James Pethokoukis

Politics and policy from inside Washington

How Obama can earn that Nobel Peace Prize

October 9, 2009

The Nobel Committee in Norway says it awarded President Barack Obama the 2009 Peace Prize for “his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.” (Congratulations, Mr. President.) In particular, the committee noted Obama’s multilateral approach on the issues of climate chance and nuclear disarmament.

But where has the president been when it comes to using diplomacy and cooperation to promote global trade, which is essential to global peace and prosperity? Given the infamous role of protectionism in the Great Depression, it’s no surprise that open and expanded trade has been at the core of the post-World War Two economic order, particularly during the past two decades.

The Great Recession, though, has shattered that consensus. An analysis by economists Barry Eichengreen and Kevin O’Rourke has calculated that “world trade is falling much faster now than in 1929-30.” Paul Krugman says trade “has fallen through the floor in a way that it literally never has before, including in the Great Depression.” Global Trade Alert, a trade watchdog group with links to the World Bank, found at least 121 protectionist measures had been implemented by G-20 nations during the past year.

Just of late, the EU imposed anti-dumping duties on steel pipe from China, while Australia may impose ownership limits on foreign buyers of big companies. “So far, traditional trade protectionism has been a low-grade fever,” said World Bank President Robert Zoellick said in a recent speech. “But the temperature is rising.”

And actions by the Obama administration and Congress show that America is hardly immune. Indeed, they have been spreading the disease. Among the protectionist outbreaks: The “Buy American” provisions in the $787 billion stimulus package, the blocking of Mexican trucks from U.S highways, the G.M. and Ford bailouts, inaction on pending free-trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea, tariffs on Chinese tires.

An American administration that seems disinterested in free trade? “You can drop the word ‘seems,’” says Bruce Josten, head of governmental affairs for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Looking for an explanation? Here’s one: Bad economics makes for convenient politics. Since the Obamacrats might not be able to deliver the top two items on Big Labor’s wish list — reopening the North American Free Trade Agreement and passing rules making it easier to organize workplaces — they’re giving union supporters just about everything else.

Obama’s political advisers may not understand the importance of free trade, but his economic ones do. Obama should listen to them and begin to lead. Give Congress the greenlight to pass the free-trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea. Commit to getting the Doha trade round concluded within a year. The centrist Democratic Leadership Council also suggests that Obama reconnect trade to national security by asking Congress for a broad long-term waiver of tariffs for low-income countries and large majority-Muslim-majority states. Instead of increasing boosting aid to Pakistan, for instance, why not eliminate $360 million a year in tariffs on its exports?.

If Obama did all that, not only would he actually be worthy of the Peace Prize, but probably the Nobel Prize for Economics as well.

Comments

Hello, James: Obama may be able to earn a Nobel Prize during his tenure. However, Nobel Peace Prize at this juncture of his green career is a fluke, and definitely unexplainable. Nobel Peace Prizes are supposed to be awarded for “ACHIEVEMENTS IN PEACE” that nobody can dispute. You mention his “approach,” as the Committee noted, but “an approach” is just a thinking stage to formulate some plan or direction about something ahead.
Any prize, any degree, any medal, or even any compliment, is deserved after someone has achieved [note: Past Tense] something already. Nobody gets a college degree until graduation, and nobody gets a war medal by just thinking to enlist in the army. They have to earn, either the degree or the medal first. And Obama has not earned anything regarding Peace in the world. If anything, thousands of deaths were recorded in Afghanistan since Obama was sworn in, and he has done nothing to either stop it, or alleviate the situation.

How could Obama have earned a Nobel Peace Prize? a) By apologizing to the people of Iraq for the calamity
of war the U.S. has brought upon then under his predecessor. b) By declaring the war in Afghanistan an unnecessary Bush war, and had started to disengage as soon as he was sworn in. c) Had asked Congress to approve humanitarian aid for Afghanistan to be funneled in though the United Nations, and reconstruction
funds for Afghanistan when a government that prevailed has settled down, and pledged no hostile intent against the U.S. d) Has pushed Israel harder for Middle East peace. e) Offer unconditional reconciliation talks with Iran, and not acted as a speakerphone of Israel’s objectives and diktat.

The Nobel Peace Prize Committee may have thrown the Peace Prize to Obama like a bone to chew on and nourish his ego, or to coax him to become a peacemaker in the future. And Obama may have at first thought that he was worth the prize, and, according to reports woke up his daughters to brag about. But, as the rest of the world sees it, there is only disbelief, anger, and astonishment about his award. There is no doubt that there will be on orgy of ridicule in the comedy shows tonight, and the cartoonists will have a field day for months to come. And this Nobel Prize will not be an asset in the record of Obama, but a joked, maligned, and ridiculed crown that would probably tar his image, and depict his as an egomaniac who try to raise his status by accepting an award by a misguided committee that he doesn’t deserve, and, by doing so, depriving legitimate candidates -like Zimbabwe’s Morgan Tsvangirai- to get the recognition they deserve.

