Yes, You Can Oppose Obama's Nobel Prize, Be Progressive, Disagree With the GOP - and Not Be a Terrorist

UPDATE: In his remarks this morning, President Obama (quite commendably IMHO) said he didn't feel like he deserved the award. Big props to him for the intellectual honesty in the admission. As I said, this is really more about the Nobel committee and our society's obsession with celebrified politics more than it is about Obama.

A very quick post on the Obama Nobel Prize award after spending the morning in the virtual focus group known as talk radio in a major swing state. Some points we can - or at least should be able to - agree on:

  • President Obama's speeches on nuclear non-proliferation and on the need to do a better job on multilateral diplomacy were very important, as were his efforts to pursue a diplomatic track with Iran.
  • Much of the world hated George W. Bush and likes Obama.
  • Obama is the president of an administration that may have "inherited" two wars in the heart of the Muslim world, but is also continuing on its own to prosecute those wars. In fact, he's considering massively escalating one of those wars.

Do these facts mean Obama deserves the Nobel Peace Prize award? My opinion is no.

I think that in light of these verifiable facts, the award proves that - like so much of society - the Nobel committee has become one (at least this year) that values celebrified politics over everything else. Obama's fame - not his actual policy or record - is what is being honored here. And that's not surprising: As I said, we are a society that is increasingly organized not around issue, cause or movement, but around celebrity - and this reflects it.

I think you need to actually make peace (which requires lots of risks/courage/success) rather than simply talk about making peace (which requires far less risk/courage/success) - I think, for instance, that Chinese dissidents who have risked their lives taking on the most authoritarian government in the world are more deserving.

I think a president commandeering two wars in the heart of the Muslim world doesn't deserve the award, especially as he considers an escalation, and especially as his particular policies continues to rack up carnage around the globe (see Glenn Greenwald's post for some of the grisly details). And I think the idea of giving an award to someone to "encourage" them to be more peaceful before they actually prove to be peacemakers is ludicrous for two reasons: 1) if that's a rationale, why not give it to brutal dictators as an incentive for them to lighten up? and 2) sure, the award may encourage more peace, but it also may be used as a political shield to justify more war - if Obama escalates in Afghanistan, for example, the award will let him try to brush off the antiwar movement by simply saying, hey, you can't question me, I'm a Nobel Peace Prize winner!

Others, of course, can have their own opinion - and I respect people's right to disagree with my own. One thing, though, I hope we should be able to agree on is the idea that we can disagree on this without being called right-wing sympathizers or worse, terrorists. I know that's hard for some hard-core Democrats and Democratic-affiliated radio talk show hosts to understand - these people are trained/paid to simply say that everything good for Obama is good, and everything else is bad. They are people who, when a Democrat holds the White House, scoff at Teddy Roosevelt's old adage that, "To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public."

But the truth of what I'm saying should be self-evident.

By that I mean, you can be a genuine progressive interested in peace and think this award is a travesty on progressive grounds, and also not think that the Rush Limbaugh/GOP attacks about this award from the right are valid at all. Likewise, you can think this award is a travesty and simultaneously hope that one day President Obama truly ends up building a record deserving of such an award. You can even think this award is a travesty and think Obama is on the way to building up such a record, but is undeserving of the award because he's only been president for 9 months and hasn't yet proven himself a Nobel-level peacemaker.

So the fact that the Democratic National Committee is calling everyone who opposes the Nobel committee's decision a terrorist is, in a word, disgusting. I know the DNC is responding to Republicans (whose basis for opposing the Nobel prize to Obama I disagree with), but by saying all critics of the Nobel award and of Obama's record (or lack thereof) are terrorists by virtue of their opposition is just sick and wrong.

If we are going to build a real movement, we have to resist that kind of nonsense wherever it comes from. Disagreeing with, pressuring, and criticizing President Obama does not automatically make people GOP sympathizers or terrorists, just like disagreeing with, pressuring and criticizing President Bush did not automatically people Democratic sympathizers or terrorists. Those who say the opposite are exactly the people who have partisan-ized our politics to the point of destroying any social movement ethos. They, in short, are the real political terrorists in America - on both sides.