The Agenda

On Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize

Shirin Ebadi, the Iranian human rights activist who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003, was a staunch critic of the Bush White House. Yet she has also spent decades working tirelessly on behalf of women and vulnerable minorities, all while leading a pretty modest life as a working mother. Though I can’t say I see eye to eye with the Nobel Peace Prize Committee on much, I do think she was an excellent choice. Now, of course, the Committee has chosen President Barack Obama.

One thing I find extraordinary about this decision is that the president was chosen ahead of two Chinese dissidents, a Congolese doctor who has dedicated his life to aiding victims of sexual assault, an Afghan activist who, like Ebadi, has fought to defend the rights of women, and many other worthy nominees. More remarkably still, the president recently decided against meeting the Dalai Lama in deference to Chinese sensibilities. Then there is the president’s outreach to the State Peace and Development Council. Anwar Ibrahim, Malaysia’s fearless opposition leader, who has faced down political thuggery of the worst kind from racial chauvinists devoted to his destruction, said the following in an interview with Christopher Rhoads of The Wall Street Journal.

“With constructive engagement…what you find is countries going for construction projects and no engagement,” said Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, in an interview in New York on Thursday. Mr. Anwar said “constructive intervention” was required.

Mr. Anwar said the U.S. is still the only country that can stand up to many countries on issues such as the fate of Aung San Suu Kyi, the Myanmar opposition leader and Nobel laureate who has been under house arrest for much of the past two decades. 

There is an upside to all of this: perhaps the president will decide that he is obligated to defend the interests of fellow Nobel Peace Laureates, given that they belong to the same club. That will mean defending the rights of Aung San Suu Kyi and the Dalai Lama and Shirin Ebadi. 

Seen through that lens, perhaps the president will decide that the Prize is more trouble than it’s worth …

P.S. Roger Bate has identified a very worthy candidate for the Prize.

Reihan Salam is president of the Manhattan Institute and a contributing editor of National Review.

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