Wednesday, October 13, 2010

One Year After Obama’s Peace Prize: Where’s the Peace?

Written by Michael Tennant
New American, October 10, 2010

ObamaIn a famous TV commercial from the 1980s, an elderly woman, surveying the minuscule amount of hamburger in the middle of a bun, asks pointedly, “Where’s the beef?” One year after President Barack Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize despite having been in office only a short time, ABC News’ Russell Goldman reports that many people are asking, “Where’s the peace?”

On October 9, 2009, the Nobel Committee awarded Obama the Peace Prize “for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.” Goldman writes that Obama “was selected, prize committee chairman Thorbjorn Jagland said, not for what he had accomplished but for the promise of what he would accomplish.” Former President Jimmy Carter, the 2002 Peace Prize recipient, said Obama was deserving of the prize for his “vision and commitment.”

What, then, has Obama done to vindicate the committee’s faith in him? Goldman sees a few bright spots: “Obama has withdrawn tens of thousands of troops from Iraq. He rushed to the relief of Haiti after its devastating earthquake and redirected U.S. helicopters and aid to help the millions of Pakistanis whose homes were washed away by catastrophic floods.”

On the flip side, Goldman notes, “fighting is escalating in Afghanistan, the war in Iraq continues to smolder and Obama [is struggling] to keep fledgling Middle East peace talks from collapsing. Drones are firing missiles in unprecedened [sic] numbers and confrontations with Iran and North Korea are hotter than ever.” “In addition,” he says, “wars rage in Somalia, Africa, Asia and South America, fueled by religion, tribal hatreds, poverty and piracy.” It is, of course, a good thing that Obama has mostly kept his nose out of these other wars. But he has done little to address the problems in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan and, in the case of Afghanistan and Pakistan, has actually escalated, rather than lessened, hostilities.

The President has committed an additional 47,000 troops to Afghanistan; and though he has stated that he will begin withdrawing troops in July 2011, he has made it clear that the withdrawal is dependent on conditions on the ground and that even if withdrawal does begin at that time, the United States is going to be involved in Afghanistan for years to come. The troop surge has hardly achieved peace: “Nearly 500 U.S. troops have been killed in Afghanistan and nearly another 500 troops from other Western allies since October 2009,” writes Goldman. At the same time, the Pentagon is seeking a permanent presence in Afghanistan, with Defense Secretary Robert Gates averring that “we’re not ever leaving at all” and Obama meekly acquiescing to whatever the military wants — this according to Bob Woodward’s book Obama’s Wars.

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