Peace and Conflict

The Nobel Peace Farce: President Obama

What do you get for being the President of a country that is illegally occupying two sovereign countries, and has just recently killed 90 civilians in an airstrike? Answer: a Nobel Peace Prize!

And it gets worse: his administration criticized the Pakistani government for attempting to make peace with the Taliban, and pressured them to launch a massive military offensive in the Swat alley, which they obediently did. The offensive has killed thousands and displaced over two million people from their homes. President Obama has also continued to use airstrikes in Pakistan and Afghanistan, even in spite of the attacks killing thousands of civilians.

He promised a fair trial for all the inmates at the military prison in Guantanamo Bay, but backtracked on his promise shortly thereafter to much criticism from human rights groups. He has promised to close Guantanamo Bay by January next year, but the latest news is that ‘it’s going to be difficult’ to keep that promise too.

To be fair by Obama, he has improved relations with Russia and negotiated a reduction in nuclear warheads (about 30%) with President Medvedev. A laudable achievement, but warhead reductions are nothing new; there have been several nuclear disarmament treaties before, most notably the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT) that started in the late sixties. And unlike today, when we barely give nuclear war a second thought, the SALT treaties were signed at a time when nuclear war was an imminent threat.

There is of course the promise of much to come from President Obama. We have all been moved by his campaign speeches celebrating the hope for a better tomorrow, and he has continued the same rhetoric into his presidency. He has made a speech extending the hand of friendship to the Muslim world (while he considers sending more troops to Afghanistan); he has spoken often of the need for peace between Israel and Palestine (Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of the Palestinian National Authority says, “We are in need of actions, not sayings”); and he has acknowledged the U.S. role in climate change (though he has not yet passed any significant legislation to address it). In short, he wants to do a lot of good–he just hasn’t done it yet. Lech Walesa, former Polish President and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1983 puts it best: “So soon? Too early. He has no contribution so far. He is still at an early stage. He is only beginning to act. This is probably an encouragement for him to act. Let’s see if he perseveres. Let’s give him time to act.”

Judging by his actions in Pakistan and Afghanistan, the thousands of people who have died in these countries because of his actions, and the millions of people who are homeless because of his actions, you’ll forgive me if I keep my head down.