Obama’s ‘Nobel’ wars

Published: September 27, 2014
The writer is a former foreign secretary

The writer is a former foreign secretary

TS Eliot was not joking when he said “the Nobel is a ticket to one’s own funeral. No one has ever done anything after he got it.” President Obama got this ticket too soon in his presidency. Within less than a year after his election as the first-ever non-white US president in more than two hundred years of American history, Obama got the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize for doing nothing.

He is indeed a miracle man. Getting elected as America’s first-ever African-American president was itself a miracle, but becoming a Nobel Peace laureate as head of state of a superpower that is tirelessly fighting wars since after the Second World War was even a bigger miracle. His selection as the recipient of the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize was an unexpected honour and a big ‘surprise’ for Obama himself. But he did not hesitate to go to Oslo to collect his prize in December 2009 to become the third serving US president to win the Nobel Peace Prize.

The other two sitting American presidents to receive this honour were Theodore Roosevelt in 1906, for negotiating an end to a war between Russia and Japan, and Woodrow Wilson in 1919, for the Treaty of Versailles that ended the state of war between Germany and the Allied powers after the First World War. In Obama’s case, the Nobel Committee cited him for “his extraordinary efforts in creating a new climate in international politics and strengthening diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.” This must be the biggest joke of this century. The only “extraordinary” efforts he can be credited with are those that have been prolonging the global legacy of war and conflict.

President Obama is good at making eloquent speeches. He made one at the Capitol Hill in January 2009 as his inaugural address after taking oath as America’s first African-American president in its history. Speaking of his “terrible legacy” of multiple challenges including costly wars, global image erosion, and shattered economy, he vowed then that these challenges will be met” and promised a new America to the Americans and to the world, an America which would be at peace with itself and with the rest of the world.

Eleven months later, he had a different script of eloquence altogether for his Nobel Prize acceptance speech in Oslo’s City Hall. He forgot what he had said in his inaugural address while running down his predecessor, George W Bush. As the newly sworn president, Obama had belittled the Bush era as a “bleak chapter” in America’s history, and vowed to restore what he called “our lost sense of common purpose” by acclaiming “America, we are better than these last eight years.”

In Oslo, as a Nobel Laureate, Obama was sounding fury and smelling gunpowder. From being a global peacemaker, he turned his Nobel moment into an “unapologetic defence of war.” He was at his Hegelian best in proclaiming war as an ethical aspect “which ennobles human activity.” He justified wars to make peace. “For make no mistake. Evil does exist in the world and evil must be fought with evil”, he declared. This was a new Obama with a new doctrine sanctifying the medieval concept that noble ends justified ignoble means.

It must have been a jarring moment for his selected audience at the ceremony when Obama spoke rather nonchalantly of his troops in Afghanistan: “Some will kill. Some will be killed.” He also claimed that “force is sometimes necessary” and that “we will not eradicate conflict in our lifetimes.” Obama’s Oslo doctrine smacked of the neocon dogma that must have shamed even Alfred Nobel’s ghost who, in his lifetime, had invented dynamite but in his will he recognised that weapons bring no peace. Obama’s belligerence was certainly at odds with the spirit bequeathed by Alfred Nobel.

Today, even Americans must be filled with self-reproach on their president carrying an honour he never earned. His Nobel ‘citation’ is in tatters. He has been keeping the old conflicts alive while also waging new wars. Soon after entering the White House, Obama escalated CIA-operated drone attacks into Pakistan. Even though they were aimed at suspected al Qaeda or Taliban havens, they constituted blatant violation of the UN Charter and Pakistan’s territorial integrity. Only days before receiving his Nobel, Obama ordered fresh military surge of additional 30,000 troops for Afghanistan.

