Thursday, October 15, 2009

Nobel Deeds

When the Nobel committee awarded President Barack Obama its Peace Prize a gaggle of right wing conservative critics screamed bloody murder. They sounded like a bunch of eighth graders, "Oh how come he won, he's an idiot."

One thing for sure, none of Obama's critics could, even in their wildest dreams, ever be recognized for such an award. Rather, they could best qualify for a Nobel Prize for "Snarkiness," or "Divisiveness," or "Destructiveness," or even the "Just Say No" prize.

Obama is ushering in a new era for America, one of global partnership and diplomacy. His foreign policy is about collaborating not being a cowboy. He has set the right tone and the foreign policy wheels are slowly turning in our favor. American exceptionalism is being replaced by US leadership through well thought out actions. This leadership is especially important in the areas of nuclear nonproliferation, the global economy, the environment and human rights.

Just look what the contrary tactics hath wrought. An invasion of Iraq by President George Bush, and his trusty side kick Dick Cheney, based on faulty and overblown assumptions. One blowhard dictator down, making it all better, priceless (literally). Add to that a failed Afghanistan policy and the failure to stem Al Qaeda and capture Osama bin Laden, all while compromising basic constitutional rights for American citizens. And then there is the collapse of the US economy which had world-wide repercussions and led to enormous American deficits.

I will never forget a pre-Iraq War session my Telemundo news team had with President Bush. The public was being told that no decision had been made to go to war. Many Europeans, especially the French, had been outspoken in their concerns about US threats to invade Iraq.

Upon completing our interview we all stood around and chatted with President Bush. Iraq and possible military action again came up. I asked President Bush, "What about Jacques Chirac?" I was referring to the French President and his vocal opposition to war.

President Bush slapped me on the shoulder with the back of his right hand and said, "Don't worry, he'll come around." My jaw dropped. Immediately I thought to myself, "We are going to war." No wonder many world leaders thought our president was a cowboy. No wonder the global perception of America was seriously damaged during his presidency. He had made a gut decision and there was no one was going to talk him out of it.

In a short period of time President Obama has changed the tone of international diplomacy. Arms control, human rights, immigration, the environment, the global economy, trade and terrorism are complicated issues. For sure, progress will be slow as each country has its own interests. And there will be fits and starts. But progress and solutions will best come through meaningful dialog and understanding.

The Nobel committee clearly believes President Obama's change of approach is critically important and is more likely to pay great dividends in the long run for the well-being of our children and the people of the world.

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