Sunday, October 11, 2009

Postings from Pretoria #21

11 October 2009

Hello there... Rodger French here.

The totally unexpected announcement that the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to President Obama has generated modrate buzz around the Mission. No one saw this coming (personally, I was pulling for Morgan Tsvangirai, Prime Minister of Zimbabwe), but what the heck. It’s not the first time the Nobelians have acknowledged aspirations instead of long-term accomplishments as overarching criteria for this recognition.

Since we expats are somewhat shielded from the silly musings, ravings, and general wankery of American talk radio and television news, a certain civilized discourse prevails as we pause to ponder such weighty questions as: Does Obama deserve it? (In my opinion, no - not that the Norwegians give a damn.) Should Americans take pride in it? (But of course - even the French think this is cool.) Most importantly, will it make any positive difference in people’s lives? (I do not know - perhaps we should ask the Afghans.) That said, let’s pick up on some representative quotes.

Norwegian Nobel Committee: “…extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.”

President Barack Hussein Obama: “To be honest, I do not feel that I deserve to be in the company of so many of the transformative figures who've been honored by this prize — men and women who've inspired me and inspired the entire world through their courageous pursuit of peace.”

Senator John McCain (R-AZ): "I think all of us were surprised at the decision, but I think Americans are always pleased when their president is recognized by something on this order."

Governor Tim Pawlenty (R-MN): “I know there will be some people who are saying ‘Was it based on good intentions and thoughts or is it going to be based on good results?’ But I think the appropriate response is when anybody wins a Nobel Prize that is a very noteworthy development and designation and I think the appropriate response is to say ‘Congratulations.’”

Rachel Maddow, MSNBC: “The American president just won the Nobel Peace Prize. By any reasonable measure, all Americans should be proud.”

Michael Moore: "Congratulations President Obama on the Nobel Peace Prize -- Now Please Earn it!"

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, 1984 Peace Prize winner: "In a way, it's an award coming near the beginning of the first term of office of a relatively young president that anticipates an even greater contribution towards making our world a safer place for all. It is an award that speaks to the promise of President Obama's message of hope."

Eugene Rogan, Director of the Middle East Center at Oxford University: "The award is premature; he hasn't done anything yet. But he's made clear from the start of his presidency his commitment to promote peace. No doubt the Nobel committee hopes the award will enhance his moral authority to advance the cause of peace while he's still president."

Spencer Ackermann, firedoglake: “The issue is not Barack Obama. It’s what the president represents internationally: a symbol of an America that is willing, once again, to drive the international system forward, together, toward the humane positive-sum goals of peace and disarmament.”

BarbinMD, Daily Kos (on “widening the partisan divide”): “The President's opponents compare him to Hitler, accuse him of setting up ‘death panels,’ of being the anti-Christ, or whatever other batshit crazy thing the lunatic of the day comes up with, while the Republican Party has been obstructing anything and everything he wants to do, but now that Obama has won the Nobel Peace Prize things might get ugly? Compared to what?"

And, as a sometime employee of the State Department, my personal favourite…

P.J. Crowley, Assistant Secretary of State: "Certainly from our standpoint, this gives us a sense of momentum -- when the United States has accolades tossed its way, rather than shoes.”

[Fun Fact: Four South Africans have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize: Albert Luthuli (1960), Desmond Tutu (1984), F.W. de Klerk (1993), and Nelson Mandela (1993).]

Peace. Onward.


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