Prize for down­grad­ing U.S.

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary -

The most pop­u­lar head­line at the Real Clear Pol­i­tics Web site the other day was: “Is Obama Be­com­ing A Joke?” With bril­liant comedic tim­ing, the very next morn­ing, the Nor­we­gians gave him the No­bel Peace Prize. Up next: his stun­ning victory in this year’s Miss World con­test. Dec. 12, Jo­han­nes­burg. You read it here first.

For what, ex­actly, did he win the No­bel? As the pres­i­dent him­self put it:

“When you look at my record, it’s very clear what I have done so far. And that is noth­ing. Al­most one year and noth­ing to show for it. You don’t be­lieve me? You think I’m mak­ing it up? Take a look at this check­list.”

And up popped his record of ac­com­plish­ment, re­as­sur­ingly blank.

Oh, no, wait. That wasn’t the real Pres­i­dent Obama. That was a co­me­dian play­ing Mr. Obama on “Satur­day Night Live.” And, for im­pres­sion­able types who find it hard to tell the dif­fer­ence, CNN — in a broad­cast first that surely should have its own cat­e­gory at the Em­mys — per­formed an in-depth “re­al­ity check” of the SNL sketch. That’s right: CNN fact-checked the jokes. Se­ri­ously.

For­tu­nately, the No­bel Com­mit­tee un­der­stands that Mr. Obama’s ac­com­plish­ments are no laugh­ing mat­ter. So it gave him the Peace Prize for “his ex­traor­di­nary ef­forts to strengthen in­ter­na­tional diplo­macy and co­op­er­a­tion be­tween peo­ples.” I as­sumed this was a ref­er­ence to his riproar­ing suc­cess in winning the Olympic Games for Rio, but as it turns out, the dead­line for No­bel nom­i­na­tions was way back on Feb. 1.

Mr. Obama took of­fice on Jan. 20. Gosh, it’s so long ago now. What “ex­traor­di­nary ef­forts to strengthen in­ter­na­tional diplo­macy” did he make in those first 12 days? Bow­ing to the Saudi king? Giv­ing the Bri­tish prime min­is­ter the Wal-Mart dis­count box of “Twenty Clas­sic Movies You’ve Seen a Thou­sand Times”?

For th­ese and other “ex­traor­di­nary ef­forts” in “co­op­er­a­tion be­tween peo­ples,” Mr. Obama is the fastest win­ner of the No­bel Peace Prize in his­tory. Alas, the ex­traor­di­nary ef­forts of those first 12 days are al­ready an­cient his­tory. Re­flect­ing the new har­mony of U.S.-world re­la­tions since the ad­min­is­tra­tion hit the “re­set” but­ton, the Times of Lon­don de­clared the award “pre­pos­ter­ous” and Sven­ska Freds (the Swedish Peace and Ar­bi­tra­tion So­ci­ety) called it “shame­ful.” There’s some­thing al­most quaintly vieux cha­peau about the No­bel de­ci­sion, as if the hop­ey­changey bumper stick­ers were shipped sur­face mail to Oslo and only ar­rived two weeks ago. Ev­ery­where else, they’re peel­ing off: The ven­er­a­ble left­ies at Bri­tain’s New States­man have a cover story on “Barack W Bush.”

Hap­pily, a few Amer­i­cans still are will­ing to stand by Mis­ter Satur­day Night. “I am shocked at the mean-spir­ited com­ments,” wrote Judi Ro­maine to the Times in protest over all the naysay­ing. “I’m afraid I’ve reg­is­tered into a very con­ver­sa­tive [sic], fear­based world here but I’d like to sug­gest the in­cred­i­ble no­tion we all cre­ate our worlds in our con­ver­sa­tions. What are you build­ing by ma­lign­ing rather than cre­at­ing dis­courses for work­a­bil­ity? Bravo to Obama and oth­ers work­ing for peo­ple, how­ever it ap­pears to cyn­ics.”

If that’s the lan­guage you have to speak when you’re “work­ing for peo­ple,” I’d rather work for a cranky mon­goose. Yet to peo­ple who can use phrases like “cre­at­ing dis­courses for work­a­bil­ity” with a straight face, Mr. Obama re­mains a heroic fig­ure. Like Ms. Ro­maine, he works hard to “cre­ate our worlds in our con­ver­sa­tions.” Why, only the other day, very con­ver­sa­tion­ally, the ad­min­is­tra­tion floated the trial bal­loon that it could live with the Tal­iban re­turn­ing to gov­ern­ment in Afghanistan. A lot of Afghans won’t be liv­ing with it, but that’s their look­out.

This is — how to put this del­i­cately? — some­thing of a re­cal­i­bra­tion of Mr. Obama’s pre­vi­ous po­si­tion. From about a year af­ter the fall of Bagh­dad, Democrats adopted the line that Ge­orge W. Bush’s war in Iraq was an un­nec­es­sary dis­trac­tion from the real war, the good war, the one in Afghanistan that every­one — Democrats, Euro­peans, all the nice peo­ple — were right be­hind, 100 per­cent. No one butched up for the Khy­ber Pass more en­thu­si­as­ti­cally than Mr. Obama: “As pres­i­dent, I will make the fight against al Qaeda and the Tal­iban the top pri­or­ity.” (July 15, 2008).

But that was then, and this is now. As his­to­rian Robert Dallek told Mr. Obama re­cently, “War kills off great re­form move­ments.” As The Wash­ing­ton Post’s E.J. Dionne re­minded the pres­i­dent, his sup­port­ers voted for him not to win a war but to win a victory on health care and other do­mes­tic is­sues. Mr. Obama’s pri­or­i­ties lie not in the Hindu Kush but in Amer­ica: Why squan­der your pres­i­dency on try­ing to turn an eco­nom­i­cally mori­bund feu­dal back­wa­ter into a func­tion­ing na­tion-state when you can turn a func­tion­ing na­tion-state into an eco­nom­i­cally mori­bund feu­dal back­wa­ter?

Gosh, given their many as­ser­tions that Afghanistan is “a war we have to win” (Mr. Obama to the Vet­er­ans of For­eign Wars, Au­gust 2008), you might al­most think, pace Ms. Ro­maine, that it’s the pres­i­dent and wa­ter-bear­ers such as Gunga Dionne who are the cyn­ics. In a re­cent speech to the Man­hat­tan In­sti­tute, Charles Krauthammer pointed out that in di­min­ish­ing Amer­i­can power abroad to ad­vance statism at home, Mr. Obama and the Amer­i­can peo­ple will be choos­ing de­cline. There are le­git­i­mate ques­tions about our war aims in Afghanistan and about the strat­egy nec­es­sary to achieve them. But eight years af­ter be­ing top­pled, the Tal­iban will see their re­turn to power as a great victory over the Great Satan, and so will the an­gry young men from Toronto to York­shire to Chech­nya to In­done­sia who grad­u­ated from Afghanistan’s Camp Ji­had dur­ing the 1990s. So will the rest of the world: Every­one will un­der­stand that the mod­ern era’s ord­nungs­macht (the “or­der maker”) has cho­sen de­cline.

Mr. Obama will have his­tory’s most crowded tro­phy room, but his pres­i­dency is shap­ing up as a tragedy — for Amer­ica and the world.

Mark Steyn is the au­thor of the New York Times best-seller “Amer­ica Alone.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.