President Barack Obama has won the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize. It is a great honor for this country and for the President. For civil libertarians, however, the prize is a bit of a mixed message. Obama has blocked any investigation of war crimes or torture in violation of international law. He has also supported the limitation of free speech to allow the criminalization of criticism of religion. With less than a year in office, the selection may send the wrong message to Obama that personality rather than principles succeed in both domestic and international politics.
I know that it is not going to be popular to question the basis for this selection, but Obama has not proven to be exactly a ray of light on questions of human rights and international law. He is now in violation of various international agreements over torture and United Nations officials have denounced the United States for refusing to carry out its duty to prosecute those responsible for the torture program. Yet, the Nobel Committee has chosen this time to award him with the Peace Prize — undermining the importance of the Geneva Conventions.
To his considerable credit, he has re-examined our positions on a host of international agreements, including most notably global warming. However, one would expect to wait for at least a year to see if he carried through on such statements and policies. I believe if you look objectively at the record, it is hard to see why Obama warrants such an honor at this time. At least Teddy Roosevelt helped end the Russo-Japanese war and supported the creation of the Hague arbitration court. To put it simply, Obama’s selection is the triumph of hope over experience and he will have to earn this distinction in the years to come.
What do you think?