Woke up this morning to the startling news that US President Barack Obama has been awarded the Nobel Peace Price–and a perceptive entry on Huffington Post wondering why.
After all, he has initiated a slow and limited timetable for withdrawing from Iraq, pretty much continuing the “progress” of his predecessor–and has made very clear his intent to expand the war in Afghanistan.
Now it’s true that these were wars he inherited, and that he’s had a very full plate even by presidential standards. It’s also true that he has moved us forward on climate change and the environment, on labor, and on the idea that foreign affairs should be primarily addressed through diplomacy And that last bit has certainly help the slow process of rebuilding the U.S.’s stature in the world, after eight years of a rogue coup d’etat regime that left the world negatively astounded and quite terrified. His speech in Cairo was a terrific example.
But the Nobel award does seem a bit, ummm, premature. I’d have rather they waited until he successfully extricated us from the Bush wars, or until he made a speech like this:
Ladies and gentlemen, both my fellow Americans, and my fellow citizens of the world–in the 21st century, war simply has no place in the arsenal of foreign policy. The last significant example of a war achieving policy ends was World War II, when the world responded to a series of power-mad totalitarian regimes with equal force, stopped the aggressors at a great cost in human lives, and installed democratic governments in West Germany, Italy, and Japan. That was 64 years ago, and took six bloody, difficult years to achieve. Korea was a stalemate, Vietnam was a failure, and both Iraq and Afghanistan are succeeding only in giving strength and comfort and eager recruits to the enemies of freedom. Therefore, I have ordered the immediate drawdown of troops. Over the next three months, all US military personnel in both Iraq and Afghanistan will be coming home, along with the private US military contractors that participate. In their place, we will devote significant resources toward hunger relief, education, rebuilding of bombed infrastructure, and eliminating corruption in those countries. There will be a small security presence whose mission is to protect the workers for social and economic justice that we will send over, but there will be no military mission beyond that. We can learn from the powerful example of countries like South Africa, Poland, and Northern Ireland, where peace and democracy were not imposed through the barrels of guns, but by the powerful leadership of indigenous residents who organized together to say, ‘enough of this.’ It’s long past time, in the words of John Lennon, to Give Peace a Chance.
The Nobel committee has made strange choices before (can you say Henry Kissinger?). I can only hope that they’re following the philosophy of rewarding the behavior they want to see in the hopes that the behavior will rise to meet the treatment. This is a great strategy in parenting, in conflict resolution between individuals, in customer service desks (I even write about it in my sixth book, Principled Profit: Marketing That Puts People First). It would be great if it turns out to work in international politics too.
Oh, and President Obama, I give you free and full permission to use the above speech in full or in part, at any time—including your Nobel acceptance speech in Sweden!