It then took him four years to withdraw those troops but a significant number of them are still there. The Afghan peace is nowhere in sight. The situation in Iraq is no different. The illegal war is over but anarchy and chaos reign supreme in that hapless country. In this grim scenario, President Obama now wages a new war against the so-called Islamic State which he touts as a threat to “the people of Iraq and Syria and the broader Middle East — including American citizens, personnel and facilities”. In a recent speech, he unveiled his new war strategy that according to him will “degrade and ultimately destroy the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.”

The new war strategy has no time limit and as in the case of Iraq war, it bypasses the UN and will be implemented through a ‘coalition of the willing’ partners ostensibly with limited American involvement in military terms. It involves ‘smart power’ with the US providing ‘training, intelligence and equipment’ to those fighting the IS. Ironically, the ‘fratricidal’ war will be funded by the oil-rich Gulf states, notably the known Trojan Horses, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. No wonder, Obama assured his own people: “No need of anxiety syndrome, get on with your life, let your (Nobel) commander-in-chief handle this.”

It’s a deja vu scenario whereby a monster is created only as an alibi to wage a war in the name of that monster with larger geopolitical objectives. The reality of the Taliban and now the IS seems to have the same script: Muslims fighting proxy wars. The only difference with this war is that it will pit Muslims against Muslims through flared up sectarianism in the region. The US continues to bypass the UN and also undermine its Charter.

Whatever the endgame, the new war strategy will not be without far-reaching implications for peace, regionally as well as globally. It seems that Obama is again on the wrong side of history. Surely, his fellow-democrat Nobel Laureate president Woodrow Wilson’s ghost doesn’t have to come and remind him that to make “the world safe for every peace-loving nation, it must be assured of justice and fair dealing, and that unless justice is done to others it will not be done to us.”

Published in The Express Tribune, September 27th, 2014.

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Reader Comments (28)

  • Sep 27, 2014 - 2:39AM

    As anyone can see,.. very clearly India is at the bottom
    of this whole scenario. Evidently clear, Manmohan, to an
    extent, but Modi to a greater extent are to be held liable


  • raj
    Sep 27, 2014 - 3:51AM

    Exactly what is bugging the author here? The fact that US is making muslim world take notice of its violent ideology and forcing them to make a choice? Either confront it or perish? Why should US run to put out mid east fires? The ISIS is a sunni terrorist organization and will be countered by Iran back Shia regimes if Saudi, UAE and Qatar do not take any action.


  • sabi
    Sep 27, 2014 - 4:00AM

    After reading this piece should I conclude that Obama ,after getting Noble peace prize,should have disarm America for the reasons that arms don’t bring peace and that threats to national security suddenly seized to exist to a country having president wining peace prize.
    Weapons are the only way to bring peace if state is confronted with armed lashkars posing their ideologies with force.
    ISIS is slaughtering innocent citizens in the name of religion do these criminals need any mercy? Should the world surrender to these mercenaries just because some people believe weapon don’t bring peace.


  • Sri
    Sep 27, 2014 - 4:11AM

    Peace does not mean running away from a just war. War is essential to get rid of evil and necessary to maintain peace. Fighting against Hitler Tyranny was not war mongering but absolutely the right and just thing to do. So is the fight against Taliban and the terrorist networks created and supported by the establishment in Pakistan. Instead of blaming Obama for Drone attacks in Pakistan one should see why these attacks are being made and if you think about it, Pakistan is one of the two countries in the world where US is using drones. That should tell you something.
    It is a different issue whether Obama deserves a Nobel Peace Prize or not but it is a widely acknowledged fact that terrorist bases exist in Pakistan and they need to be taken out by what ever means necessary. Obama is a person of unimpeachable intellect and integrity and it is a tribute to American democracy and the mature electorate that their choices are not blinded by color or faith but rather by the ability of the leadership to deliver. This might seem alien to Pakistanis given the state of democracy and electorate here. What baffles me is the nonsense that gets dished out by an ex-foreign secy. This write up would have made sense if it came for one of the Jamaat leaders given their head in the sand mentality.

    God save Pakistan from these elites.


