This week marks the seventh anniversary of Barack Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize. Most sentient souls laughed at the time. It seemed fitting that Obama receive an award for doing nothing of any consequence beyond winning an election. And holding an office for which he was abysmally unqualified.
As you know, the Nobel Committee was merely advancing its own agenda. It was promoting transnationalism and was cheering Obama’s willingness to apologize for the United States and to retreat from world leadership. They understood as many Americans did not that Obama would remove America from the world stage… leaving it to European bureaucrats, United Nations functionaries and other citizens of the world.
Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Sohrab Ahmari asks how that worked out. Did it bring peace in our time? Or not?
The committee that awarded the prize hoped for an America that would no longer play the hegemon. The Norwegians wanted a U.S. president who would “strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples,” as the Nobel citation put it. A leader who would emphasize “the role that the United Nations and other international institutions can play,” whose decisions would track the “attitudes that are shared by the majority of the world’s population.”
This was the heyday of transnationalism, the philosophy that says all states—strong or weak, free or unfree—must submit to “norms” drawn up by law professors and global organizations such as the U.N. and European Union. The transnationalist view can’t tolerate an exceptional nation that imposes its will on others, even with the best intentions.
Obama surrounded himself with other transnationalists:
Mr. Obama was (and remains) a committed transnationalist, and he staffed his foreign-policy team with like-minded thinkers such as the journalist Samantha Power, the Yale Law School dean Harold Koh and the Princeton scholar Anne-Marie Slaughter. At his Nobel lecture in Oslo, Mr. Obama declared: “I am convinced that adhering to standards, international standards, strengthens those who do, and isolates and weakens those who don’t.”
Obviously, Obama does not understand the difference between strength and weakness. He believes that those who occupy the moral high ground are strong. In truth, they are targets. And he believes that in order to be strong you need but say that you are strong. And to say it over and over again. He does not believe that reality ever enters the picture.
Ahmari explains the consequences
The real-world results are a different matter. They are on display in Aleppo, where the Bashar Assad regime and its Russian and Iranian patrons are close to bringing to heel Syria’s last non-Islamic State opposition stronghold. Syrian forces shell houses and drop shrapnel-packed barrels on what remains of the city’s civilian buildings.Vladimir Putin’s pilots stalk the skies, setting women and children alight with incendiary ordnance.
During Tuesday’s vice-presidential debate, Republican Gov. Mike Pence spoke of creating no-fly zones to protect civilians while Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine floated a “humanitarian zone” in Aleppo. The trouble is that the Kremlin this week deployed the SA-23 Gladiator anti-air system to Syria for the first time. The SA-23 can take down aircraft as well as missiles. It is an insurance policy for the Assad regime that will raise the stakes in any future U.S. military action.
With his endless patience for rogues, in other words, Mr. Obama has tied the hands of his successor. Set aside the human misery in Syria. Set aside, too, the destabilizing effects of millions of refugees on Syria’s neighboring states and Europe. The expansion of Russian and Iranian influence in the Middle East represents a long-term strategic setback for the West.
Mr. Putin’s pilots are also increasingly menacing European homelands, with the French Defense Ministry revealing Wednesday that Russian military aircraft last month skirted the airspaces of France, Norway, Spain and the U.K., forcing all four countries to scramble jets. This, too, is the fruit of the humbler Washington the Europeans wished for in 2009.
Just think, it could have been worse. Then again, it could always have been worse.
The worst part is: Obama’s poll numbers continue to rise. So, we must conclude that the American public knows nothing or does not care. Or else that it has learned that it is not allowed to think ill of Obama, lest it be accused of racism.
Some people are not going to like this, but the two leading presidential candidates seem to have accomplished one thing: they have made Barack Obama look presidential.
For that they will both win dubious achievement awards.
In the meantime, the Nobel Committee believed that with the great hegemon humbled, Europeans could take over and usher in a new era of peace:
What did the Nobel Committee imagine would follow when America assumed an unexceptional role on the world stage? In the U.S., some thought American retrenchment might spur Europeans to finally take responsibility for securing the Continent’s peripheries. This wasn’t an unreasonable assumption, but it proved wrong. Europeans remain as parochial as ever.
The Nobel Committee, and the intellectual class whose preferences it reflected, had loftier ideas. In 2009 they thought that, without U.S. “unilateralism,” the world could settle enmity and evil the same way the EU resolves disputes over agricultural subsidies. This was when EU boosters like the historian Tony Judt still wrote of the 21st century as a European century—when the rest of the world would embrace the European way of dialogue.
Now that Europe is overrun with unassimilable refugees, largely the result of the policies of that great transnationalist, Angela Merkel, the continent, Ahmari says, has had enough of the philosopher president.
Today the European Union is on the verge of collapse. Great Britain is exiting. Hungarian voters, in a show of near-unanimity, rejected the admission of more refugees. And the most popular politician in France today is Marine Le Pen.
So much for peace. And for prizes.