Bill Hamilton – From Oslo with love: An Albatross?
October 14, 2009
Whether or not Barack Hussein Obama deserves the Nobel Peace Prize for Wishful Thinking will provide his fans and his detractors something to debate for a long, long time. Within the Clinton camp, one can only surmise that Bill and Hillary are crushed. But, upon reflection, they may take solace in the thought that the prize is no longer particularly meaningful.
Yet, the Nobel Peace Prize debate misses the point that five, pacifist, Norwegian parliamentarians (the Nobel Peace Prize Selection Committee) seized the moment to put Mr. Obama on the international-media spot just as Mr. Obama must decide if he is going to send an additional 40,000 American troops to Afghanistan or not.
While the entertainment value of Mr. Obama as the Prince of Peace cannot be denied, this is not the time to allow five Norwegian pacifists to dynamite the decision-making process that needs to take place with regard to Afghanistan. When General Stanley McChrystal (the U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan) spoke in London to the International Institute of Strategic Studies, he said: “We need to reverse the current trends, and time does matter.”
That assertion, coupled with the request by General McChrystal for 40,000 additional troops, puts the ball into the court of the Prince of Peace who has only four options: Do nothing, despite the current unfavorable trends; provide the requested 40,000 additional troops; try to control the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan with missiles launched from unmanned aerial vehicles; or, withdraw our troops and give Afghanistan back to the Taliban and al-Qaeda.
A reasonable bet would be that Mr. Obama will try to find some middle ground between providing 40,000 additional and giving up. Vice President Joe Biden is the proponent of a counter-terror strategy whereby the focus is on finding and killing members of the Taliban and al-Qaeda, using stand-off weapons carried by unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).
While the UAVs would reduce the danger to our troops, the collateral damage to innocent Afghans and Pakistanis would increase. But would a Nobel Peace Prize winner endorse a strategy that is sure to increase collateral damage? (By the way, six awardees have declined the Nobel Peace Prize; however, is not possible for the Nobel Peace Prize to be revoked.)
Former Secretary of State and Nobel laureate, Dr. Henry Kissinger, says the cooperation of Afghanistan’s regional neighbors is essential. But is it in the interest of either China or Russia to be helpful or does chaos in Afghanistan suit them better? Seeing the U.S. tied down in Afghanistan like a modern-day Gulliver has enormous appeal to both Russia and China. But a pacified Afghanistan is in the best interest of both India and Pakistan.
In fact, Pakistan might provide Mr. Obama with the middle ground a Prince of Peace would like to occupy. Mr. Obama could make the case that a stable Pakistan (a maritime Muslim nation with nuclear weapons) is a much better prize than land-locked, opium-ridden, non-nuclear Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, those on the Left want America to withdraw its troops worldwide and rank alongside or even behind France, Germany, Great Britain and Russia. Those on the Right want America to continue as the world’s only superpower. Whatever Mr. Obama decides, his decisions will, inevitably, be tainted by the quite reasonable assumption that he did so in order to earn that which, as yet, is unearned.
The Norwegian Five have done Mr. Obama no favor. While he can slip the Nobel Peace Prize into his postage-stamp resume, he may find that the Nobel Peace Prize is an albatross sitting on the poop deck of his ship-of-state. Now, his every action with regard to foreign and military affairs will be judged in the light of what those five Norwegians have, in essence, asked him to do.
Nationally syndicated columnist, William Hamilton is a Distinguished Graduate of the U.S. Naval War College and Harvard’s JFK School of Government. (NB: Poop is derived from the Latin word: Puppis, i.e., stern.)