Again, the now strident, reactionary
wing of American public discourse is at it again. This time they
conspired to degrade the Nobel Peace Prize Committee for choosing the
young American president as one of its honorees. Just as ignorance
prevailed when France bucked the Bush Administration on Iraq and a
baleful ignorant section of the population descended into pure hubris
calling the French all kinds of derogatory names and pouring
French-made wine down drains, now the internationally prestigious
Nobel Peace Prize Committee has become the subject of ridicule and
infantile jokes by sections of the right wing.
Never mind that Barack Obama never
sought or asked for the coveted international prize. Or the fact that
he was genuinely shocked -- as most people were -- and pleasantly
surprised. Jaundice eyed critics could not see past "what has he
done to deserve this prize." Such chronic myopia is a by-product of
unbelievable arrogance and the absolutely mistaken belief in the
unquestioning superiority of American knowledge. No one else on
planet earth has the brains or the capability to think other than
this section of the American populace, it would seem.
And it was not enough for them when
President Obama stated publicly that he was humbled by the award and
that he did not feel he deserved it. He pointedly said that he did
not feel that he belonged "in the company of so many of the
transformative figures who've been honored by this prize -- men
and women who've inspired me and inspired the entire world through
their courageous pursuit of peace". The guy could not be any
planer. This is Grade 4 language -- not the Theorem of Pythagoras.
Or maybe the talking heads on both
conservative radio and television who have made it their life's work
to attack, malign and humbug Obama each and every day without
justification or substance suffered a momentary hearing loss. The
Nobel Peace Prize Committee was unambiguous and crystal clear about
why it selected Obama for the prize. This is what the Committee said:
"Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured
the world's attention and given its people hope for a better future".
Nobody, except the bleary eyed bitter Right Wing and Obama-haters
could challenge this statement.
But the Committee did not stop there. It further justified its decision with this pleasantly surprising statement that it "attached special importance to Obama's vision of, and work for, a world without nuclear weapons". Only the chronically and intellectually challenged cabal of "No to Obama" would argue with this.
From another perspective the Nobel
Peace Prize will place some focus and pressure on Obama to build a
more inclusive, consultative foreign policy especially when it comes
to small states. While it is still too early in his Administration to
present an objective and fair scorecard on President Obama's
bilateral diplomacy and willingness to lift up small, poor and
economically challenged nations it is safe to say that for now he's
sent very clear signals that he's not going to behave like his
predecessor whose approach to foreign policy was one based on
snubbing the international community, ignoring the opinions and
concerns of others -- both in and outside of America -- and
literally shooting first and then asking questions.
By contrast Obama has approached
American foreign policy by including small nations, creating a
constructive dialogue and promoting a platform of peace. He has also
said that he will be selective in the use of American military might.
But he's not yet created a lasting new climate in international
politics or has he buttressed the United Nations as an effective
instrument for peace and development as the Nobel Prize Committee
asserted. That is left to be seen and the jury is still out on these
Still, a number of positive spin-offs
for small emerging economies and developing countries can happen now
that Obama has won the Nobel Peace Prize. He's going to be under some
scrutiny to break with the old Republican-style of rejecting
diplomacy and bilateral agreements in favor of arrogant US diktat and
enforcement. He's going to be tested on how well his Administration
responds to the needs of small-island nations and emerging,
developing countries with very few natural resources in juxtaposition
to large countries with strategic resources like oil. And he's going
to be under the microscope to reform the high-handed, almost
meddlesome International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the World
Trade Organization (WTO) -- the new trio of neo-colonizers of small
and vulnerable countries.
For example, for the small nations of
the Caribbean how President Obama handles immigration reform --
especially the sensitive issue of forced deportations -- will be
another litmus test of America's friendship and a willingness to
engage these countries of America's "Third Border." Caribbean-US
relations reached an all-time low during the Bush Era because of the
region's progressive stance on the Iraq war and the Cuban blockage.
President Bush all but ignored the region and its over 5 million
inhabitants. He's going to have to balance how he deals with hot
spots like Palestine, Afghanistan and Iraq and regions like the
Caribbean, Latin America and places like India and Pakistan.