  • thruthseeker
    Sep 27, 2014 - 4:21AM

    I read this article, could not understand what the author was trying to say. Read it again, still made no sense. I was still not sure what the point was after 4 tries. It came to me few hours later, Author wants to say( blame), Its President Obama’s ( Americas) fault there is chaos in Syria, Iraq and other places. I could not help thinking, here we go again, where have I heard this before.( there is trouble in Muslim countries and West and America is the culprit)Recommend

  • Appalled
    Sep 27, 2014 - 5:57AM

    Yeh paagal to nahi hai? Would he rather have us make friends with IS? With ex-diplomats like these no wonder we are screwed


  • unbelievable
    Sep 27, 2014 - 7:36AM

    In Pakistan when you get bored or run out of ideas you can always pull out the bat and bash the USA – go figure.


  • AcmePost
    Sep 27, 2014 - 7:40AM

    I agree with all of the argument presented by the author to make a case for absurdity of noble peace price for Obama. But for the following, obama deserves a peace price.
    …Soon after entering the White House, Obama escalated CIA-operated drone attacks into Pakistan..


  • Ardi
    Sep 27, 2014 - 9:23AM

    Seems likes there are more Indians who read ET than pakistanis!


  • Abhi
    Sep 27, 2014 - 10:58AM

    Nobel peace price is a joke anyway.


  • wonderer
    Sep 27, 2014 - 11:51AM

    I would love to read the learned author’s imaginary article on the same subject if Obama were, by some mysterious chance, a Muslim. Just imagining it, with closed eyes is so thrilling!


  • faraz
    Sep 27, 2014 - 12:27PM

    An excellent article indeed. The root cause all unrest in the world is the US and in background, essentially the Jews. It’s a war of ideologies. Yes, there was a time when communism was number one and Islam was second target. But now, Islam and of course Muslims are number one target. US can’t accept any ideology other than the capitalism. This is favorite ideology of the the greedy Jews as well. The best part is, 70% of the world population has been spared from the wrath of emperor because they are pro-capitalism without real social and religious values.


  • Sanjeev
    Sep 27, 2014 - 12:28PM

    @Ardi: The reason is Indians are more educated and also want 360 degree feed back.


  • Asad Khan
    Sep 27, 2014 - 12:56PM


    Seems likes there are more Indians who read ET than pakistanis!

    Nope, It is just ET comment’s policy that some how revolves around the notion that unless comments section does not have clue less Indian farts, it can not be deemed fair & liberal!

    (Obama’s ‘Nobel’ wars : excellently written Article)



  • Sep 27, 2014 - 1:17PM

    Yes he got Nobel peace prize by killing the people of Afghannistan, Iraq , Libya and other Muslim countries. He fight in the name of humanity but his humanity vanishes when Muslims countries come. Should be given another Noble prize of peace, by spreading peace in Iraq, Afghanistan, Iraq and other countries.


  • adym04
    Sep 27, 2014 - 5:50PM

    Excellent analysis. Honest and hard hitting. The best from some of our best minds in the foreign service


  • mokun
    Sep 27, 2014 - 5:57PM

    The writer may be right about Obama´s wrong status as a nobel peace prize winner.
    But while mentioning the ISIS affair, how could he overlook the degenerate atrocity of the purest of islamists and harp on just the illegitimacy of the fight against them?
    `..it will pit muslims against muslims´ How do you give the ISIS the religious legitimacy?


  • Gul Sher
    Sep 27, 2014 - 8:55PM

    @Sanjeev: Regretfully that is not factual. The ratio of educated Pakistan is higher than India. You may carefully look at the “World Development Reports.” The problem is that the moment you step on an Indian tail, all you hear is shallow howling. Please relax, read the article, and then make comments. Saying things without concrete evidence does not help anyone.


  • Stranger
    Sep 27, 2014 - 8:55PM

    Wow bold and blunt write up devoid of frills and flounces .


