I sat next to a Nobel Peace Prize nominee yesterday — Rebiya Kadeer, who leads the Uighurs in exile while two of her eleven children are imprisoned in Xinjiang, the far-western province of China. For years, the Chinese Communist government has engaged in a deliberate and often brutal campaign to suppress the Uighur language, culture, and religion (the Uighurs are Muslim).
Kadeer has been widely compared to the Dalai Lama for her inspirational leadership — she is tiny but fiery — and her condemnation of violence by Uighurs as well as Han Chinese. She and I participated in a panel discussion, held by the Heritage Foundation, on the treatment of religious believers and minorities in China.
The Uighurs, Kadeer said, were not separatists; they were willing to cooperate and live in harmony if they were accorded proper respect and acceptance of their culture and religion. However, she pointed out, some 300,000 Uighurs, most of them young, unmarried women, had been forcibly transported to the middle of China and replaced by a like number of Han Chinese.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful, I thought, if Rebiya Kadeer were given the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize? What a signal it would send to the arrogant rulers of the Chinese Empire and to the beleaguered Uighur people.
And then came the stunning news this morning — Pres. Barack Obama had been selected for his “extraordinary” contributions to international diplomacy and cooperation and his “vision of a world free from nuclear arms.”
Now, Mr. Obama may turn out to be a historic peace-maker, but today he is the commander-in-chief of two wars and confronts two stubborn nations — Iran and North Korea — that have their own agendas regarding war and peace.
As for the “vision” of a world without nuclear weapons, it was Pres. Ronald Reagan who, with the signing of the INF Treaty 22 years ago, set in motion a process that effectively nullified the long-standing nuclear policy of mutual assured destruction (MAD) and prepared the way for the elimination of thousands of ICBMs by the U.S. and Russia starting in 1994.
Mr. Obama is the third sitting U.S. president to be given the Nobel Peace Prize, preceded by Theodore Roosevelt, for ending the Russo-Japanese War, and Woodrow Wilson, for the League of Nations. Jimmy Carter got his prize for the Camp David Accords two decades after he left the White House.
An impartial, non-Norwegian committee would submit the following grades: T. Roosevelt — E for effort and A for accomplishment. W. Wilson — E for effort, F for accomplishment. J. Carter — E for effort, D for accomplishment. B. Obama — I for incomplete.
Really, it’s early days.
— Lee Edwards is a distinguished fellow in Conservative Thought at the Heritage Foundation.