A series of smear emails and blog posts claim that Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize for a “policy of abject capitulation to our enemies” (Erick Erickson), weakening and neutering the U.S. (Rush Limbaugh), following a Chamberlain-like “pacifist agenda” by engaging in Middle East diplomacy (Dennis Prager and the Republican Jewish Coalition), and “siding with the Palestinians against Israel” (Congressman Gresham Barrett, R-SC, who is running for governor of South Carolina). “Perhaps they should change the award's name to the Neville rather than the Nobel,” critics sneer, implying that all negotiations are like Neville Chamberlain’s appeasement of Hitler, and all countries in conflict with the US or Israel are like Nazi Germany, requiring the same response: preemptive war.
1. In reality, talking with repressive governments has often enhanced U.S. and Israeli national security.
Engagement with “rogue” regimes has been used effectively by American presidents, Republican and Democrat. Nixon and Kissinger opened diplomatic relations with Mao’s China to help counter the Soviet Union. Nixon and Reagan also negotiated strategic nuclear arms limitations treaties with the Soviets. The Clinton administration brokered peace accords in Northern Ireland (where one side, the IRA and Sinn Fein, had supported or engaged in terrorism against Britain) and in Bosnia (where Serbia’s Slobodan Milosevic led a genocidal regime). The Bush administration successfully arranged the elimination of Libya’s weapons of mass destruction.
With President Carter’s help, Israel negotiated a peace treaty with Egypt, the largest Arab country, ending a cycle of multi-front Arab-Israeli wars which had plagued the Jewish state during its first 25 years. The Egyptian-Israeli treaty has saved thousands of Israeli, and Arab, lives, freeing the Israel Defense Forces to focus its resources on defending Israel from other threats. Israel’s peace treaty with Jordan has bolstered its security on its long eastern frontier. Israeli Military Intelligence and the IDF top brass support peace talks with Syria, and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, a Republican originally appointed by Bush, has long favored direct U.S. talks with Iran.
2. Obama’s conservative critics charge that he won the Nobel because he’s “sided with the Palestinians against Israel.” They accuse him of being anti-Israel for “calling on Israel to retreat to the indefensible 1967 borders” in his speech at the opening of the U.N. General Assembly. In fact, Obama did nothing of the kind: he used the same language as President George W. Bush when he promised to work for “two states living side by side in peace and security - a Jewish State of Israel, with true security for all Israelis; and a viable, independent Palestinian state with contiguous territory that ends the occupation that began in 1967…” Even Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has spoken out against these wild and outlandish charges.
3. Who’s naïve about evil? Prager mocks the left and the Europeans as “naïve about evil” because they believe that “dialogue and negotiations are preferred as instruments for resolving even the most difficult international conflicts,” as the Nobel Committee put it in awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to President Obama. Prager calls this a “pacifist agenda,” the dogma that “War is not the answer.”
Time for a reality check. In fact, it’s the neoconservative right that has consistently blundered in responding to the threats facing America and our allies. They subscribe to the reckless notion that once we recognize a regime as tyrannical, we automatically know what our policy must be – sanctions and isolation, then war and regime change, avoiding all diplomatic efforts to modify its behavior. They would embroil the U.S. and Israel in endless war. Americans now widely recognize that the Iraq war was a strategic blunder which strengthened Iran, trading Saddam, Iran’s main adversary, for a pro-Iranian Shiite regime. The American invasion and occupation of Iraq were a gift to Al Qaeda, helping to “spawn a new generation of Islamic radicalism” and worsening the global terrorist threat, according to the U.S. National Intelligence Estimate.
4. Pursuing direct talks with potential adversaries as a first resort isn’t pacifism, as Prager charges. Pacifism is opposition to war under all circumstances. Obama is no pacifist; he recognizes that military force is sometimes necessary and just. “In his 2002 speech opposing an invasion of Iraq he emphasized that he was only against ‘dumb war.’” He has backed Israel’s right to retaliate against rocket and missile attacks from Lebanon and Gaza. But unlike many of his bellicose critics, who fervently believe that the most aggressive military response is always the right answer, Obama holds that military force should be used selectively, smartly and judiciously.
Hitler and Nazi Germany are irrelevant to many of the security challenges Israel and U.S. face today. The world isn’t stuck in 1933, in an endless loop.
President Obama’s commitment to engagement has given Americans and people the world over new hope for a more peaceful and secure world.
Republican Jewish Coalition email, October 15, 2009, Dennis Prager, “Why President Obama Was Awarded the Nobel Prize,” Townhall.com, October 13, 2009
"Statement from Gresham Barrett on the Nobel Prize," GreshamBarrett.com, October 9, 2009
"Head of Israel’s Military Intelligence Research Division supports Obama’s approach to Syria," ObamaSmearBusters
“Obama ‘sold out’ Israel and put it on the ‘chopping block’ at the UN? Ridiculous.”
Mark Mazzetti, “Spy Agencies Say Iraq War Worsens Terrorism Threat,” The New York Times, September 24, 2006
Michael Powell, “Tracing the Disparate Threads In Obama's Political Philosophy,” The New York Times, August 25, 2008
“The Nobel Peace Prize for 2009 Press Release,” October 9, 2009; “Building a World that Gives Life to the Promise of Our Founding Documents,” WhiteHouse.gov, October 9, 2009
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