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A Peace Prize for Pipe Dreams?

Nobel Peace Prize. That's one thing President Obama didn't need at this juncture of his presidency. He may have been right when he said in his remarks at the White House on Oct. 9 that the award was a "call to action" rather than for what he had already accomplished.

But what is disconcerting about the award is that it could be a pre-emptive strike by the European pacifists who wish to rid the world of American coercive diplomacy and pre-emptive wars, not to mention the resolution of outstanding issues like the Arab-Israeli conflict, which they've long held as being hostage to American domestic politics.

If the Swedish Academy thought that President Obama needed some peace armor to defend himself from the Republican and conservative forces that want him to persist with aggressive postures toward America's enemies in Iran, North Korea, not to mention the Islamic terrorists, they couldn't have done worse.

Not only is the right-wing unlikely to let up its pressure on the president, but the seemingly premature honor is likely to deepen its efforts to paint him as a stooge of global anti-American cabals.

While one can only speculate the kind of impact the Peace Prize may have on his decision making, it couldn't have come at a more inconvenient time - when the president is agonizing over the strategy he has to adopt in the rapidly deteriorating situation in Afghanistan.
The perceived delay in his response to Gen. Stanley McChrystal's recommendation to send an additional 60,000 troops (a number The Wall Street Journal report revised from The Washington Post's 40,000) is already being seen in some quarters as dithering.

The Nobel honor will only add to the pressure that the White House has been facing not only from hardliners at home but also from the Taliban, which has been conducting "propaganda by deed" through unrelenting and brazen attacks across Afghanistan and Pakistan.

With his strategic review decision due before Halloween, can President Obama adopt an aggressive counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan before he goes to Oslo to pick up his Nobel Prize in December?

If he does, will his action be seen as a contradiction of his status as a peacemaker? How will he be perceived in a year or two from now if his new strategy escalates the human cost of the war in Afghanistan, but does not resolve the conflict in any meaningful sense?

Or, conversely, will a denial of troop enhancements and execution of tactical retreat (as favored by Vice President Joe Biden and the left wing of the Democratic Party) be seen as caving into the expectations of global peaceniks at the expense of American security interests?

And how is President Obama likely to fare with regard to "call to action" in the Arab-Israeli context? If the U.S. could not accede to a simple Palestinian demand that the U.N. Human Rights Council endorse the (U.N.-sponsored) Richard Goldstone report - which accused Israel of committing war crimes during its incursion into Gaza last winter - how can the Obama administration find the political will to chisel out a peaceful two-state solution anytime soon.

But what is more ironic is that the Nobel committee in its citation singled out "Obama's vision of and work for a world without nuclear weapons." If there is one area where status quo is likely to prevail through his term(s) in office, it is nuclear disarmament.

Even if the Taliban, al-Qaida and other madcap terrorists succumb to the Obama charm and fold their tents, it is unlikely that the president will be so lucky as to put the nuclear genie back in the bottle - a further reduction in the number of U.S.-Russian nuclear warheads through a new START treaty notwithstanding.

There is only a remote possibility that the Obama administration will make headway in realizing its declared disarmament and arms control agenda - the strengthening the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), the ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) by all nations, including holdouts like India, Pakistan and Israel, not counting the U.S. itself, and successfully enacting a fissile materials cutoff treaty.

Against this background, the Swedish academy may have done injustice to President Obama by conferring on him an honor that he now will be constrained to earn under greater scrutiny and enhanced expectations but with fewer options.

Both the prize and its recipient will have diluted in value and reputation if the pending challenges cannot be confronted or resolved within the framework of peace. In such an eventuality, the 2009 honor will be remembered as Nobel Peace Prize for Pipe Dreams.