Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Presidential Price of a Nobel Prize

November 3, 2009

Is anyone really surprised?

Tell me, really?

No more than one month after President Barack Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize on potential - not substance (remember that his nomination was submitted before he was one full month in the Office of the Presidency) - he has been found doing more campaigning for Democratic gubernatorial candidates in New Jersey and Virginia than he has been found agreeing with his commanders on the ground in Afghanistan.

After he won a Nobel Peace Prize from an international committee with no ties to American sovereignty - one that is openly and actively pursuing him to honor diplomacy at all costs, even at the behest of American interests.

Are you surprised that the president has been seen as "dithering" on the issue of sending more troops, even as those from both sides of the political aisle (can you imagine former VP Dick Cheney and US Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) agreeing on anything, yet they do with McChrystal's recommendation) are pressuring him into making a decision to turn the tide overseas and keep America safe? I'm not, especially after hearing the explanation of the Nobel Peace Prize Committee when discussing why a first-term, first-year president was able to win the Prize after a nomination submitted mere weeks into his presidency. (Side note: isn't it ironic how the same people that don't think that President Obama has been in office long enough to change things also think that he was in office long enough to change enough to garner a global prize given for time-tested changes for the better?) The Committee's desire to promote the president's stature around the world and persuade him to pursue diplomacy at all costs (i.e., not increasing the threat of violence with increasing troop volumes) may not be in place with the Afghanistan decision, but it sure looks like it, doesn't it?

And that's a problem.

People were roundly noted for saying that President Obama would have a hard time winning a Peace Prize while promoting the continuation of two wars simultaneously. In essence, in order to live up to the esteem that a Peace Prize presents, the president may, in fact, compromise the best interests of Americans if those interests prompt Obama to take a more aggressive approach to international affairs, particularly in the Middle East. Although many initially stated that the Prize's connotations would not impact the administration's decisions moving forward, the hesitancy surrounding a decision that involves military recommendations given by his hand-picked team only brings a round of pause to many Americans.

Is there a price to having a presidential prize-winner? And, if so, are we seeing the beginning of those payments on the international front?

If this is so, then we must caution ourselves against keeping the 44th president accountable to the people of the United States on a regular basis. The foreign affairs realm, although better with a solid round of cooperative efforts and good cheer, is clearly an arena where popularity pales in sharp comparison to safety and respect in the global community. Granted, this respect and subsequent safety does not have to stem exclusively from fear, but fear of doing what is required to keep America's people safe is worse than fear of America by our enemies or, worse still, fear by America to lose popularity in the global community based on self-motivated interests. Very rarely will you see others within the international community rallying to the aid of Americans in time of military need, much less see them take the lead in some endeavors. Since World War II, it has been the Americans that have ponied up the costs of war, from financial resources (e.g., funding before Pearl Harbor) to weaponry and soldiers on the ground. Unfortunately, that has always been the cost of freedom, respect, and safety throughout the world, particularly as we deal with some rogue nations.

Which is all the more reason why it is dangerous when a new price is commissioned by a committee of few with requirements for one with obligations to us all.

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