President Obama's Nobel Peace Prize is more than anything else a tribute to America's voters. In making the award, the Nobel Committee said, "The question we have to ask is, who has done the most in the previous year to enhance peace in the world, and who has done more than Barack Obama?"
Of course the most important thing Obama did to enhance peace in the world, was to win the election - and once elected, to chart a course for American foreign policy that is fundamentally different, in both substance and tone, from that of the Bush-Cheney years.
Obama greeted the news of the award by saying it was a "call to action," and there is no doubt that it creates an even higher expectation for him to live up to in the years ahead. But more than anything else, this award celebrates the fact that American voters chose a President committed to progressive values - committed to strengthening international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples instead of pre-emptive war and the Neo-Con theories of unilateral action.
In its statement, the Committee said he had "created a new climate in international politics. ... Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world's attention and given its people hope for a better future." It continued, "His diplomacy is founded in the concept that those who are to lead the world must do so on the basis of values and attitudes that are shared by the majority of the world's population." That is, in other words, a true commitment to democracy.
To fully appreciate the importance of Obama's election to the prospects of peace in the world, return with me to the thrilling days of yesteryear when Bush and Cheney still stalked the political earth. Think of the damage that they did in eight short years - to world peace, and to the respect and power of the United States.
- A disastrous pre-emptive war in Iraq that destroyed America's reputation, drained our treasure, cost the lives and limbs of tens of thousands of young Americans, resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi's, displaced millions more, and strengthened Iran.
- Neglect for the economic, political and military needs of the struggle in Afghanistan - leaving us with no truly good options there eight years after 9/11.
- Demonization of the United Nations that went so far that they appointed a U.N. Ambassador more interested in destroying the institution than using it for diplomacy.
- Virtual neglect of the festering problem of peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
- Abandoning the Clinton policy of engagement with North Korea that had prevented that country's development of nuclear weapons. That worked so well that North Korea got those weapons on the Bush-Cheney watch.
- Abandoning the Geneva Conventions, due process of law and the shared values of the civilized world, and instead embracing torture, rendition, the debasement of prisoners at Abu Ghraib, and detention without trial.
- For all of their tough talk about strengthening our military, they stretched it to the breaking point, so it became more difficult for America to take military action if it really were needed to maintain world peace.
- And for those who love America, one of their worst sins was that Bush and Cheney turned our country into one that polls showed - rightly or wrongly - many people in the world believed was the "greatest threat to world peace." Astounding.
The Nobel Committee gave the prize to Barack Obama because he gave the world hope that its most powerful, wealthy nation would once again provide humankind with inspiration and leadership that can be trusted and admired.
Since his election, President Obama has launched a worldwide campaign to eliminate all nuclear weapons - recognizing that controlling the proliferation of nuclear weapons is a practical impossibility unless we work to eliminate them from the globe. He has rededicated America to cope with the massive threat of climate change. He has reset our relationship with the Muslim world. He has rededicated America to the world's international institutions. And, he has begun to use all of the tools available to our country - including diplomacy - to create a more just and peaceful planet.
All of this is just the beginning of a long journey. But at least we have once again begun that journey down the right road. In and of itself that has made America safer, restored our respect in the world, and has begun to build a foundation for peace in the world over the long term.
Americans may not fully appreciate how completely they changed our relations to the rest of the world when they voted to elect Barack Obama last November. The rest of the world does. We should consider Barack Obama's Nobel peace prize as a giant gesture of gratitude.
Robert Creamer is a long time political organizer and strategist, and author of the recent book: Stand Up Straight: How Progressives Can Win, available on Amazon.com.