The committee described the President's efforts as extraordinary. That is, for me, where the cognitive dissonance kicks in. I don't see him personally doing things that are out of the ordinary for what any center-left politician would do. He opposes nuclear proliferation, which is good but kind of old hat; he wants to use diplomacy aggressively in foreign policy, to which I say "Booyah!", but don't see anything at variance with the previous Democratic (or, for that matter, most Republican administrations prior to Bush/Cheney - Reagan sat down with the Russkies and Nixon went to China, after all); he isn't bugfuck insane like Cheney, isn't saying he will follow Bush's doctrine of preemptive war, and lately there's been some more mumbling about closing Gitmo, but how is any of this extraordinary for a rational, moderately humane leader to do? The argument that somehow this will inspire/lead/compel/influence/springboard/all sorts of nouns-turned-into-verbs kind of claims him, or other leaders, or opponents, or the mass of humanity, or some marmosets in the local zoo to do, erm, stuff for peace doesn't pass the sniff test. It makes the committee look ridiculous.
Peace is the slow boring of holes into stone. It calls upon people and nations to change patterns of behavior that have been followed for years, sometimes centuries, and can be overturned by a single person determined to spoil the outcome. It takes diplomacy and determination, not to mention the patience of Job, to keep things moving in the right direction. I read a front page item on the BBC site just now that illustrates what this work looks like. Here's a long excerpt from "Front seat view of Clinton diplomacy":
The ceremony for the signing of two protocols to normalise relations and establish diplomatic ties between Turkey and Armenia had been due to start at 1700.
The Clinton motorcade left the Dolder Hotel at 1700, snaking its way down the hills towards Zurich University and the Churchill hall, the venue of the event.
The motorcade stopped, we started to get out but were suddenly instructed to get back in.
The doors were slammed, the cars made a U-turn and we retraced our steps, amid much confusion in the press vans, where journalists accompanying the secretary started taking guesses and making frantic phone calls. ...
The Armenians had objected to the statement that the Turks were planning to make at the ceremony and had never left the hotel. The Turks were already at the venue. It was high drama diplomacy as the negotiations unfolded in front of us.
The secretary of state worked the phones, two mobile phones in fact according to officials, as her staff hovered, brought papers to her and ran in and out of the hotel.
At one point a police car took off, all sirens wailing, only to return some five minutes later, carrying back another piece of paper - the Turkish statement with handwritten edits from the Turkish delegation still waiting at Zurich University.
Mrs Clinton eventually went into the hotel while we all waited and sent out our stories for the world to hear.
Two hours after the ceremony was due to start, Mrs Clinton and her Armenian counterpart finally emerged and got into her car together.
There was no turning back this time for Edward Nalbandian, though he still made calls to his president back in Yerevan.
Mrs Clinton later told reporters she did most of the talking, appealing to the minister not to walk away from what had been achieved so far. She also said that both sides had raised concerns.
We arrived at the university expecting the ceremony to start and then we waited some more.
By e-mail, Mrs Clinton's staffers informed us that the situation was "fluid".
Intense shuttle diplomacy was going - the Turks were in one room, the Armenians in another as the Swiss mediators, and the American, Russians, French and others went back and forth, carrying pieces of paper.
Ministers missed their planes, Mrs Clinton missed her London dinner plans but an hour-and-a-half later, the Armenians and the Turks put pen to paper.The Armenians and the Turks. What an unlikely diplomatic combination. Now, obviously, I'm tickled pink to see the Lady in the Pantsuit take charge and make stuff happen, and I suspect that she made a difference in the speed with which this upset was resolved enough to allow the protocols to be signed, but the bigger picture is that this is what it takes to bring a substantive change in the world.
This is an example of what the Obama administration and Obama himself is going to have to do non-stop for the next 3 and a quarter years to come close to earning that Peace Prize. It will have to be paired with innovative responses to the dangers of Afghanistan, as both Pat Lang and Wes Clark have been discussing for literally years, to avoid being dragged down into the black hole the NeoCons opened up in the region. And then there is climate change, women's rights, weapons trafficking, and half a hundred other issues, problems, crises and problems that are all part of the puzzle that is peace.
Some people in Yurp may adore The Precious, and because they do, they will hand him presents and hope he loves them in return. That is different than evaluating what this administration's foreign policy team has accomplished and what direction they will end up going. Obama is not an emperor, no matter what WFN wishes were true, and the effect this award has on him personally is pretty much irrelevant. He cannot will peace into existence - it must painstakingly be built one intervention or negotiation or late night phone call at a time. Credit must be given to Obama for having put together a set of leaders who, frankly, expose his inadequacy in this area. (Then again, he has also put together an economic policy team that does likewise, but with destructive results, so maybe he just picks big names and hopes they'll get the job done.) The point is that this award will not change the path that the foreign policy team is going to follow, even as it has made their work more difficult.
Work, not will, not wishes, is the substance of peace.
PS - Pat Lang has weighed in on the prize. It is a hilarious smackdown of the prize committee, neatly skewering their pretention with a cold dash of reality, as well as conveying the real message - "The president does not deserve this reward for any action he has taken. He knows that. He may some day deserve the award, but he does not deserve it now." I am especially amused by the use of George Marshall's portrait with the post. It works on so many levels.