps the nation
secure, free and prosperous.
James Jay Carafano is Senior
Research Fellow in national security policy at The Heritage
First Appeared in NPR
Waking up to a Nobel Peace Prize may not have been what President Obama wanted. Here's why: The Nobel Committee awarded the prize on the basis of hope for what he'll do in the future, rather than on his past achievements.
James Jay Carafano, Ph.D.
Vice President, Foreign and Defense Policy Studies, E. W. Richardson Fellow, and Director
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