OxBlog

Sunday, October 11, 2009

# Posted 9:36 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WHAT THE NORWEGIANS WERE THINKING: The President's reaction to winning the Nobel Prize was to say he will "not view it as a recognition of my own accomplishments." Presidents rarely refuse to take credit for any sort of achievement, so I won't give Obama a hard time.

What's more interesting is how the Prize committee framed its decision:

Agot Valle, a Norwegian politician and member of the committee, said in a phone interview that the choice of Mr. Obama was primarily related to his stance on nuclear disarmament. Ms. Valle said the committee last met on Oct. 5, and that the decision to choose him was unanimous. She said his recent work at the United Nations in late September to pass a resolution calling for a strengthened Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty helped his candidacy.

"There is a criticism about the war in Afghanistan, and I understand that," said Ms. Valle. "But this was primarily an award on his work on, and commitment to, nuclear disarmament -- and his dialogue. Of course there will be criticism, because he hasn't achieved his goals yet. It will take time, but this is a support."
Obama gave a major address on nuclear disarmament on April 5 in Prague. Is there something distinctive about his stance on nuclear disarmament that won over the Prize committee?

One way to think about Obama's address is to ask whether he said anything that George Bush would not have said. There were some. First:
To achieve a global ban on nuclear testing, my administration will immediately and aggressively pursue U.S. ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.
Bush was clearly on the other side of the issue. Yet it would be hard to say that the Obama White House has pursued ratification either immediately or aggressively.

The second point of departure, both more important and less exact, was Obama's pledge to "seek engagement with Iran based on mutual interests and mutual respect." George Bush could have (and probably did) say something very similar. After all, the US supported an extended negotiation process led by the Europeans. The real difference, one might say, is that the Norwegians actually believe that Obama is serious about reaching a deal with Tehran.

But there was plenty of language in Obama's address that sounded exactly like the words of George Bush:

We will support Iran's right to peaceful nuclear energy with rigorous inspections. That's a path that the Islamic Republic can take. Or the government can choose increased isolation, international pressure, and a potential nuclear arms race in the region that will increase insecurity for all.

We will support Iran's right to peaceful nuclear energy with rigorous inspections. That's a path that the Islamic Republic can take. Or the government can choose increased isolation, international pressure, and a potential nuclear arms race in the region that will increase insecurity for all.

So let me be clear: Iran's nuclear and ballistic missile activity poses a real threat, not just to the United States, but to Iran's neighbors and our allies. The Czech Republic and Poland have been courageous in agreeing to host a defense against these missiles...

We go forward with no illusions. Some countries will break the rules. That's why we need a structure in place that ensures when any nation does, they will face consequences...

Rules must be binding. Violations must be punished. Words must mean something.
In the final analysis, Obama's speech in Prague does not explain much about why the Norwegians consider his activism on disarmament to be his premier qualification for the prize. In the end, perhaps it's best to say that Obama won the prize simply for being Obama.

Cross-posted at Conventional Folly
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Comments:
It wouldn't be the first time Obama was hailed for his bold break with the policies of the past on an issue where he more or less exactly continued the policies of the past.

As you say, Obama won the award for being Obama. The most consistent fact of his life is that his awards and accolades far eclipse his actual accomplishments.
 
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