Bush as Nobel Point Guard

“So soon? Too early. He [Obama] has no contribution so far.”  — Lech Walesa, dissent who opposed Soviet occupation of the Poland and 1983 Peace Prize winner.

In basketball, the sport that Barack Obama and many others enjoy, a key statistic is the “assist.” Many times an easy basket is scored because a player, typically a point guard, makes an quick astute pass to an open player.  Former President George Bush can now be safely said to be the most accomplished Nobel point guard, assisting many in scoring a Nobel. The latest beneficiary of this is President Barack Obama who was just awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

Even the most ardent Obama supporters recognize that, at best, any such award is premature. Indeed, he was formally nominated just after reaching office. The Nobel Committee selected Obama because: “Multilateral diplomacy has regained a central position, with emphasis on the role that the United Nations and other international institutions can play.” This is a clear slap at Bush, whose foreign policy was caricatured as being unilateral. The London Times observed as much: “Rarely has an award had such an obvious political and partisan intent. It was clearly seen by the Norwegian Nobel committee as a way of expressing European gratitude for an end to the Bush Administration.” Assist Bush.

This assist was not Bush’s latest, not his first. In 2001, one month after the attack of September 11, the Nobel Prize Committee awarded Kofi Annan and the United Nations the Peace Prize. The US was formulating its reaction to these attacks, and there was concern that the US might act without specific UN authorization, the Nobel Committee used the award to boost the moral authority, such as it is, of the UN. Of course, we would later come to realize that the UN was implicated in a corrupt Food for Oil program that undermined sanctions against  Iraq and enriched intermediaries associated with the UN. Assist Bush.

In 2002, in the lead up to the liberation of Iraq, former President Jimmy Carter was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Carter’s record is at best mixed: Afghanistan was invaded by the Soviets during his watch and Americans were held hostage by the Iranians after the Shah, a US ally was overthrown. However, Carter was instrumental in providing a forum for Egypt’s Anwar Sadat and Israel’s Menachem Begin to workout a peace agreement between Israel and Egypt in 1978. The Nobel Committee overlooked this for two and half decades until is was convenient to use Carter as a bludgeon against Bush. Indeed, the Nobel Prize Committee Chairman, Gunnar Berge, openly explained the Prize “should be interpreted as a criticism of the line that the [Bush] administration has taken…  It’s a kick in the leg to all that follow the same…” Assist Bush.

The former Vice-President Al Gore case is roughly similar to the Carter case. There could be an argument made that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) should be recognized by the Nobel Committee. Al Gore had been burning fuel  proselytizing the necessity of eschewing carbon use to avert global climate change. But giving the same PowerPoint presentation in many venues, does not quite seem to rise to the level of a Nobel Peace Prize. Of course, Al Gore was involved in a close a election with George Bush, which many used to routinely dispute Bush’s legitimacy — even after a clear Bush re-election in 2004. By this time, Gore had turned angry, shouting that Bush: “… played on our fears. He took America on an ill-conceived foreign adventure dangerous to our troops, an adventure preordained and planned before 9/11 ever took place.” That was good enough for the Nobel Committee in 2007. Assist Bush.

The Nobel Peace Prize Committee is not the only  one to play political games. There is a plausible argument that Dr. Paul Krugman of Princeton University should win the Nobel Prize in economics based on his trade studies early his career. However, Krugman had spent most the Bush term as a  regular, relentless, and often rabid critic of the Bush Administration. Awarding Krugman the prize was just too tempting in this context. Assist Bush

It is not as if there are too few potential recipients that the Nobel Peace Prize can be awarded frivolously to score political points. The Weekly Standard cites Sima Samar, an activist who has pursued women’s rights in Afghanistan at personal risk; or Hu Jia, a human rights activist jailed by the Chinese; or Dr. Denis Mukwege, who has “dedicated his life to helping Congolese women and girls who are victims of gang rape and brutal sexual violence” as those who could have be recognized. The award could have gone to the dissidents in the streets of Iran for protesting a stolen election.

It appears that Obama has a tin ear, as he doesn’t appear to realize that he will be easy to mock for accepting a prize he doesn’t deserved. He could demonstrate integrity, mute criticism by political opponents, and provide counter evidence to the charge that he is self-aggrandizing by respectfully declining the prize. Better yet, he could accept the prize as Commander and Chief on behalf of the US military, particularly General David Petraeus, for their heroic  efforts to bring freedom and security to the people of Iraq and Afghanistan. Consider that advice that will not likely be followed.

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