Politics & Policy

A Fitting Prize, in a Way

Well, that didn’t take long. But it was almost inevitable: the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to Barack Obama. As “the world” hated Pres. George W. Bush, “the world” loves President Obama.

What do we mean by “the world”? We mean the editors of Le Monde, Der Spiegel, and the Guardian. The faculty at Brown University. The secretariat of the United Nations. We mean Lord Malloch-Brown, not Václav Klaus. When President Bush visited Iraq for the last time, a foe of his threw a shoe at him. The shoe-thrower was taken to be “the world.” Hugo Chávez even made laughing reference to him recently at the U.N. Many Iraqis admire and appreciate President Bush. They do not count as “the world.”

Very much counting as “the world” is the Nobel Peace Prize Committee. They practically define it. Every year since 1901, the peace prize has been given by a committee of five Norwegians. They are appointed by the Norwegian parliament, the Storting. The Nobel Peace Prize always reflects the consensus of Norwegian politics. And that consensus is, in a word — a word the Norwegians might well choose — “progressive.” Others might call it left-wing.

#ad#In any case, the Nobel Peace Prize almost never disappoints the editors of Le Monde, the faculty at Brown, etc.

The committee has said, “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. In the past year Obama has been a key person for important initiatives in the U.N. for nuclear disarmament and to set a completely new agenda for the Muslim world and East-West relations.”

That is true (at least in part). The Nobel Committee appreciates Obama for his repudiation of all things Bush. The new president has frozen out America’s allies in Eastern Europe, causing great consternation among them. He has put “daylight” between America and its No. 1 Middle Eastern ally, Israel. He kept almost mum when Iranian democrats massed in the streets to demand a more decent life — the American focus is on negotiating with the regime. He gave the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Mary Robinson, the U.N. official who presided over Durban, that hate-Israel jamboree.

He yukked it up with Chávez, giving him a soul-brother handshake and calling him “mi amigo.” He went along with an invitation to Cuba to rejoin the Organization of American States — this despite that fact that the OAS is supposed to be for democracies, not police states. He had America rejoin the U.N. Human Rights Council, which, under Bush, we bowed out of: because it was dominated by such lovely regimes as the ones in Cuba, Zimbabwe, China, Syria, and Sudan; because it existed almost solely to defame Israel.

All these moves of Obama, the Nobel Committee appreciates immensely. This is an American president in their own image, the kind of president they will cheer and honor. For them, Obama is a dream president, just as Bush was a nightmare president. He is the first “post-American president,” as John Bolton and others have said. For “the world,” that is a dream president.

Our Declaration of Independence speaks of “a decent respect to the opinions of mankind.” A decent respect is not a need for approval. Besides, who is mankind? Merely the Nobel Committee and the shoe-thrower, or Bush-loving Iraqis, too? We might ask another question: Whose approval would President Obama rather have: that of the Nobel Committee or that of the Rotary Club in Butte?

In recent years, the Nobel Committee has done everything possible to express its abhorrence of Bush and his ways. In 2001, they gave the peace prize to Kofi Annan and the U.N. The message, in part, was: “America, you’d better not respond to 9/11 by yourselves, or too aggressively.” The next year, they gave the prize to Jimmy Carter, and, here, the chairman of the committee was refreshingly candid: saying that they were honoring Carter in order to give Bush “a kick in the leg,” or, in our own parlance, a black eye. A more honorable president might have refused that award, if given for the purpose of bashing the current president.

#page#Another black eye came in 2005, when the committee gave the award to Mohamed ElBaradei and the International Atomic Energy Agency. ElBaradei has said explicitly that his goal — his only “brief,” as he has put it — is to prevent military action against Iran. Accordingly, he has repeatedly downplayed that country’s nuclear progress. And the IAEA has repeatedly looked foolish, and blind. In Beijing the other day, ElBaradei said that the number-one threat to peace in the Middle East is . . . Israel, and its nukes.

In 2007, the Nobel Committee went with Al Gore and the U.N.’s global-warming people. And now, in 2009, Obama.

#ad#This award will cause people — will cause “the world” — to say that America is back in the fold, back in the good graces of “the world.” After a season apart, under the cowboy Bush, America is a citizen of “the world” once again. In the Nobel Committee sense of “the world,” we are.

The committee would never have given the award to Ronald Reagan, much as he did for peace, and much as Mrs. Reagan may have wanted it for him. (The committee did award Gorbachev, however.) Years ago, National Review made the editorial quip that the Nobel Peace Prize, every year, should be given to the Defense Department: because the American military was the world’s foremost guarantor of peace.

A few days ago, there was a rumor that Harry Wu, the anti-Communist dissident from China, would win the peace prize. That was terribly unlikely. Would the committee ever honor Oscar Biscet, the Afro-Cuban political prisoner who is a symbol of hope, defiance, and decency in that country? A virtual impossibility.

President Bush gave a Medal of Freedom to Biscet (in absentia, of course); Obama gave one to Mary Robinson. That neatly illustrates the difference between those two presidents, and between types who win the Nobel prize and those who don’t.

Alfred Nobel, a great man, wanted his prize to go to “champions of peace,” men and women who genuinely contributed to peace in the world. He deplored the “absurd and futile efforts of windbags who are capable of thwarting the best of aims.” Can Barack Obama really make a contribution to peace, the way the Reagans of the world genuinely do? Reagan got no peace prize, but he made a huge positive difference, and the world, along with “the world,” should know that Oslo doesn’t always know best.

The Editors — The Editors comprise the senior editorial staff of the National Review magazine and website.

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