As President Obama prepares to launch another war, is it possible that the Nobel Peace Prize Committee is having some buyer’s remorse?
A flashback to 2009, the Nobel Peace Prize citation for President Barack Obama reads:
The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided that the Nobel Peace Prize for 2009 is to be awarded to President Barack Obama for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples. The Committee has attached special importance to Obama's vision of and work for a world without nuclear weapons.
Obama has as President created a new climate in international politics. Multilateral diplomacy has regained a central position, with emphasis on the role that the United Nations and other international institutions can play. Dialogue and negotiations are preferred as instruments for resolving even the most difficult international conflicts. The vision of a world free from nuclear arms has powerfully stimulated disarmament and arms control negotiations. Thanks to Obama's initiative, the USA is now playing a more constructive role in meeting the great climatic challenges the world is confronting. Democracy and human rights are to be strengthened.
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. His diplomacy is founded in the concept that those who are to lead the world must do so on the basis of values and attitudes that are shared by the majority of the world's population.
For 108 years, the Norwegian Nobel Committee has sought to stimulate precisely that international policy and those attitudes for which Obama is now the world's leading spokesman. The Committee endorses Obama's appeal that "Now is the time for all of us to take our share of responsibility for a global response to global challenges."
So what has this "new climate in international politics" looked like?
Four years since being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, President Barack Obama has increased drone strikes across the Middle East at a pace that is eight times that of the Bush Administration - launching an estimated 379 drone strikes that have killed around 2,895 militants and as many as 233 civilians in Pakistan, Yemen, and the Horn of Africa.
In 2010, President Obama surged American forces in Afghanistan in an attempt to "win" the war before a 2014 withdrawal. The result was fierce combat that has claimed the lives of 1,636 Americans and a strategy that will leave a fractious country in the hands of corrupt government fighting a resurgent Taliban. Hardly victory.
In 2011, the United States participated in air and missile strikes in Libya in a what is largely successful attempt to assist rebels in overthrowing Col. Gaddafi. Oc course, President Obama saw no need to seek congressional authorization for these strikes and was even out of the country when the war started.
Many of the Bush-era terror policies remain in place. The much maligned prison at Guantanamo Bay remains open. The NSA continues to aggressively collect data and conduct surveillance.
And now, President Obama appears to be on the verge of striking Syria with cruise missiles without congressional authorization to punish the Assad regime for the brazen chemical weapons. Of course the strategy as always with Obama is incoherent. The targets won’t be chemical stockpiles and the goal will not be regime change but the whole exercise will be to "send a message." The message of course being: kill as many of your own people as you want, just don’t use chemical weapons.
The much heralded era of "multilateral diplomacy" that the Nobel Committee anticipated has resulted in no major breakthroughs. Whether it is with Russia, North Korea, Syria, or the Israelis and the Palestinians - American diplomatic efforts have been rather impotent during the Obama administration.
This is not to say that all of President Obama’s efforts on the world stage have been in error. The world is complicated and brutal, and many events are certainly beyond the President’s control. He has rightly responded with force and courage on numerous occasions including the 2011 raid that killed Osama Bin Laden.
Ultimately, the 2009 Nobel Prize and President Obama's subsequent actions destroy the credibility of two groups.
The anti-war left in America is nowhere to be found in the age of Obama. Code Pink and MoveOn.org are invisible. In fact, Code Pink’s Madea Benjamin was last seen trying to get arrested in the Wisconsin Capitol, not protesting President Obama’s foreign policy. And what about all those "anti-war" Democrats in the House and Senate? Today, they sit idly by - comfortable in their silence and hypocrisy. They don't crow about congressional authorization or UN resolutions because Obama can do no wrong.
The second group is the old world international community that George Will recently called a "fiction." This international community, embodied in the Nobel Prize Committee, believed that words and sentiments were enough to keep the peace in a world of thugs, fanatics, and tyrants. But President Obama learned that al Qaeda, Bashar al Assad, the Taliban, Vladimir Putin and others could not care any less about Nobel Peace Prizes. This elitist crowd that so hated President Bush naively believed President Obama would single-handedly usher in an era of world peace merely with his soaring rhetoric and bumper sticker-like adulation of world peace. They are wrong and naive, and ought never be taken seriously again when debating America's national security and foreign policy.