The 2009 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Barack Obama “for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between people.” At the time the United States was, as he said himself, in the midst of two wars and many felt he had done nothing to deserve this honor.
The Nobel Peace Prize has a long history of controversy. Alfred Nobel, who invented dynamite and whose company was an armaments manufacturer, had thought to appease his conscience because his invention had been used in and contributed to warfare and assassination. In addition, many of the recipients of the prize seemed singularly unworthy it. To cite a few among many:
–Theodore Roosevelt, our bellicose Bull Moose 26th president.
–Mother Theresa whose good deeds were negated by her obduracy regarding population control.
–Yasser Arafat, head of a terrorist organization who walked away from President Clinton’s peace proposal which had been agreed to by then-Israeli Premier, Ehud Barak. Because of Arafat, many Israeli peaceniks turned into hard-liners.
Barack Obama’s award was partly based on a speech called
“A New Beginning” which he gave in Cairo in June of 2009. In this speech, he stressed the need for the Western and the Islamic World to live side by side, in mutual respect. It was a speech of conciliation and, having just reread it, I thought it disingenuous. It equated Islam with the Western World, disregarding its egregious sins against women, its intolerance of other belief systems and its general intransigent attitude toward alternative behavior. Yes, we all know that Islam was a shining light in the Middle Ages whilst the West was plunged in darkness. Since then, however, the West went through the Renaissance and the Enlightenment and continues to evolve, while Islam has stopped and has become ossified.
Barack Obama must have felt under an obligation to deserve his Nobel Prize because he has slowly been moving towards creating a better world. Starting at home, he recognized that black young men were becoming an endangered species because of a disparity in education and employment and an unfair criminal justice system. He created “My Brother’s Keeper,” a program which seeks to provide incentives and opportunities for black youth and improve their lives. In supporting prison reform, Obama recently visited a federal corrections facility (the first President ever to do so) and promised to work toward overhauling the American justice system. He wants to improve prison conditions and eliminate excessive sentencing. By executive action, he has already taken steps to commute sentences for low-level criminals.
Continuing abroad, he has spearheaded the rapprochement with Cuba. The President saw the absurdity of our non-recognition of Cuba’s existence while we had normal relations with far more hostile and uncooperative countries. He started redressing that anomaly, opening doors, letting fresh air in, encouraging travel and encounters. Engaging Cuba leads to a better outcome for their people, allows us to visit their country, and comes at absolutely no risk for us.
Now, he has successfully negotiated the Iran nuclear agreement. This agreement lifts economic sanctions against Iran (Obama had strengthened them in 2010) in exchange for its giving up the development of a nuclear weapon. Nobody thinks this is a perfect deal. Many people believe that it is better than no deal at all. According to John Kerry, it is the only alternative to military action and he urged Congress to ratify it. If Iran continues on its path to nuclear capability, other countries will rush to do the same and it will create a nuclear Middle East.
Regarding Guantanamo Prison, Obama’s administration is continuing to press ahead with a plan to close the US Military Base at Guantanamo Bay, sending low level criminals to other countries, bringing others to trial and holding some as prisoners of war.
Imperceptibly, while no one was paying attention, Barack Obama undertook these actions which, when added up, amount to an impressive effort to improve the world around us. He has now earned the Nobel Prize he was given.
The 2000 Peace Price given to South Korea’s president Kim Dae-jung was premature. He wasn’t able to accomplish anything he set out. Glad President Obama is earning the award that was also given to him prematurely.
Wow, I’ll have to think more about Mother Terese deserving the Nobel Prize! But please don’t beat up on ol’ Teddy Roosevelt: “Signing the Treaty of Portsmouth settled immediate difficulties in the Far East and created three decades of peace between the Japan and Russia. The treaty confirmed Japan’s emergence as the pre-eminent power in East Asia and forced Russia to abandon its expansionist policies there. Because of the role played by President Theodore Roosevelt, the United States became a significant force in world diplomacy. Roosevelt was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1906 for his back channel efforts before… Read more »
thank you for reminding me of Teddy Roosevelt ‘s role in the Russo Japanese conflict . You are absolutely right about that. Trust old Teddy to be full of contradictions.
Obama Nobel peace prize – is very questionable. Agree – he deserve a credit for trying to open better relation with Cuba and Iran deal. Though the latest, most likely, will not be approved by congress as that institution is dominated by Israel supporters and Netanyahu is strongly opposed to the deal with Iran. Let’s not forget his unrelenting use of drones to fight alleged terrorist in effect killing thousands of civilians – collateral damage?? For every terrorist killed there are hundreds of civilian casualties. What’s about extrajudicial killing of Americans?
Editors note…This comment came in by email so I am posting it here:
I like all the pieces i have read so far.
thanks for the education
Nothing is holy, neither the Nobel prize nor Barack Obama. The value of the prize is the reflection of the contribution of its nominee. Thus, even if the Iran deal will turn out to have been a tragedy, Obama will have deserved it. Only the prize will then reflect a fake sound byte of peace.
