Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Obama peace prize

A few notes on the award...

New York Times editorial:
"Americans elected Mr. Obama because they wanted him to restore American values and leadership — and because they believed he could. The Nobel Prize, and the broad endorsement that followed, shows how many people around the world want the same thing."
A more informative case can be found in this Globe piece, "Obama deserves the Nobel: He has changed the international game," itemizing the very real reasons for the award that we North Americans may be missing:
Mr. Obama's decision to cancel the U.S. missile-defence system in Poland and the Czech Republic, and thus to end a simmering conflict with Russia and make nuclear disarmament possible, was an enormous development to Europeans.

His leadership of a UN Security Council summit that called for total nuclear disarmament – unanimously, for the first time – and launched a strengthened nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, just before sitting down with Iran, was probably the headline of the year outside North America.

His Cairo speech opening dialogue with the Middle East and putting international relations back on political and economic terms – ending the “clash of civilizations” and “axis of evil” confrontation of previous years – was received as a historic epiphany in much of the world.

His talks with Iran, with Russia's and Europe's help, and his recognition that Iran is a long-term problem rather than an immediate threat, have signalled a new recognition that change can be made to happen, as it was in 1989, by playing a long game built on shared values. That, for the rest of the world, was a big deal.
Then, if you need more(!) on this, watch Rachel Maddow's excellent report from last night putting it all in perspective:


Or try Douglas Brinkley's take, here.

No official statement from the PM though. Sure, he said a few generic words at a press conference that could have been said on pretty much any award winning occasion.
"I think it's a tremendous award to somebody who has obviously accomplished a great deal in his life and I am very happy for him and his family. I think it is a great honour," Harper said at an event in Welland, Ont.
Surely a Canadian Prime Minister can do a little better than that? Take the opportunity to at least mention one of the major reasons for the award? But I guess that's all Mr. Harper could summon up.

The lack of an official statement, at least on the government sites, given that so much has been made of the special relationship between the two (thought we were "grilling steaks" with the US) was noticeable. An ungracious statement in and of itself. And remember, Harper chose Tim Horton's in Oakville over attending Obama's speech to the UN General Assembly just a few weeks ago.

Not to let any of those latter points spoil things for those of us who are happily applauding this move.