After a very short time in office, President Barack Obama was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace. That one who had yet to spend a lot of time on the world stage and acquire the bona fides to deserve a reputation as a builder of peace got this esteemed medal drew derision and mockery from his political opponents.

At the same time, though even many of Obama’s supporters greeted the news with some skepticism, they welcomed this award as affirmation of the wisdom of their recent votes that resulted in a “peaceful” successor to the warmongering George W. Bush.

After all, Bush had initiated two wars, had okayed torture on terrorism suspects, and had swaggered through his two terms with almost universal praise from his conservative constituency due to his tough, militaristic stance.

After almost three years after the award, I now wonder if Obama has surreptitiously removed all traces of the Nobel Prize from his trophy case. He has either rebuked his prior pacifistic nature or treacherously betrayed the millions of war-weary voters who had put their faith in him at the polls.

David Bromich, a Professor of Literature at Yale, heaps scorn upon Obama for the reality of his less than peaceful actions abroad in this piece in the Huffington Post.


Bromich observes that:

It would appear that the case is complicated for Barack Obama by the particular way he looks at the world and himself. He is tempted to suppose that the nature of an action is changed by the fact that he is the one who performs it. He seems to have believed, for example, that he was ministering to human flourishing in some way by allowing the honor of the Nobel Peace Prize to be bestowed on him in 2009. The prize was announced and accepted before Obama had done anything to advance the cause of peace. (In 1973, as Tom Engelhardt has recalled in this connection, the North Vietnamese diplomat Le Duc Tho was awarded — jointly with Henry Kissinger — the Nobel Peace Prize for the Paris negotiations, and Le Duc Tho refused it on the ground that he had not yet been able to deserve the honor.) When Obama addressed the international gathering at Oslo, however, he spoke not with humility but with magnificent condescension. The new American president rode a high horse into that ceremony, as presider over an American beneficence that had blessed the world by military protection ever since the Second World War. He alluded to the great exemplars of non-violence, Gandhi and King, not with deference but with a quiet superiority. Unlike those theoretical idealists, said Obama, “I face the world as it is.”

Of course, that is the usual profession of realists. But coming from the most powerful man in the world as it is, it was a deeply puzzling declaration. Does Obama merely face the world, and reflect its contents as they are, or does he play a distinct role in determining the shape of the world? His anti-Romney ad on the killing of bin Laden wonders if Mitt Romney would have had the self-command to order the killing at all. Is this a demonstration of Obama’s capacity for facing the world? His apologists deny that there is anything extraordinary in it: he talks like this, or his campaign does, in order to prove that he is the conventional politician whom the average American wants and the politician whom the mainstream media expect in foreign policy. The usual expectations require the ad to say what it says: that Barack Obama is a gunslinger with excellent luck and dead aim.

After reviewing Obama’s actions vis a vis the killing of Bin Laden, the expansion of the war in Afghanistan, and the use of drones to slay suspected terrorists and any unfortunate innocents too close to the target, Bromich draws a comparison with Bush.

The best and worst that one could say about George W. Bush was that he was all of a piece. Obama, on the other hand, impels us continually to ask who or what he imagines that he is. In his campaign to win the election as a war president, he flatters the worst vices of chauvinism and panders to the most vulgar and brutal idea of the qualities that define a leader. No alchemy of eloquence can atone for the confession of moral surrender involved in such a boast.

Bromich states that Obama’s position could be described as pragmatic but dismisses that conclusion.

It is a case of a political act that is purely wrong.

I find no fault with Bromich’s main premise that Obama is of a mind to stray from the image of peace he promulgated in favor of “Obama being Obama” when making decisions on matters military.

I doubt, though, that we can expect much of a deviance from that behavior regardless of who occupies the Oval Office in the future.

I believe that any President, upon ascending to the postion of Commander in Chief (CINC), is disinclined to retreat from the militant positions of his predecessor, at least while the public can be persuaded that mortal danger is afoot.

In fact I explored that phenomenon in a prior post not long after the demise of OBL.


At one time we had a President, Woodrow Wilson, who enhanced his bona fides as CIC by “keeping us out of war” and won re-election in 1916. Post WW II, however, especially post Vietnam War, the image of the President suffers unless and until he has some meaure of success militarily, i.e. kills some bad guys.

That factor is even more evident as we elect Presidents with no combat military experience themselves. Ronald Reagan served in WW II but he made propoganda films and never came face to face with either German or Japanese combatants. He loved rattling sabers against the Soviet Union but had to invade tiny Granada lest his desire and capability to go to war be questioned.

George H.W. Bush served more than honorably in that war, but when he declined to drive all the way to Baghdad to oust Saddam Hussein in the Gulf War he was derided as a wimp.

Republicans have continually attacked Democrats as weak on defense and national security. Whether it’s solely on the basis of political electoral expediency or for other reasons, Obama, as the incumbent, can now turn this argument against Mitt Romney in 2012.

So we arrive back at our current CIC who has shown little hesitation employing our forces, from maintaining a presence in Iraq to expanding one in Afghanistan, to firing assorted missles and dropping bombs in Libya Obama already dispelled any notions he was shy about using army, navy and air force to further his policies.

But, like many of his predecessors, Obama has found that his popularity, legacy and foreign policy support gain more traction from killing than from legitimate efforts to maintain peace or from the success of any domestic policy whatsoever.

Many of our Presidents have preached the language of peace, only to abandon those ideals at least at some point in their tenure.

The President of the United States is Commander in Chief of our armed forces and militias every day of his term(s) in office. But it seems that this power is underappreciated and even criticized and thought unworthy of him until he puts those forces in harms way to kill the bad guys of the moment.

Thus, while I think it perfectly justifiable to criticize Obama for not living up to the creation of him as a Nobel Laureate, I hold little hope that he or any successor will be a candidate for another such award any time soon, especially not when he—or she—has the convenience of a ready-made bogeyman in a Muslim terrorist  as an excuse to exercise the ultimate power of a Commander in Chief.

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