THE BLOG
03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Can $1.4 Million Buy the President of the United States?

Do you remember Martti Ahtisaari? He won the Nobel Peace Prize last year. For more than thirty years Ahtisaari brokered peace between entities filled with no peace for each other. He deserved the prize. What about the latest laureate?

Yassar Arafat, Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Rabin proved that the committee liked to dabble in the realm of wishful thinking. They won the prize, "for their efforts to create peace in the Middle East."

Henry Kissinger won it with Le Duc Tho for no good reason. Sure Wangari Maathai
deserved it. Jimmy Carter deserved it. So did a lot of people who've been honored with the distinction.

Like a lot of people, I wondered if I was reading an Onion headline when I saw the news about this year's Nobel Peace Prize. Then I wondered if it was a misplaced April Fool's gag. Then I felt the warm glow of national pride. And then the doubts came rolling in. Did he deserve it?

Barack Obama deserved to be elected president. After eight months in office, the president has brokered talks -- but no peace -- between a black professor and Cambridge cop. He has reached out to the Muslim world (one might argue this is his job) to repair the significant damage caused by his predecessor. He has taken steps to redress the quagmire of our engagement in Iraq. It's all fine and good to have a great review eight months in, but a Nobel Peace Prize? You can barely make a good baby in eight months.

The Nobel committee cited Obama, "for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples." I get it. He got it. But still it sounds to me a bit like he won the prize, "for not being George W. Bush."

The Nobel Peace Prize has often operated as a wedge on important issues, whether global warming or peace in the Middle East. Many Obama voters left the polls last year proud of the anti-war candidate they'd chosen. The more war-weary among us didn't like Obama because of his stance on war, because it wasn't anti-war at all. We liked him for other reasons that have no bearing here. Here's the deal: We are still at war in two countries, and as I recall Obama's opposition to the war in Iraq was not an ideological one -- he simply thought it was unwinnable.

The prize came at a crucial juncture in the war against Afghanistan, and it seems passably clear why Obama was selected to be the next Nobel Peace Prize laureate. The folks in Oslo wanted to force Obama to make what they deemed to be the "right" choice.

The most shocking thing here is that there can be any doubt as to why the prize was awarded to Obama. It was coercive politics -- a non-governmental agency trying its hand at ending a war -- and the president might do well to decline the honor. Certainly he could have pointed to Afghanistan and declared himself ineligible. But then again, campaign contributions are pretty damned coercive, and Obama didn't turn any of those down from our nations biggest contractors.

What's the best way to stop the president of the United States from pursuing the reckless war policies he inherited from the previous president? The heads of Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and Halliburton can tell you that $1.4 million is not nearly enough.

First published by Air America.