“The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided that the Nobel Peace Prize for 2009 is to be awarded to President Barack Obama for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples ..."
— Norwegian Nobel Committee, Oct. 9, 2009
The Nobel Peace Prize is kinda like the Grammy Awards. They must be approached with skepticism.
On rare occasions, the picks are great. In 1973, the Grammy for Album of the Year — Stevie Wonder’s Innervisions — was spot-on. As a matter of fact, this columnist won’t be worryin’ ‘bout a thang, at top volume, once he completes this week’s assignments.
And the 1983 Nobel Peace Prize that was awarded to Polish labor leader Lech Walesa was downright inspired. Walesa and fellow unarmed community organizers set into motion the events that peacefully toppled the nuclear-armed Soviet empire.
Sometimes, however, the prize picks are pure stupid. John Mayer’s “Daughters” was actually awarded Song of Year in 2004. I gave it an award that year, too: Best Song to Make You Want to Puncture Your Eardrums with a Rusty Icepick.
No Grammy faux-pas was ever as offensive or vomitous as warmonger Henry Kissinger’s 1973 Peace Prize. That’s like awarding the Nobel Prize for Medicine to Michael Jackson’s doctor.
Obama’s win wasn’t a travesty, but it wasn’t deserved, either. It’s their prize and they can award it to whomever they choose, but I want to see some big deal treaties, and maybe an averted war or two, before I’d give any American president a peace prize.
To his credit, Obama agrees he doesn’t deserve it. His short, gracious speech after the win had two main points: No, I don’t deserve it, but I’m gonna work to deserve it eventually.
A mere three weeks later, Obama’s made what appears to be his first retroactive-worthiness move. The Obama administration appears to have brokered a reversal of the June 28, 2009, coup deposing elected President of Honduras Manuel Zelaya.
Zelaya was deposed because he was attempting to remain in office beyond the expiration of his current term, and because he courted and emulated leftist anti-U.S. Latin leaders Hugo Chavez and the Castro brothers.
Zelaya initiated a referendum asking Honduran voters if they wanted to amend the constitution to allow him to run for a second term. When the country’s supreme court ruled Zelaya’s referendum was itself unconstitutional, Zelaya declared it would go forward as a nonbinding referendum.
Annoyed at Zelaya’s obvious disingenuousness (does any honest person believe Zelaya was not angling to remain in power?), Honduras’ supreme court, legislature and military conspired to oust him.
The Organization of American States and the U.N. howled in protest. Surprisingly, so did the Obama administration.
I say surprisingly because the U.S. has a well-earned reputation in Latin America for subverting democracy when it jeopardizes U.S. corporate or geopolitical concerns.
Of just the seven nations that comprise Central America, the U.S. has invaded, occupied and/or bankrolled blatantly murderous regimes in five of them during the post-WWII era.
If the coup had happened in 2007, it’s easy to imagine Bush cheering it on. After all, the Bush administration publicly cheered the plotters of the 2002 coup attempt that nearly toppled democratically elected Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.
Obama’s approach is fundamentally different. He joined other Western Hemisphere leaders in condemning the overthrow. He also pressured both sides to work out the following deal: Zelaya gets to serve out his term if he promises not to run again, and the long-planned Nov. 29 elections will go forward.
Assuming the deal is OK'd by Honduras' Congress, everyone wins. Honduras wins because it gets democracy, an internationally recognized government, and an end to sanctions that have crippled its aid- and tourism-dependent economy.
Latin American democrats win because the U.S. sent a loud and clear signal to would-be junta leaders that it won’t support military meddling in democracy.
And for you selfish, patriotic types, you can feel good because you’re the biggest winners of all.
By demonstrating to Latin Americans we’re willing to support democrats even when they don’t especially like us, we’re undermining anti-American loudmouth leftists like Chavez and the Castros. It’s harder to justify your existence as a bulwark against U.S. bullying when the U.S. has quit acting like a bully. Obama improved U.S. national security without firing a shot.