Mr. Obama The President of The USA is a GENTLEMAN by caliber; he could as well have been a roughen by status if he wanted because he had all the State Coercive Machinery around him; but, instead he opts to negotiations. This Nobel Prize is timely and appropriate.
Doesn’t the ‘Peace Prize’ mean that you have affected peace or at least brought a country or the world closer to peace? When he received the Nobel Peace Prize he hadn’t done this, neither has Barrack Obama achieved this in his first 6 and a half years as president. The world is not better off now in teams of peace than it was in 2008.
Here is a sober and well written article. I find it amazing to stand back, look at a map of the world, and wonder why is there conflict between two nations as far apart as the United States and Iran. Really, do nations have to go to the ends of the earth to find opponents, build alliances, enter into wars and seek peace? But guess so. See– What if the Iran Deal is rejected? http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/what-if-the-deal-is-rejected/ [The author Nevet Basker is the founder and director of Broader View, an Israel Resource Center. Born and raised in Israel and now living in… Read more »
President Obama deserves the prize my good friends. Just as my colleagues have talked about IRAN,CUBA and of course the ever problematic Africa nations leadership that he has stood to influence them and ensuring peace prevail. At least the world is a better place to be now.
Thanks for the article :What if the Iran deal is rejected. A good contribution to the debate.
Wow, listing bad Nobel prizes witout mentioning Kissinger is pretty weird…at least the reverend Mother had principles, but she was only human after all. Agree that Obama has earned the peace prize from not falling for the temptation to enter war (twice), despite that it would have done wonders for his ratings as so many US presidents have found.
yes…..it was given prematually to Obama but people like Prof Andrea Riccard of the Communita di SantEgidio were given the prize at the right time because of their continued fight for peace around the world…..and Mother Tereza, i wish i was there to KISS HER
To Jo Groot
Yes. Kissinger is another bad choice. I am sure there are more. I just didn.t go down the whole list.
You forgot the war criminal Kissinger
Yasser Arafat is NOT head of a terrorist group ma’m. READ history books for a change..
and in the state of Isra-HELL , there are no “many Israeli peaceniks” as you may refer to them..
How about Sabra and Shatela? or Nakba 1948?
Barrack Obamas Nobel Peace prize is the ultimate of a “Participation Prize” that has been given. It merits my 4th grade soccer medallion given in participation of the regional youth soccer tournament which our team finished 9th out of 12 teams.
When one of the nations has literally provided their intent to destroy the citizens of the other nation, then yes, I for one vote for caution and preservation by force if needed.
You realize that all standing presidents were waiting for Castro to fall off the face of the earth eventually leading to better relations with Cuba….right?
Obama also wanted to reduce nuclear arsenals, but didn’t meet with understanding from the other major possessor of these dangerous toys. Working for a nuclear-free world probably deserves the attention of the Nobel committee. The Western world has exhibited a scientific approach to global development, allowing for debate and positive change even within the church, but the former’s harms in the spheres of capitalist greed, exploitation, ecocide etc., get acknowledged late.@johnsontunu2
Obama deserves nothing. He has eased the path to a nuclear bomb for Iran. I would not at all be surprised to see them bomb Israel and the US within 5 years. Israel via missile with nuclear warhead and the US via a dirty bomb.
Editor’s posting….This remark came in by email….
“Failure is a part of life. If you don’t fail, you don’t learn. If you don’t learn, you’ll never change.
I think that if Iran was foolish enough to bomb Israel or the Us there would be immediate retribution. They must know that.
Obama remind me great Sadat when he made peace treaty with Israel there was a huge criticism against him but after years every one believe he was a great man with a great vision and he was absolutely right
I remember being afraid of America as a kid. It looked like we were all going to be crushed by the wrath of a wounded giant. Noone seemed safe. I didnt understand the politics – only the pictures and the vitriol. And then Obama came… and suddenly the whole world seemed to breath a sigh of relief. I’m living in Norway by the way, not some deserty place where people scream “Death to America”. We’re pretty civilized. I am very proud that we gave gave Obama the peace prize because it sent a message to you guys over the water… Read more »
So Mother Teresa didn’t deserve the Peace Prize because she was a practicing Catholic? Nuns tend to be practicing Catholics. Artificial birth control is against the teachings of the Catholic Church. Mother Teresa accepted those teachings. The author’s reference to Mother Teresa’s “obduracy” is thinly disguised anti-Catholicism.
Sorry, Simone. You lost ALL credibility the minute you said that mother Theresa shouldn’t have won a Peace Prize. Regardless of what religion she practices (and apparently you don’t approve of practicing Catholics) she exemplifies humility and service to mankind in a way that few ever have or will. She doesn’t deserve a peace prize, but President Obama does? Give me some of what you’re smoking, because that must be the good stuff!
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