Akrita Reyar An unbelieving hum went around the Oslo press room where the Nobel Committee Chairman dropped the bombshell about awarding the man, who intends to bring peace. Yes, Obama has come as a breath of fresh air. Not because anything he says is new, but because his time of arrival on the international scene has been so opportune. A post ‘Clash of Civilizations’ book and two presidents, who By George! proved Samuel Huntington right, was the ideal setting for an apostle to walk-in on the stage.
Destiny’s child, so he is. Look at how lucky he has been. He was even born with the right skin genes. As a child of a Black father and a White mother chances were mixed about what color he would turn out to be. Being Black, which was a curse in America a century back, actually turned out to be a boon. He has secured a place in history tomes, as the first Black president. And while the Black community may have agreed with the policies he espouses, they actually cast their ballot for redemption. Greatness comes not just because of a personality extraordinaire, but when the circumstances are ripe to acknowledge his merit. There are millions of greats, who come and disappear from this earth unnoticed. Obama is an idea whose time has come. And now this Nobel, just nine months into his presidency. What does his report card look like so far? In his inauguration speech, he called for an equal world where all were partners and where the US would set an example by taking everyone along. Subsequently, he made the visa regime tighter for those seeking employment with Uncle Sam, and heavily taxed BPO businesses. Gitmo was supposed to be shut down by now, no signs of that happening yet, despite an agreement in principle about it. Obama is pressurizing China and India to toe the line on cutting emissions without being honest enough to take more responsibility about being the biggest polluter; and has been haranguing us about NPT when the US itself sits on the biggest nuke stockpile of the world. Incidentally, the Nobel committee particularly mentioned his contribution towards making the world nuclear-free. It is another matter that Obama is yet to make a single announcement about cutting an iota of their own arsenal. He really hasn’t done so much to bring Iran to the negotiating table. In fact during the G- 20 summit, Obama, Brown and Sarko looked like three musketeers out on a mission to teach the bad guy a lesson, when they sent out a warning to Iran. Just this week, he said he doesn’t wants to shrink the Afghanistan war. A fraud-infested election has recently concluded in the war-torn country. The US stooge Hamid Karzai seems set for another 4 years in office. Even a casual news follower knows things in the province are worse than they were a few years ago. Taliban is re-grouping and the UK Commanders are being honest when they say they may face defeat. He has also shown little creativity in dealing with Pakistan, the burrow of terror. Undoubtedly, Obama is intelligent, articulate, well read and has his heart at the right place. One can sing end number of encomiums about his charisma and serene sense of dignity, a certain sang-froid. But believe this, Obama couldn’t speak a line when his teleprompter went off at a press briefing and his speeches are mostly written by someone else. The blitzkrieg of banter he unleashed during his campaign trail, and his swearing-in address, a historic homily at the cusp of history, was penned by a college student of exceptional talent. He hangs Gandhi’s portrait on his office wall, and he’s made an incredible speech in Cairo. But that’s it. He intends to resolve the Palestinian problem. His choice of envoy in George Mitchell proves it, but Mideast remains as unresolved as ever. One is realistic when one believes that a century old problem won’t go away in a jiffy, so the Nobel committee could have waited a few years.
Obama’s taken a few bold steps in pumping up the sagging US economy, but Paul Krugman, who gave the caution call about meltdown, feels it’s just not enough. Getting rewarded for meaning to do good nearly betrays a sigh of relief among the Europeans for having gotten rid of George Bush. When the bemused CNN anchor told his audience to believe what was flashing on the screen about the Nobel Prize going to their President, he, in a sense, gave voice to our incredulity. You have to hand it to the American media which didn’t go over the top ecstatic and instead repeatedly asked whether the prize was a bit “premature”. Or like, “hasn’t he too few a years of doing the real game changing?” One can’t imagine the press in India questioning any of our prime ministers being lauded abroad. One wonders whether Europe was trying to make up for hurting Michelle, who lost the Olympic bid for Chicago. In a poll done in his home turf Chicago, 70% of the respondents felt Obama didn’t deserve the Nobel. The White House admitted being “stunned” at the news. And while Obama said he felt encouraged and humbled, my hunch is that living up to the promise wouldn’t be so easy. If anything, now that the deed has been done, the Nobel could pressurize him to cover the distance between peace speaking and peace making; and there is huge territory that stretches between the two. He better start walking.