Publicly President Obama said all the right things when he got word that the Nobel committee awarded him its jewel in the crown peace prize. But privately I have to think that Obama had to scratch his head and wonder why me? With all due respect to the president, while we can applaud his admirable effort to mildly reverse Bush's kick butt, my way or the highway, foreign adventurism policy that ticked off the European allies, enraged the Muslim world, and blew off Latin America, awarding him the Nobel peace prize this early in his White House tenure is a huge stretch.
The three other presidents, Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson and Jimmy Carter that won the prize had done more than barely warm the Oval Office seat when they got their award. The most recent, Carter, worked tirelessly to bring the warring Palestinian and Israelis to the peace table and because of his efforts actually obtained a break in the hostilities. This was a tangible, measurable and singular accomplishment, and he deserved the prize for not his efforts at peace and reconciliation but the actual attainment of a degree of peace and reconciliation in the Middle East. Even worse, Obama has done his bit of war waging. He has not damped down the American war machine in Iraq, and threatens to ramp up the war machine in Afghanistan. That's hardly an example of peace making at its best.
The Nobel Prize winners in science, medicine and literature were mostly unknowns who spent years laboring in the shadows to produce milestone achievements in their respective fields. The award was not given to them because of their public popularity, mediagenic appeal, or their title (president), they got the prize for their long, and hard work that produced measurable, tangible and specific results.
In the ridiculously short length of time Obama's been in the White House has not gotten Iran's leaders to firmly commit to hold talks on their nuclear testing program. He has not gotten North Korea to stand down in its nuclear weapons program. He has not brokered a lasting peace treaty between the warring factions in the Congo. He has not gotten Pakistan to seal its porous borders with Afghanistan that would choke off stop support, supply and the safe haven for the Taliban insurgents. He has not hectored the Israeli government to crackdown on settlement expansion on the West Bank and Gaza. He has not even pushed Congress to scrap the most repressive, loathful and patently unconstitutional features of the Bush's anti-terrorist policies.
Any one of these singular and very measurable accomplishments would be considered major breakthroughs on the peace front. If he had obtained one or more of them, he would have richly deserved the peace prize for the accomplishment.
In the years to come Obama may well accomplish one or more of these stellar achievements. But he hasn't yet. Simply awarding a young president, with lots of time left in his White House tenure to do truly great things in the battle for world peace, a prize for his mostly verbal efforts on the peace front, is not a stretch, but a huge stretch.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His forthcoming book, How Obama Governed: The Year of Crisis and Challenge (Middle Passage Press) will be released in January, 2010.