Friday, October 09, 2009

Nobel Prize? Weird.

*** Update ***

Here is Obama's reaction to winning the Nobel Prize. I have to say, he handled it very well. My favorite quote:

"And I know that throughout history, the Nobel Peace Prize has not just been used to honor specific achievement; it's also been used as a means to give momentum to a set of causes. And that is why I will accept this award as a call to action -- a call for all nations to confront the common challenges of the 21st century."

Meanwhile, I hope he uses this momentum to start making some real foreign policy gains. I will be very clear however that I do not envy the decision he must make about Afghanistan. This was the "just war", a war that was neglected for 7 years while Bush focused on Iraq. History is very clear on this: Afghanistan is not an easy place to control. What makes our mission exponentially more difficult are two facts that are becoming more and more apparent. One is that we are not defending a legitimate, elected, democratic government like we are in Iraq. The administration of Karzai is corrupt and ineffective, and probably won the recent election by fraud. The second fact is the reality that Afghanistan is really not that strategically important.

For me, the situation with the Karzai administration is the deal breaker. I don't think we should waste any more American blood and treasure on that country. I think we should draw down in Afghanistan and consolidate our gains in Iraq, ensuring with active diplomacy and engagement that Iraq doesn't slip. With Afghanistan no longer an issue, we can move on to more important questions; Iranian nukes, North Korea, Israel/Palestine.

*** End Update ***

I'm sure everyone has heard now, Obama has won a Nobel Peace Prize.

They cited his goals towards nuclear disarmament and his steps to revive international diplomacy. As far as international diplomacy goes, that should be a given for the President of the United States. Only a fool would assume that he can afford to piss off all of our allies and do everything unilaterally.

As far as nuclear disarmament is concerned, he did some important stuff with Dick Lugar as a senator securing loose Russian nuclear materials, but he hasn't actually established any treaties or the like to improve the nuclear weapons situation. He hasn't resolve the Iran issue, which stands to serve as the biggest blow to the NPT in years. He hasn't resolved the North Korean question.

Meanwhile, as far as a Peace Prize is concerned, the war in Afghanistan is in limbo right now and we don't know where it will end. Guantanamo isn't closed, although presumably Obama wants it to be. And, I don't know if anyone caught this, but Obama isn't going to meet with the Dalai Lama. Now to be fair, we do owe the Chinese a cool trillion dollars. You don't go up to the person who loaned you a crapload of money and slap them in the face. That being said, the Chinese are clearly overly sensitive about the Dalai Lama issue and Obama bending to their whims at the first pass seems questionable. Of course, he does need Chinese cooperation on Iran, North Korea, and the international financial crisis. Obama also gave a great speech at Cairo, but we have yet to see any solid gains in the Middle East peace process.

This isn't to say that someday Obama couldn't accomplish all of these things, and if he did then he would deserve a medal. But at this point he hasn't accomplished any of them, and Americans know it. His winning this medal is extremely premature and is going to undermine him, not strengthen him. Already one of the biggest vulnerabilities that Obama has is that he is all talk and no action. Winning a Nobel Prize for meaning well is a blow to him and it cheapens the award as a politicized European merit award. Terrible. I wish someone on the Nobel Committee would have asked him if it was appropriate, and if they did, I wish he would have said no.

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