Saturday, October 10, 2009

Obama's Nobel win -- "a call to action"

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Whatever you think of Obama's Nobel Peace Prize win -- I tweeted on it quite a bit yesterday, and, with reflection, I think that, while many others were just as if not more deserving (like Chinese pro-democracy dissidents, for example), if seen as an "aspirational" award, that is, if the Nobel Committee was sending a message (which it certainly was) that Obama represents the sort of change the world needs, that what he is and what he stands for is at this point more significant that what he has accomplished (which is, admittedly, very little so far), there's nothing wrong with his win other than that it raises expectation levels even higher than they already were and sets him up for failure -- he handled himself brilliantly in accepting the award:



For more, make sure to read James Fallows's astute reading of Obama's acceptance speech at The Atlantic. In making it not about himself, he struck just the right note. The award is "an affirmation of American leadership on behalf of aspirations held by people in all nations." It is "a call to action" and "a call for all nations to confront the common challenges of the 21st century." Obama interpreted his win just the right way, and it is clear that he will do his utmost to follow through with his commitment to address those challenges in constructive ways.

Does this mean that he is without fault? No, of course not. He may very well soon escalate the war in Afghanistan with a significant troop increase, for example, and his vaguely Bush-like record on national security at home, including with respect to government secrecy, is hardly reassuring. Still, the award should be taken both as approval and as encouragement: approval of what he stands for, encouragement to move forward. Let's hope he does just that. If his win really is "a call to action," he has no excuse not to act.

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Let me add that what I especially like about Obama's win is how it seems to be driving conservatives even more insane than they already were. They had no idea how to respond to it, were all over the place with their partisan knee-jerk reactions, and ended up spewing a discombobulated mix of confusion and rage. (It ought to be noted that Obama did not give himself the award. So whether he deserved it or not, it's not his fault. The conservative rage/outrage directed at Obama is thus thoroughly, if unsurprisingly, misplaced. Obama won the award. He has done the most with it so far. That's it.)

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