And it just cannot be simply a one size
fits all policy, crafted and fixed in Washington and simply handed
down to these regions and nations without regard for individual
uniqueness and other factors. This is so because that will continue
to cause the kinds of resentment that small nations developed of the
US under the Bush Administration's "might is right" policy that
alienated most of the world. Signs that President Obama is willing to
engage in multilateral dialogue with the emerging world of nations is
indicative of the fact that he wants a clean break with the horrible,
counterproductive policies of the former Republican Administration.
The point is that even as people debate
the value of bestowing the Nobel Peace Prize on President Obama there
are unquestionably positive signs that there has been a determined,
deliberate and progressive shift in American foreign policy by the
country's first Black president. One can also argue that he's so far
demonstrated that he's up to the tough challenges having come to the
presidency at a time when the United States was experiencing its
worst recession since the 1930s and fighting two wars that started
long before he decided to seek the presidency of the United States.
He's also taken on Wall Street and its powerful, entrenched interests
and the corruption of the US banking and financial systems.
And, too his foreign policy is a new
progressive one compared to the jingoistic, Pax Americana of the Bush
Era and its reliance on the projection and use of American military
might. His willingness to promote dialogue -- even with traditional
American enemies - is welcomed because this helps to tone down
belligerent rhetoric and reduce the possibilities of confrontation.
This, of course, is what the Nobel Prize Committee saw and its
decision to confer the prize on the American president is a clear
repudiation of the failed policies of the Bush years that visited
untold suffering on millions of the world's people by reckless
military adventures and the promotion of a closed, divisive foreign
In essence therefore the shouting from
the Right and the poopahing of the prize committee's decision to
award the President of the United States its peace prize is, in
Shakespeare's words " full of sound and fury signifying nothing."
Indeed, the limp, vapid arguments proffered by Mr. Obama's detractors
are nothing but tales told by idiots that soon will be heard no more.
Moreover, beyond the entertainment value of these political pundits
and sundry Monday morning quarterbacks there are two important
aspects of the Peace Prize award that cannot be questioned. Beyond a
shadow of a doubt the Nobel Peace Prize Committee has the right to
select whomever it wants including the United States president. That
is the first fact. Second, the committee is absolutely correct in its
conclusion that Barack Obama has given the world's people new hope
for a brighter future. So it is patently dishonest to pummel
President Obama for being awarded a prize he did not seek or lobby
That is why all Americans should have
joined with people all over the planet who cheered and were
pleasantly surprised when President Obama was named winner of the
Nobel Peace Prize. The fact that for the past 8 years America lost
its historical support, credibility and respect in the international
community this prize signals the fact that America is again engaging
the world not as a bully but as a friend. The era of Bush alienation
and separation; the Lone Ranger syndrome and the above the law
dynamics of an imperial presidency is now a thing of the past and the
Nobel Prize Committee recognized these positive new millennium
However, there are things that the
Obama Administration is doing that I am not in agreement with. But,
that is the very essence of democracy -- the ability to disagree
without being disagreeable. I am adamantly opposed to any further
engagement in Afghanistan with its potential for becoming a bloody,
costly and utterly counterproductive quagmire that if prolonged will
be a millstone around Obama's neck. I also question his commitment to
genuine reform of the financial and banking systems when he is feted,
wined and dined by the same Wall Street fat cats at a dinner with a
price tag of $'1,500 a plate. You can't hunt with the foxes and run
with the hares.
But inspite of all this there is no
doubt that Barack Obama has forced issues like race into the open
like never before, and that America is for the first time confronting
this phenomenon. The debate has become ugly and banal. Still, that is
a good thing since it will help purge America of its toxic past and
hopefully usher in a new progressive and tolerant era. The rabid
right wing's death throes in this regard are being manifested in
fringe groups like the "birthers movement," the Tea Baggers
Movement and a host of neo-conservative radio and TV talk show hosts.
At last, all the pretenses have been dropped and the ugly realities
of racism are now front, center and back in American public
discourse. Finally, this insidious and putrid cancer will be either
rooted out, sent into remission, or cured.