Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Obama and the Nobel Peace Prize

It's interesting and surprising to hear that President Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize. It actually tells us more about the Nobel Committee and the rest of the world than it tells us about Obama. It tells us that the Nobel Committee is looking to the future and trying to use the prize to improve the safety of people on the earth in the coming years. I think that's commendable although it may be risky. It also tells us something about how the rest of the world sees the US. It reminds us how frustrated most of the people on this Earth were with the Bush Administration. Bush was clearly not interested in being a peacemaker but used the military for revenge and to steal resources. Remember Bush bragging about being a "war president."

Millions of people in the world see the US as a rogue nation, out of control, and using our power, wealth, and military forces to threaten and destroy other countries. We spent annually approximately the same amount on our military that all the rest of the world combined spends on their military forces. We have over 800 military bases on the planet. That's an enormous waste of money and other resources. No one knows the number of civilians who have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan by the US military forces. Chris Hedges in his book What Everyone Should Know About War writes that 75 to 90 % of all the victims of wars since World War 2 have been civilians. There are those who have responded to that comment by using the twisted and desperate logic of saying that if we weren't killing them, Saddam Hussein and the Taliban would be doing it, as if that somehow justifies the US killing civilians. The excuses used to start and continue these wars are as absurd as that logic used to justify killing civilians. Obama is in a position to put a stop to two of the most unjustified wars in human history. The sooner he does it, the more he will be perceived of having earned the Nobel Prize. Getting rid of nuclear weapons is an even tougher task, although decreasing the numbers possessed by nations might be easier.

Giving the Nobel Peace Prize to someone who is in a position of power and might actually deserve it in the future is commendable. However we can't expect the other Nobel prizes to be awarded in a similar manner. No one is going to receive a Nobel Prize in physics or medicine because they might accomplish something great or original in those areas at some time in the future. No one is going to receive a Nobel Prize in literature for great novels or awesome and originals collections of poetry that someday, they might write.

The US is seen by much of the rest of the world as a single-minded, tunnel -visioned nation largely made up of people who care only about themselves. US citizens, governments, and lifestyles are the major contributors to global warming and to military violence in the world. We burn more fossil fuels and cause much of the pollution on the Earth. We either cause, participate in, or fund and arm most of the wars taking place at any given time on the planet. The war in Afghanistan is eight years old and the one in Iraq started two days before my grandson was born. He is now more than six and a half years old. Because of these wars his father has been only a marginal part of his life for years. Wars caused by the US government and military, and preparation for war, are the major anti-family forces on this planet.

When the Soviet Union invaded and occupied Afghanistan the US responded with open criticism and sanctions against the Soviets. We boycotted the Olympics and banned grain sales. By attacking Afghanistan the US behaved exactly as the Soviets did not many years earlier. Shortly after they left Afghanistan in defeat, the Soviet Union self-destructed (or some would say, "upgraded" or "advanced") into numerous smaller countries. There are many people in the world who think the human race might just be better off if the United States did the same. By stopping the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, reducing or eliminating the threat of nuclear war, cooling the violence in the Middle East, and addressing the problem of global warming Obama will certainly have earned his Nobel Peace Prize. In doing so, he may also be helping preserve the US in its present form.

Leonard Nolt

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