I suppose we should not begrudge Barack Obama his Nobel Peace Prize, though it represents a radical break in tradition, since he’s only had slightly less than nine months to discharge his imperial duties, most concretely through the agency of high explosives in the Hindu Kush whereas laureates like Henry Kissinger had been diligently slaughtering people across the world for years.
Woodrow Wilson, the liberal imperialist with whom Obama bears some marked affinities, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1919, having brought America into the carnage of the First World War. The peace laureate president who preceded him was Teddy Roosevelt, who got the prize in 1906 as reward for sponsorship of the Spanish-American war and ardent bloodletting in the Philippines. Senator George Hoar’s famous denunciation of Roosevelt on the floor of the US Senate in May of 1902 was probably what alerted the Nobel Committee to Roosevelt’s eligibility for the Peace Prize:
“You have sacrificed nearly ten thousand American lives-the flower of our youth. You have devastated provinces. You have slain uncounted thousands of the people you desire to benefit. You have established reconcentration camps. Your generals are coming home from their harvest bringing sheaves with them, in the shape of other thousands of sick and wounded and insane to drag out miserable lives, wrecked in body and mind. You make the American flag in the eyes of a numerous people the emblem of sacrilege in Christian churches, and of the burning of human dwellings, and of the horror of the water torture.”
TR was given the peace prize not long after he’d displayed his boundless compassion for humanity by sponsoring an exhibition of Filipino “monkey men” in the 1904 St Louis World Fair as “the missing link” in the evolution of Man from ape to Aryan, and thus in sore need of assimilation, forcible if necessary, to the American way. On receipt of the prize, Roosevelt promptly dispatched the Great White Fleet (sixteen U.S. Navy ships of the Atlantic Fleet including four battleships) on a worldwide tour to display Uncle Sam’s imperial credentials, anticipating by scarce more than a century, Obama’s award, as he prepares to impose Pax Americana on the Hindukush and portions of Pakistan.
People marvel at the idiocy of these Nobel awards, but there’s method in the madness, since in the end they train people to accept without demur or protest absurdity as part and parcel of the human condition, which they should accept as representing the considered opinion of rational men, albeit Norwegian. It’s a twist on the Alger myth, inspiring to youth: you too can get to murder Filipinos, or Palestinians, or Vietnamese or Afghans and still win a Peace Prize. That’s the audacity of hope at full stretch.
It’s dawning even on those predisposed to like the guy that when it comes to burning issues the first black president of the United States truly hates to come down on one side or the other. He dreads making powerful people mad. He won’t stand up for his own people when they’re being savaged by the nutball right, edges them out, then has his press secretary claim that they jumped of their own accord. This may impress the peaceniks of Oslo, but from the American perspective he’s looking like a wimp.
Obama’s Afghan policy evolved on the campaign trail last year as a one-liner designed to deflect charges that he was a peacenik on Iraq. Not so, he cried. The Global War on Terror was being fought in the wrong place. His pledge was to hunt down and “kill” Osama bin Laden.
Once ensconced in the Oval Office Obama, invoking “bipartiship”, instantly nailed a white flag to the mast by keeping on Robert Gates, Bush’s secretary of defense.
He formed a foreign policy team mostly composed of Clinton-era neo-liberal hawks, headed by Hilary Clinton and Richard Holbrook. His next step was to eject the US commander in Afghanistan, Gen. David McKiernan, and install Gen. Stanley McChrystal, best known for running the assassination wing of the military’s joint special-operations command. (JSOC). Then he ordered 17,000 new US troops to be deployed to Afghanistan.
There’s no possible light at the end of any tunnel. The robot war via Predator missiles and other instruments in the arsenal infuriates all Afghans, as wedding parties are blown to bits every weekend. With more troops and mercenaries now in Afghanistan than during the Russian military presence at its peak, there’s zero chance for America playing a long-term constructive role in Afghanistan. The US presence is just a recruiting poster for the Taliban.
But Obama has now surrounded himself with just the same breed of intellectuals who persuaded Lyndon Johnson to destroy his presidency by escalating the war.
Read the whole thing at CounterPunch: War and Peace, by Alexander Cockburn