Where's the beef? Obama's Nobel seems slightly premature. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)
The list of Nobel peace prize winners is full of dubious, at times downright outrageous choices: Henry Kissinger, Le Duc Tho, Yasser Arafat, Shimon Peres, Yitzhak Rabin, Menahem Begin. Some of these guys were avowed terrorists (Arafat and Begin), some of them are still wanted in some countries for war crimes (Kissinger), all of them at one time or another thought diplomacy an interruption of war by untold means.
The list also contains obvious choices: Eli Wiesel, Mother Teresa, Médecins sans frontières (Doctors Without Borders), Jimmy Carter, Nelson Mandela--men, women and organizations that unquestionably moved regions of the world in more peaceful directions while restoring dignity to masses of people who'd been denied it by force.
It's not that he wasn't going to be a shoe-in for the prize at some point, if even a quarter of his ambitious pledges were to come true. Maybe in a year or two or three. But this soon? Ten months in, with fewer accomplishments than a quite dubious record of continuing Bush policies by more polite means? With Guantanamo, secret rendition and military tribunals still on his doable list? With Afghanistan a war zone soaking with its own war-crime scenes?
"Obama has as President created a new climate in international politics," the Nobel committee noted. "Multilateral diplomacy has regained a central position, with emphasis on the role that the United Nations and other international institutions can play. Dialogue and negotiations are preferred as instruments for resolving even the most difficult international conflicts. The vision of a world free from nuclear arms has powerfully stimulated disarmament and arms control negotiations. Thanks to Obama's initiative, the United States is now playing a more constructive role in meeting the great climatic challenges the world is confronting. Democracy and human rights are to be strengthened."
All true. But diplomatic climate change is fickle. It can turn at any time. The substance of Obama's international diplomacy, from Iraq to Afghanistan to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict (where he just caved on settlements, giving up on his previous resolve to make progress conditional on a freeze), and even to climate change itself (where he's proposing no ground-breaking initiative)--that substance is lacking. Saturday Night Live's Fred Armisen nailed it in his last impersonation of Obama: "I haven't done anything yet."
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