As I was driving to work this morning, I heard this bit of news and was as shocked as most of you probably were: President Barack Obama has won the Nobel Peace Prize.
“Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world’s attention and given its people hope for a better future,” the Nobel committee said.
President Obama, who said he was “humbled” by the honor, accepted the award this morning as “a call to action.” And, with the exception of gracious congratulations from Senator John McCain (R-AZ) and, surprisingly, Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, the response from conservatives was predictably critical, from liberals predictably laudatory.
My response was probably much like everyone else – shock that a President who has been in power for less than nine months, and who was nominated less than a month after taking office (the nomination deadline is February 1), could win an award that is associated with great accomplishments. Other than possibly the Stimulus (whose merits and successes are very much up for debate), what has he accomplished since becoming President? Certainly nothing on the world stage, which is what the Nobel Peace Prize is for.
I’m convinced that the Committee picked Obama more as a sign of appreciation that American voters last November ended eight years of their government, let’s face it, giving the middle finger to the rest of the world. There are many times that I worry that Obama is going too far in the opposite direction, but the George W. Bush way definitely was not the right way either. Certainly it wasn’t in the minds of much of the rest of the world.
One of the dominant narratives in American politics is that Democrats are wimps, that they’re indecisive, that they don’t stick to their beliefs and that they don’t support national security and defense. This may not really be true, but all to often Democrats do things that give creedence to this notion.
President Obama may be doing so again.
According to the AP:
President Obama is prepared to accept some Taliban involvement in Afghanistan’s political future and appears inclined to send only as many more U.S. troops as needed to keep al-Qaida at bay, a senior administration official said Thursday.
The sharpened focus by Obama’s team on fighting al-Qaida above all other goals, while downgrading the emphasis on the Taliban, comes in the midst of an intensely debated administration review of the increasingly unpopular eight-year-old war.
Though aides stress that the president’s final decision on any changes is still at least two weeks away, the emerging thinking suggests that he would be very unlikely to favor a large military increase of the kind being advocated by the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal.
McChrystal’s troop request is said to include a range of options, from adding as few as 10,000 combat troops to – the general’s strong preference – as many as 40,000.
Obama’s developing strategy on the Taliban will “not tolerate their return to power,” the senior official said in an interview with The Associated Press. But the U.S. would fight only to keep the Taliban from retaking control of Afghanistan’s central government – something it is now far from being capable of – and from giving renewed sanctuary in Afghanistan to al-Qaida, the official said.
One of my biggest criticisms of George W. Bush was that he abandoned the war in Afghanistan, the one that was justified, the one that the rest of the world supported, to launch his quest to settle his Dad’s old score the invasion of Iraq. During his campaign last year, Obama rightly said that Afghanistan was the war we should win. So I find it outrageous that he is now willing to settle for something less than that.
And while I disagree with Senator John McCain (R-AZ) on a lot, he was right when he said this week that we need to go after both the Taliban and Al Qaeda, that if we leave the Taliban with any kind of a chance to take power, terrorists will follow. They may not have the name “Al Qaeda,” but they’ll still have a haven to flourish in.
Should President Obama have had to deal with Afghanistan on top of Iraq and the economy? No. But the bottom line is he does have to deal with them. And he better deal with them a whole lot more forcefully than this.