Shame to the Nobel Peace Prize Committee that awarded the prize on Obama’s rhetoric on his future plans, not on any achievement on record, and shame again for awarding the Peace Prize to the only person in the world that carries on a War, and plans to continue it for another 10 years. I suggest that the comedians call the Nobel Peace Prize from now on “The Global War Prize.” Nikos Retsos, retired professor

Posted by Nikos Retsos | Report as abusive
 

How could Obama have earned a Nobel Peace Prize? a) By apologizing to the people of Iraq for the calamity
of war the U.S. has brought upon then under his predecessor. b) By declaring the war in Afghanistan an unnecessary Bush war, and had started to disengage as soon as he was sworn in. c) Had asked Congress to approve humanitarian aid for Afghanistan to be funneled in though the United Nations, and reconstruction
funds for Afghanistan when a government that prevailed has settled down, and pledged no hostile intent against the U.S. d) Has pushed Israel harder for Middle East peace. e) Offer unconditional reconciliation talks with Iran, and not acted as a speakerphone of Israel’s objectives and diktat.

Posted by dvictr | Report as abusive
 

Note to interested parties, as sent to my representative:

I just received from the Va Dept of Taxation a notice that I wanted to bring to your attention, not as much for my particular situation, which I prefer to work through normal channels if at all possible, but for the situation our commonwealth and nation are in.

First of all, a little background, though. My wife and I are both working full time jobs, raising a family of 5 children. We have met our obligations to the best of our ability through the recession, and intend to continue doing just that.

We own a rental property out of state. We had a primary residence out of state as well when we came back home to VA about 2 1/2 years ago. It took us several months to sell the primary residence. The rental property is currently rented, and still for sale. Since we have moved back to VA, we have made as much as 3 mortgage payments out of pocket, on time, many months over these years.

We have had to cash in my 401k to meet our obligations. There was some discussion by our elected officials about reducing or eliminating penalties for early withdrawal from retirement plans. As best we can tell, our representative government does not think we are having enough hardship yet. We have been assessed penalties for the early withdrawal from the 401k, and are working through the process of paying what we ‘owe’ the commonwealth and federal government. By the way, I cannot say that this would encourage me to reestablish any kind of retirement account with any government ‘help’ or strings attached to it. The cake looked and tasted good, but man, did it ever have an afterbite!

I am employed in the engineering and surveying field. Our industry has been hit very hard by the recession, as most of my peers can attest. Many firms are closing their doors and laying off staff. We have had a very limited workload, and could have probably justified closing the doors and filing for unemployment. I do not want to do that. I am able to work, and intend to continue doing just that as long as I am able. We had a nice garden this summer, and are doing all we can to be effective managers of all that we have been entrusted with. We also meet our obligations consistently, as our commonwealths tax records will show, among others.

Back to the notice that I mentioned earlier. This notice to my employer says that all my wages are subject to lien to pay my taxes assessed. I learned a saying when I was fairly young that I think you can apply to this situation. The saying goes ‘you can’t get blood out of a turnip’. You can assess all the taxes you want, but there really is a limited capacity to pay, at least here.

I look forward with great interest to your response, again, not just for my situation, but for the commonwealth and the nation.

Sincerely,

VA Engr

Posted by Va Engr | Report as abusive
 

Hey, dvictr . Go back to Iran dude. You’re a moron. The governments of both Iraq and Afghanistan don’t want the war to end. They can still garner public sympathy and, more importantly, money, money, money. Our money. Why should they work when they have people like me working their butts off to pay ridiculous sums of taxes to support them? The dems want the wars to end, the repubs don’t, and I get to pay either way. Sucks to be an american right now, especially with people like you who call themselves one. Dude.

Posted by Mike | Report as abusive
 

Obama, Obama, Obama – geez!
Deficits, deficits, deficits – where were you four years ago!

Posted by Maria Little | Report as abusive
 

Mike, I’m with you. The Republicans do not want their much beloved Afghanistan “surge” CBO scored. Seriously – what hypocrites.

Bush kept $1 trillion Iraq war debts off the books, passed TARP as he was going out the door, and Obama inherited $1.7 trilion in the deficit before he was even sworn in. Bush punted on the automobile mfgs, so all those people who were laid off then contributed to an even larger deficit.
We need JOBS – not TAX CUTS! geez

Posted by Maria Little | Report as abusive
 

President Obama fully deserves the Nobel Peace Prize for his unswerving commitment to world peace from DAY ONE of his Presidency. In nine months he has made such a huge difference in relations between the United States and the rest of the world. The world is most certainly a safer place with this man at the helm! An astute, pragmatic and humane President who has blazed the Presidential trail from DAY ONE at the White House. He has changed the dynamics of world politics by giving countless opportunities to rogue nations to come clean and turn over a new leaf. Iran is showing positive signs of agreeing to inspection of its nuclear facilities.

 

The entire NOBEL PEACE PRIZE COMMITY should resign in shame they have given it to a tyrant,despot and communists liar OBAMA

Posted by Flu-Bird | Report as abusive
 

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