Who remembers now that nearly four years ago, US President Barack Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his “extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.”
It was an astonishing award to make less than a year after Obama’s historic win as the first black president of the US. At that time, it wasn’t yet clear how the elements of Obama’s foreign policy would play out. He had not yet hit his stride as President. Which is precisely why he never should have received the award.
It is always dangerous to give a sitting political leader such a signature award. Why? Because it could prove embarrassing when the real thrust of his foreign policy begins to emerge. The Nobel Committee should be feeling that embarrassment now.
Consider, for example, the drone (unmanned aerial vehicles) attacks in Pakistan. The attacks began under the leadership of George Bush and have escalated under President Obama to target Pakistani Al Qaeda and Taliban militants.
“Other commanders in chief have presided over wars with far higher casualty counts. But no president has ever relied so extensively on the secret killing of individuals to advance the nation’s security goals.”
Since then, we have had a statement in March 2013 from the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism as follows:
“As a matter of international law the US drone campaign in Pakistan is therefore being conducted without the consent of the elected representatives of the people, or the legitimate Government of the State. It involves the use of force on the territory of another State without its consent and is therefore a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty.”
The non-profit, non-partisan think tank New America Foundation states that it aims “to provide as much information as possible about the covert US drone program in Pakistan in the absence of any such transparency on the part of the American government.”
2004 – 7
2005 – 15
2006 – 94
2007 – 63
2008 – 298
2009 – 549
2010 – 849
2011 – 517
2012 – 306
2013 – 113 (to date)
So President Obama has been pressing ahead with a campaign resisted by Pakistan, and which has been killing hundreds of its civilians.
Now consider Obama’s current posturing on Syria. He had been pressing strongly for military action before managing to reach any international consensus on the matter, even before the official report of the UN inspectors regarding Syria’s alleged use of chemical weapons had been turned in (albeit on the basis of his own intelligence.) Even as the British Parliament voted against military involvement, even as the issue divided leaders at the G20 Summit concerned about the possible impact, President Obama remained clear that his intention was to proceed with military strikes.
With armed conflict looming, Amnesty International issued a call to protect civilians to the greatest extent possible. This is because, well, civilians tend to get killed in these “strikes.” Refer here to previous accounts of the deaths in Pakistan.
A US-Russia deal may well have averted war, this time. But attempts to broker a deal were initially dismissed by a sceptical President Obama.
“Following the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons to kill more than 1,000 men, women, and
children on August 21, I decided that the United States must take action to deter the Syrian regime from using chemical weapons, degrade their ability to use them, and make clear to the world that we will not tolerate their use. In part because of the credible threat of U.S. military force, we now have the opportunity to achieve our objectives through diplomacy. “
But the threat of force is not off the table, because according to President Obama:
“…if diplomacy fails, the United States remains prepared to act.”
This is what the Nobel Committee said in 2009:
“Obama has as President created a new climate in international politics. Multilateral diplomacy has regained a central position, with emphasis on the role that the United Nations and other international institutions can play. Dialogue and negotiations are preferred as instruments for resolving even the most difficult international conflicts.”
Really? Does that sound like the 2013 President Obama? A strong, decisive US president? Maybe. A Nobel Peace Prize recipient? Not in my book.