President Obama–Nobel Laureate–announced a 30,000-troop surge in Afghanistan on Tuesday. Our own Naresh Vissa spoke with Bill Ayers about Obama’s Nobel nod, and the war in Afghanistan.
By Naresh Vissa
President Barack Obama has had a lot on his plate during his term, and he deserves much praise for his strong leadership and vision, but his Nobel Peace Prize surprised his Administration as much as it surprised many of us.
According to Alfred Nobel’s will, the Peace Prize should be awarded to the person who, “during the preceding year…shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.”
President Obama was in office less than two weeks before the Feb.1 nomination deadline. That means voters went purely by his words. His policies weren’t even in place at the time. Plans change, and few Obama foreign policies have yet to be implemented–except one. Obama announced a 30,000-troop surge in Afghanistan on Tuesday night.
I spoke to Bill Ayers, who came to media attention during the 2008 presidential election because of his relationship with Obama, about the award. During the 60s and 70s, Ayers’ organization the Weather Underground bombed buildings in protest of U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War.
“Clearly, the award was an aspirational award,” Ayers said. “They were making a comment on the war-like presidency of George Bush, wishing Obama would repudiate that and declare himself a peace president.”
Added Ayers: “Everybody who’s critical of selection should look around and ask, ‘Who are the peacemakers?’ It’s a grim world we’re looking at. I wish I saw more activists for peace around the world.”
Nobel officials said Obama’s achievement would build momentum on future foreign diplomacy. Momentum in diplomacy? It’s not as if Islamic fundamentalist nations will honor Obama for his prize and rid their theocratic systems, or Israel and Palestine will sit down with Obama in a room and work out a peace treaty.
Obama shouldn’t take a hit for other people’s decisions to credit him. In any case, he is doing something that the Bush Administration never did, which is talk diplomacy. The award highlights his popularity outside the U.S. To many Americans, it seems premature, but to others outside the country, Obama is revered and seems like the most obvious choice. Regardless, the Nobel Peace Prize is not supposed to be a popularity contest.
In his ten months in office, Obama has not ended the Iraq War, and he has launched counter-terror strikes in Somalia and Pakistan. The Norwegian Nobel Committee, as well as the world, hoped Obama would repudiate warfare by declaring himself a peace President. Unfortunately, foreign policy in Afghanistan will undermine that.
Historically, Alexander the Great, Ghengis Khan, the Soviet Union, Great Britain: everyone who’s tried to conquer Afghanistan has failed. There’s no reason to believe the U.S. will do any better. Obama’s talk is mesmerizing, but his “peaceful” actions thus far are non-existent.
“I’m worried deeply that this Administration could ruin itself in the furnaces of war,” Ayers said. “The tragedy is that just as Lyndon Johnson, the most effective politician of his generation, burned up his presidency in Vietnam, anyone who knows the history and the situation is fearful that this brilliant young president is about to make fatal mistakes in terms of escalating into Afghanistan, which will not be won. It’s a tragedy in the making.”
Any person is eligible for the Nobel Peace Prize. After all, Henry Kissinger won the Prize in 1973 while the U.S. was still in Vietnam. As National Security Adviser to President Richard Nixon, Kissinger played a pivotal role in several bombings of Cambodia, which ultimately led to the Cambodian Civil War. He also helped establish dictatorial regimes in Latin America.
I voted Obama in ’08, but just like Kissinger, his recent actions regarding Afghanistan warrant an asterisk on the award. Nonetheless, what you do is more important than what you say. If that weren’t the case, then give Miss America the Nobel Peace Prize every year.
Naresh Vissa is a member of the Class of 2011. He is a broadcast journalism, finance and accounting triple major. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Video from Clarence Page, of the Chicago Tribune: