Nobel Committee, Strategic as Ever, Taps Obama for Peace Prize

The Norwegian Nobel Committee has awarded the 2009
Nobel Peace Prize to President Obama.

Some initial commentary has called the award unprecedented and
wondered why the committee would give President Obama the award when
he "hasn't done anything yet."

But anyone who thinks this award is unprecedented hasn't been paying attention.

The Nobel Committee gave South
African Bishop Desmond Tutu
the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 for his
leadership of efforts to abolish apartheid in South Africa. Apartheid
wasn't fully abolished in South Africa until 1994. The committee could
have waited until after apartheid was abolished to say, "Well done!"
But the point of the award was to help bring down apartheid by
strengthening Bishop Tutu's efforts
. In particular, everyone
knew that it was going to be much harder for the apartheid regime to
crack down on Tutu after the Nobel Committee wrapped him in its
protective cloak of world praise.

That's what the Nobel Committee is trying to do for Obama now. It's
giving an award to encourage the change in world relations that Obama
has promised, and to try to help shield Obama against his domestic
adversaries. The committee is well aware that history is contingent
and that Obama might fail. It knows very well that the same country
that elected Obama also gave the world George W. Bush and Ronald

The initial steps that Obama has taken are already under fierce
attack. The Obama Administration has now recognized that the Afghan
Taliban are not a threat to the United States
and that the
United States can live with the Afghan Taliban playing a role in the
government of Afghanistan. But right-wing forces in the military,
Congress, think thanks and the media are denouncing these moves
towards sanity as surrender. They want a full-out Vietnam against the

The Obama Administration has begun its promised diplomatic
engagement with Iran
. Of course, as every honest person knew, real
engagement meant de-emphasizing the unachievable demand that Iran end
its enrichment of uranium and instead focusing on achievable demands
like opening Iranian enrichment facilities more fully to UN
inspections and greater international oversight over the enriched
uranium that Iran has already produced. Here also, the "endless war"
right-wing is trying to undermine Obama.

In giving this award, the Nobel Committee is telling these right-wing
forces to back off. And it's sending a message of encouragement to
those Americans who put Obama in office:

"Showing signs of significant improvement. Keep up the
good work."
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