  • Parvez
    Sep 28, 2014 - 12:46AM

    In Obama’s case there are many who argue that the job was too big for the man…..the Nobel was just a blip on the screen.


  • Sexton Blake
    Sep 28, 2014 - 1:05AM

    This was a really great article stating things just the way they are. We need more of them to lift the veil from the deluded masses. Mr Abbott, the Prime Minister of Australia, recently stated that Scotland should stay with the United Kingdom, because Britain was a bastion of freedom and justice. All this from a man who supported the UK/US as they bombed Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya into the stone-age during the last few years. Of course we are still waiting for the US to give a legitimate reason for any and all the conflicts and mayhem they have indulged in over the last half century or so. Even Mr Howard, the previous Minister of Australia has stated that he regrets he got it so wrong in regard to WMD in Iraq when he helped President Bush illegally bomb that poor country into the stone-age. If Britain and the US are recognized as prime examples of freedom and justice, as they go around the world being complicit in creating disasters such as Palestine, Iraq, Libya, Syria, to mention a few, is it any wonder that the world is in such turmoil. The Western big guys, who invented ISIL, are currently reopening the Iraq disaster, bombing Syria and they have got a lot of mischief going in Ukraine. Why do I have a feeling that Western leaders, will keep the Palestinian, Iraq, Syrian, Iran and other fires smouldering into the indefinite future as they try to fool us that they are merely trying to maintain freedom and justice for all. Anybody with intelligence know, that it is all about illegal, imperial world hegemony, power and money, but It is obvious from some of the missives coming in that they are fooling people magnificently.


  • Weirdity
    Sep 28, 2014 - 2:30AM

    Beheading americans has consequences whether its done in iraq or pakistan.


  • Sexton Blake
    Sep 28, 2014 - 3:08AM

    Why should Pakistan be different from any other country which has the slightest amount of compassion. Obviously, the Western countries cannot get any lower, and more brutal, than they currently are.


  • Jay
    Sep 28, 2014 - 10:07AM

    @sabi: Obama and his neocon/neoliberal associates helped fund ISIS in order to have a pretext to continue Bush’s agenda in the middle east.

    There should be no doubt that Obama was brought in to continue Bush’s agenda because the elites knew that as soon as the liberal democrats had one of their own in office, they would stop protesting. Liberal opposition to Bush was simply selective outrage created for political reasons. Obama is proof that Nader was right and that the democrats never had any serious philosophical disagreements with Bush’s imperialism.

    The peace prize given to Obama had no rationale except that Europe needed a leader who could continue the war in a covert way. Europeans, like liberal democrats, only pretend to be anti-colonial. Their entire financial system would collapse if the US wasn’t forcibly industrializing the third world. Giving Obama a peace prize had the effect of lulling the public into thinking Obama was different than Bush, and thus allowing him to continue the same agenda, as he pretended to end the war by replacing troops with drones and mercenaries.


  • pakiindi
    Sep 28, 2014 - 12:05PM


    Obama in fact is a Muslim. His father was a Muslim although his mother was Christian. But he is neither a practicing Muslim nor widely known to be one.


  • Malik
    Sep 28, 2014 - 3:39PM

    Well author is missing the death of devil who created this monster in circle of violence – going to hit with control of environment.


  • James
    Sep 28, 2014 - 6:11PM


    Thumbs up dude……:)


  • Sanjeev
    Sep 29, 2014 - 2:41PM

    @Gul Sher: : As expected, you missed the crux of the issue. We are not talking about how many people can write their names. The important point is whether your education makes you open minded. That is why I said Indians want 360 degrees feed back. Your madarsa educated people typically have total disconnect with outside reality and indulge excessively in conspiracy theories. And what is fed to them is only propaganda literature. Many experts in Pakistan itself have lamented about it. Purpose of any education is removing the filters and blinkers, which is conspicuous by absence in Pakistani education. I think surely you have not read about the quality of your education in World Development Report ? Actually that is very important.


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