Saturday, October 10, 2009

The audacity of Obama's peace prize

I only just caught up on Saturday afternoon with the news that Obama has won the Nobel Peace Prize. I'm amazed, and puzzled. I'm wondering: just what peace has Obama meant to have brought that is worth the Nobel? Iraq? Still tatters. Afghanistan? War. Well?

I haven't yet decided on Obama – on whether he is progressive enough and will be the catalyst for abiding positive change in the US and globally, or be another moderately liberal US President, like Clinton, hemmed in by powerful vested interests and neutralised by the desire to hang on to power. But based on his autobiography, The Audacity of Hope, which I really enjoyed listening to the audio of, I’m open to seeing what he can and will do, and I hope it will be many good and important things. As well as something big on climate change. Because we certainly need it.

It is the kind of hope that I never really had for Kevin Rudd (other than that he take Howard from power). Thus, while I feel less disaffected with Rudd (having expected less of him and the ALP and, perversely, received even less), I do feel we have more to lose if Obama falters.


But this Nobel Peace Prize is another matter. My partner reckons it will damn him. Everything he does now will be judged against the Prize. Will we always be asking of Obama, 'Is he living up to the Peace Prize?' She has a point. Will this mean that the small but crucial steps to peace that he may (need to) put in train will be seen to count for less? We will always expect the grand gestures for peace – even if such gestures are often empty?


In an email to supporters, international human rights online campaigning site Avaaz.org is more open to Obama’s Peace Prize, and sees in it the opportunity to push him to take stronger action on pressing issues of world peace, including climate change:
Obama himself says he's "surprised, humbled" and doesn't yet deserve it -- but he's accepted the Prize as a call to action, "to confront the common challenges of the 21st century" together. On too many pressing issues, the US President seems boxed-in by stubborn interests and has not yet taken courageous action. He deserves to hear our congratulations -- and our message to be bolder.

In his Cairo speech this June, Obama spoke of “the world we seek” -- one where “extremists no longer threaten our people, and American troops have come home; a world where Israelis and Palestinians are each secure in a state of their own” and nuclear energy does not trigger conflict -- a world where governments serve their citizens, and the rights of all are respected.

Obama’s words have offered a vision of profound change: all this can perhaps not be achieved overnight. But his push for Middle East peace has not yet been strong enough to overcome the resistance of hardliners in the region. Meanwhile, hawks and conservatives in the US are pressing him to commit 40,000 more troops to Afghanistan, instead of changing course to focus more on peace, development and diplomacy.

There is a real risk today that the hope of change will be lost. Leaders are judged finally by their actions, not their words. Only by following through with courageous, transformative action for peace can Obama fulfil his promise -- and only then will history judge that this Nobel Peace Prize is truly deserved.
Avaaz.org see nuclear disarmament, climate change, and peace in the Middle East and Afghanistan as needing Obama's focus and action in the coming months. They are calling on people globally to support Obama and prompt him to stronger action through an online petition:
Only by following through with courageous, transformative action for peace can Obama fulfill his promise -- and history judge that this prize is deserved.

Let's define this moment as a challenge to be bold -- let’s send Obama a million messages of encouragement and urgency, pressing him to turn hope into real and lasting change!
What do you think? Is this Nobel prize audacious? Will our hopes be dashed?

[Image: cliff1066™'s photo of Shepard Fairey’s Portrait of Barack Obama, used
under creative commons license
]

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2 Comments:

At October 13, 2009 7:21 pm, Blogger Armagnac Daddy said...

I think it's silly and damaging, and belittles the work of people on the ground who have genuinely made strides towards peace.

Don't get me wrong, love Obama, and think his policy standpoint is 'more peaceful and more likely to lead to peaceful outcomes' than his predecessor, but I think the award is not only baffling but also damaging to him, and to its credibility...

 
At October 17, 2009 12:54 pm, Blogger Kirsty said...

I think the fact that Obama was elected was probably enough to get him the Nobel Prize. He is hope. Not only because he's America's first African-American President, which is so significant in terms of peace within that nation, but for the rest of the world his election allowed us to have some faith in America's capacity to be a responsible and thoughtful super-power. I don't think we should underestimate the global good-will his election has generated, especially after the Bush-Cheney years--that in itself is quite an achievement. I guess it depends on how you define Peace. Is it in the results or the 'will to peace'?

 

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