Saturday, October 10, 2009

Obama is ennobled!

Every year the Norwegian parliament chooses five wise men to form the Nobel Peace Prize Committee. It is one of the world’s most secret societies and little is known of its modus operandi. All we know is that these old Nordic men shortlist five names for the Nobels fredspris, as the award is called in Norwegian. The shortlist is then evaluated by the Nobel institute, which has permanent members, mostly academics of repute with expertise in peace. This year Norway’s ex Prime Minister heads the Nobel Peace Prize Committee. And they put their heads together for endless hours to pick an individual for the huge honor whom they think ‘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 and promotion of peace congresses’. Clearly George Bush II never stood a chance.

Come December 10 [death anniversary of Alferd Nobel, also the day UN adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948] US president Barack Obama will receive the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, in presence of His majesty Herald V of Norway. The King is a cousin to Queen Elizabeth II. Being a great-grandson of Edward VII, Herald is technically in the line of succession to the British throne.
This winter he too shall clap for Obama.

The decision to give the award to President Obama has generated a lot of buzz. Broadly broken into three distinct categories, most people are expressing anything from a general bewilderment to dyspepsia. The first major group constitutes conservative Republicans, pink cheeked Fox News commentators, distempered neo-conservatives and the likes of Ms Palin with a Bible under their arms and Bush doctrine on their minds. They are visibly upset and bitter. And we know why. The second category is made up of amateur commentators, with little or no knowledge of international politics or critical faculties, who find it in-vogue to dislike anyone making sense and talking peace, however earnest the intentions. We live in silly times and all mutineer talk is hip. Open season.

The third chunk comprises of people, some genuine admirers of the Obama success story, who think the award is premature. Having shifted in my emotions, since I got a text informing me about the news, I have settled down in the last category. The Nobel Peace Prize has come a good three years early. It is hasty and a huge recognition, one that Obama could have perhaps done without, for the while. When the Europeans decided to prematurely anoint him and announced it in a much anticipated press conference in Oslo, I reckon, Obama was sleeping in DC and had no inkling of the great onus to come.

So why did the Nobel Prize Committee do Obama the honors? And so overearly? For starters the Peace Prize is always politicized. It has forever gone to unexpected men and women. Obama has been into his administration for just nine months. And though his vision for peace is earnest and mostly honest, he hasn’t achieved much in these past months. I think the Nobel Committee decided to give him the award anyway because of two major reasons:

A -- This is as much an award to a new America, lead by Obama, as a clear rebuff to George Bush II and his dork policies. May be an award in default to Barack for not being Bush. From a warmonger, whose mantra was kill, kill and kill till all those who disagree surrender and start to fear the world’s self appointed door keeper -- to a fresh hope, who is willing to engage with friends and foes alike. [In the first year of his presidency, Obama proposed holding talks about nuclear affairs with Iran, removing a precondition that Iran first abandon enrichment of uranium process. He scrapped a plan to deploy a missile-defence shield in Eastern Europe, which was seen as a clear provocation by Russia. There is a marked change of tone in America’s foreign policy. The speech given in Egypt in June 09 was an eloquent call for a new understanding between America and Islam. American policy towards small and repressive regimes, ranging from Myanmar to Cuba, has already shifted]

B – In essence, Obama was given the award more for what he stands for, and less for what he has achieved. That is a break from tradition, yes but diplomacy for peace is founded in the concept that those who are to lead the world must do so on the basis of values and attitudes that are shared by the majority of the world's population. Nobel Peace Prize is about facilitating that process. In lay terms, it boils down to this: Look here, Sir, we know you don’t yet have a clear policy on Afghanistan. Iran and North Korea continue to be dark spots. We also know that you haven’t been able to spell out lucidly your course about a Palestinian state till date. Yet we know in a world of ideologically intolerant positions, right wing lunatics, left wing clamor, turbaned fanatics and domestic depression, all we perhaps need is promise. For Peace.

The bar, for you, has been set high. Now Deliver, O.