Sunday 11 October 2009

Retracing Foreign Policy

So, the Nobel Peace Prize (by the way: the museum, Nobels Fredssenter, you can visit in Oslo is pretty interesting), huh? Talk about big words. In the discussion of whether this is appropriate only ten months into the Obama administration, it would probably help to remember what exactly the administration did prior to getting into this maze of health care, the tunnel without the light, or whatever you wanna call this mess.

The most important stop on the way (as the content was mentioned in the reasoning of the Committee) is the speech Obama gave in the Czech Republic only a few weeks into his presidency [and the video]:
Just as we stood for freedom in the 20th century, we must stand together for the right of people everywhere to live free from fear in the 21st century. And as nuclear power -- as a nuclear power, as the only nuclear power to have used a nuclear weapon, the United States has a moral responsibility to act. We cannot succeed in this endeavor alone, but we can lead it, we can start it.
So today, I state clearly and with conviction America's commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons. I'm not naive. This goal will not be reached quickly -- perhaps not in my lifetime. It will take patience and persistence. But now we, too, must ignore the voices who tell us that the world cannot change. We have to insist, "Yes, we can."
Now the question is: does a stated intent to create a world without nuclear weapons (which can only be an intent, as the process would surely take more than eight years or two terms of one President) suffice to justify a prize with such a fancy name? And what about the stuff that actually did happen?

First of, Guantanamo. Obama vowed to close the prison, and then encountered resistence not only from the Republican party, but also from his own party members in Congress who picked up on some of that "then a terrorist will move into your neighbourhood"-wackness. He issued an executive order to end the Guantanamo military commission that got quietly, but still, revoked. Then, instead of following a course where potential terrorists would be tried in the court system, he talked about some kind of tribunal system. Detainees of Guantanamo who have meanwhile been found not to be guilty are currently seeking a new home. Austria, among others, doesn't really like the idea.

In other news, waterboarding is among the techniques now no longer used under the shield of nice words (enhanced interrogation techniques). But should an American President really be considered for the Nobel Peace Prize for standing up against torture? Shouldn't that be, like, taken for granted (I know, and there are unicorns and rivers of honey where I come from, but still).

Then, there is Afghanistan. Now that US troops are slowly leaving Iraq, there is a potential for a troop surge in Afghanistan to help the strategy of counter-insurgency- but on the other hand, in its ninth year and with pictures of dead soldiers arriving on US soil, the war is as unpopular as ever. Would it be more consistent with the ideas of the Nobel Peace Prize to end the war by removing all troops and leave Afghanistan to itself, or to remain there and continue to establish an unlikely lasting peace? And what about Pakistan?

And then, finally, there is an even more complicated question? What about Iran? Only a few days after the news of Obama deciding against the Sci-Fi missile shield which was supposed to help foreign relations with Russia, news media reported that Iran at least has the know-how necessary to build nuclear weapons, if not the technology.

The Middle East Peace Process. Now, getting anywhere there would surely be a justification for the prize, but it hasn't really happened yet.

I like the interpretation of the gesture as a subtle "we are watching you, don't screw this up" - but it seems a bit odd. It seems like everybody wants a piece of the President, so they can get more hits for their website.

The Announcement by the Norwegian Nobel Committee (something along the lines of: dude, we like you so much better than that other guy)
The Short Acceptance Speech (some have reduced to: If I fail, we are all to blame)

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