When I heard of the Nobel Prize for Peace being awarded to President Obama, I blinked my eyes in disbelief. My next reaction was laughter. One, because I could imagine the Twitter playground going amuck but two, because it was a fair response.
While I get why the Committee did it – and I congratulate my President on the honour – I’m definitely ambivalent about the result because of what it says about how far Americans are willing to continually apologise for George W. Bush, act as if they had nothing to do with electing him (twice) – and how far the world community is willing to drum on about it ad nauseam.
Simply put, it’s not clear to me at all how President-elect (then President) Obama earned NPP (Symbolic Gesture v2.0) in the months between 4th November and 1st February. I’m actually surprised to feel a level of (dare I say it) disgust over this, but I think I’ve nailed why:
While I applaud the Committee’s bluntness – that it’s a symbolic gesture which has less to do with Obama himself – I’m not pleased that the world community (at least those represented by the Committee) has chosen this particular method of saying, ‘Well Done, America’ with the 2008 Presidential results. And many people (including some I’ve tweeted with) don’t seem to appreciate the dark side of this coin, which is this: America must really get over having elected George W Bush and apologising for it via its almost messianic idolatry of Obama. Despite what many non-Americans may believe, we are not so feeble minded that we need the world to approve our choices, or sanction our democratic process. Despite my not having voted for Bush, I respected the fact that my country conducted a fair and free election and that he won. Yes, America went to a dark place for some time. But again, we chose that path. We are accountable for our leaders’ actions as a free society because we have elected them. I don’t recall any serious movement to impeach Bush, or otherwise remove him from office because of his Iraq decisions. And we need to get some acceptance around that.
Power to Persuade versus Ability to Lead
I’ve tweeted with people today who support the Nobel decision, and I respect their opinions. But it seems that people are equating Obama’s NPP with supporting him in the change he’s promised. But here’s the thing: Obama has not actually changed anything yet – and the decisions I’ve seen from him so far suggest a man who’s more concerned with getting everyone to agree such that nothing gets achieved. I get the strong sense that many Americans confuse the power to persuade with the ability to lead. Leading a course of change means not everyone will agree on that course – but you forge ahead away – and it’s this ability which seems underdeveloped in Obama: he tries to please everyone including his opposition who have made it clear they won’t support anything he has to offer. One only need look at Obama’s leadership style on health care reform to see that he’s no Tommy Douglas – and we need him to be.
And so until Obama addresses this aspect of himself (which borders on the pathological), then I don’t foresee any change actually happening, especially the type of which the Nobel Committee and the rest of us are so desperately hoping for.