Why Obama Should Not Have Received the Peace Prize — Yet

President Obama’s only real diplomatic accomplishment so far has been to change the direction and tone of American foreign policy from unilateral bullying to multilateral listening and cooperating. That’s important, to be sure, but not nearly enough. The Prize is really more of Booby Prize for Obama’s predecessor. Had the world not suffered eight years of George W. Bush, Obama would not be receiving the Prize. He’s prizeworthy and praiseworthy only by comparison.

I’d rather Obama had won it after Congress agreed to substantial cuts in greenhouse gases comparable to what Europe is proposing, after he brought Palestinians and Israelis together to accept a two-state solution, after he got the United States out of Afghanistan and reduced the nuclear arm’s threat between Pakistan and India, or after he was well on the way to eliminating the world’s stockpile of nuclear weapons. Any one of these would have been worthy of global praise. Perhaps the Nobel committee can give him half the prize now and withhold the other half until he accomplishes one or more of these crucial missions.

Giving the Peace Prize to the President before any of these goals has been attained only underscores the paradox of Obama at this early stage of his presidency. He has demonstrated mastery in both delivering powerful rhetoric and providing the nation and the world with fresh and important ways of understanding current challenges. But he has not yet delivered. To the contrary, he often seems to hold back from the fight — temporizing, delaying, or compromising so much that the rhetoric and insight he offers seem strangely disconnected from what he actually does. Yet there’s time. He may yet prove to be one of the best presidents this nation has ever had — worthy not only of the Peace Prize but of every global accolate he could possibly summon. Just not yet.

About Robert Reich 545 Articles

Robert Reich is the nation's 22nd Secretary of Labor and a professor at the University of California at Berkeley.

He has served as labor secretary in the Clinton administration, as an assistant to the solicitor general in the Ford administration and as head of the Federal Trade Commission's policy planning staff during the Carter administration.

He has written eleven books, including The Work of Nations, which has been translated into 22 languages; the best-sellers The Future of Success and Locked in the Cabinet, and his most recent book, Supercapitalism. His articles have appeared in the New Yorker, Atlantic Monthly, New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal. Mr. Reich is co-founding editor of The American Prospect magazine. His weekly commentaries on public radio’s "Marketplace" are heard by nearly five million people.

In 2003, Mr. Reich was awarded the prestigious Vaclev Havel Foundation Prize, by the former Czech president, for his pioneering work in economic and social thought. In 2005, his play, Public Exposure, broke box office records at its world premiere on Cape Cod.

Mr. Reich has been a member of the faculties of Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and of Brandeis University. He received his B.A. from Dartmouth College, his M.A. from Oxford University, where he was a Rhodes Scholar, and his J.D. from Yale Law School.

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