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Obama’s reception of Nobel Prize may be premature, but it is good for America

If Red states and Blue states were neatly divided geographically, America could be headed for another civil war. And the Nobel Peace Prize might well kick it off.

Thankfully, this isn’t the case. But the animosity between left and right (or what passes for the dichotomy in the American political climate) has turned up to boiling, exemplified by right-wing outrage over President Obama’s winning the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday.

Critics were quick to point out that Obama hasn’t done anything to actually advance the cause of world peace. Rather, bombings in Pakistan and wars in Iraq and Afghanistan mark the administration.

According to the committee, the prize was awarded to Obama essentially for his vision and rhetoric. The things he said sounded nice, reaching out to different communities of the world and trying to bridge partisan gaps in the United States.

But whether this is enough to justify a Peace Prize is another matter. Apparently, the goal of the Nobel Committee is to push Obama down the path he said he would take during his presidential campaign (his nomination occurred very shortly after he took office, so it is his pre-presidential work that is being recognized).

It would seem that a sitting U.S. president winning the Peace Prize would be a great thing for the country, regardless of if he deserved it. Surely it is to our advantage for the rest of the world to once again look to the United States as a leader and a beacon.

The only other sitting presidents to receive the prize were Woodrow Wilson and Teddy Roosevelt.

Wilson was awarded the prize largely for his efforts to establish a League of Nations – the Nobel Committee graciously ignored the fact that the doctrine for which he is now most remembered, Wilsonian Idealism, is used to justify U.S. intervention on behalf of democracy wherever we choose. It’s a useful pretext for justifying whatever skirmish we might find ourselves involved in.

Roosevelt was awarded the prize for helping to broker a solution to the Russo-Japanese War. Once again, the committee ignored several other atrocities committed under that administration, perhaps most notably our conquest of the Philippines (which began under William McKinley, to whom Roosevelt served as vice president before McKinley’s assassination).

Merely winning the Peace Prize does not actually mean the recipient has tirelessly, and for his or her entire life, toiled in the name of peace. In some cases, that might be true – Mother Teresa and Martin Luther King, Jr., for example – but in others it is plain laughable, such as Henry Kissinger.

Criticism of Peace Prize winners is nothing new. Certainly, there was much outrage over Kissinger’s win, and the reaction to Obama’s victory is nothing compared to the reaction when Yasser Arafat won the prize in 1994. But the hostility toward Obama is overblown.

During the George W. Bush administration, any criticism launched against that president was considered un-American. By writing off such abhorrent policies as the PATRIOT Act and the war in Iraq as necessary to America’s national security, conservatives successfully derailed any serious critique of these issues, forcing protest to either take a diluted form or risk ostracization and being labeled as ‘fringe.’

Now, when an American president wins the Nobel Peace Prize, the disenfranchised party is beside itself.

Reactions have ranged from sarcastic, like GOP Chairman Michael Steele, to angry lunacy, a now-typical reaction from folks like Rush Limbaugh. On his radio show, Glenn Beck suggested Obama should give the award to the Tea Party and 9/12 Project protesters who marched on Washington last month.

Obama can do no good by the right wing. For them, Obama’s reception of the prize indicates an appreciation by the European community for his systematic dissembling of the United States, or so Rush Limbaugh suggested Friday on his radio show.

Now, the left is criticizing the right using the right’s own shallow, meaningless rhetoric. One Washington Post opinion column begged the question, ‘Why, oh why, do conservatives hate America so?’

‘You hate America’ was no more a valid argument for the right to use on the left than it is for the left to use now on the right. The matter is utterly meaningless.

The facts, however, are simple. Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize. He hasn’t really done much of anything policy-wise to deserve it. But the world looking to the United States to lead the way into a peaceful and prosperous future cannot be a bad thing.

All that remains now is for the people to make sure Obama delivers.

Respond to Kyle at [email protected]

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