Fair. Balanced. American.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Why Obama?

Juan Cole:

Alfred Nobel outlined in his will the grounds on which the Peace Prize was to be given, saying it should go annually to the person who "shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding of peace congresses." The modern committee considers work toward the reduction of nuclear arsenals in the same light as the reduction of standing armies, hence its award to Linus Pauling.


Barack Obama was given the prize because he is a game changer. Obama has dedicated himself to reducing and ultimately scrapping the nuclear arsenals that threaten the world with nuclear winter or a destruction of the ozone layer; either event would be catastrophic for human beings' existence on the planet. Obama has already made a substantial change in relations between the U.S. and the Muslim world. Two years ago we were talking about whether Cheney could convince Americans to go to war on Iran. Now Washington is engaging in direct talks with Tehran that have easied tensions.

Whether she or he actually achieves peace or not is unpredictable, but game changers are clearly visible to everyone. The handshake between Rabin and Arafat in the early 1990s was potentially a game changer, and the Oslo deal would have profoundly enhanced world peace if it had worked (it might even have averted 9/11 and the subsequent wars). Al Gore's campaign for the environment was a game changer. Shirine Ebadi's dedication to a rule of law in Iran is a game changer, and she gives hope to many otherwise cynical youth and women.

For those who are giggling and demanding concrete improvements, it is worth noting that most of the recipients have been idealists rather than practical persons. Obama is both, and therefore he has a real shot at vindicating the social worth of his policies in the future.

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