Today a grotesque ceremony will be held in Oslo. An American president who has not yet managed to make peace anywhere in the world will be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. He will be awarded the prize even though he is personally responsible for scores of targeted killings and much slaughter of civilians in aerial bombardments. He will be awarded the prize even though he has just decided to escalate one of the two ineffectual wars he is conducting. He will be awarded the prize only because he is a Democrat, a liberal and a black man who defeated the Republicans and cast George W. Bush out of the White House.
Oslo has provided us with many amusing jokes in recent decades. However, the joke of Obama as peace prize laureate is the funniest of all. It proves the absurdity of the lengths to which the self-righteous European culture of political correctness can go. Obama is not to blame for the Norwegians having decided to act foolishly. However, if he had any courage he would have refused to accept a Nobel prematurely. He would have asked the prize committee to judge him at the end of his term in office and not at its start.
Obama hasn't done so, and this isn't surprising. Thus far the glamorous president has not shown courage on any issue or in any area. True, Obama is intelligent, articulate and charismatic. However, he hasn't really done anything yet in the international arena. He has orchestrated neither confrontations nor reconciliations. He has neither won a victory nor made peace. He has not evinced willingness to pay any sort of price for any sort of achievement. In his first year as president of the world, Obama has not proved he has a backbone. He has not yet manifested himself as a leader.
In 2010 the world will need a leader. From day to day, Iran is increasingly becoming a nuclear nightmare; Pakistan is a barrel of nuclear explosives and North Korea is a nuclear rogue. The Iranian-Pakistani-North Korean triangle makes clear what the challenge of the 21st century is: how to prevent turning the world into a nuclear jungle. How to maintain nuclear order and prevent nuclear chaos. How to get through the next half-century without a Hiroshima or Nagasaki.
Obama's Washington understands the challenge very well. So do Nicolas Sarkozy's Paris, Angela Merkel's Berlin and Gordon Brown's London. Even Dmitry Medvedev's Moscow is beginning to understand. But the general public in North America and Europe has not yet internalized what its leaders know. The media are indeed reporting on centrifuges, enrichment programs and warheads. Politicians and pundits are indeed paying lip service to the Iranian-Pakistani-North Korean nuclear triangle. But there is no fervor in the talk. There is no real sense of urgency. There is no committed discourse. International public opinion is still focused on global warming, not global nuclearization, as the most urgent issue on the agenda. The political libido of the West has homed in on Copenhagen, not Natanz.
This is Obama's mission. There is no other president who is capable of leading the international community in the face of this new threat. There is no other statesman who can form a broad diplomatic coalition against the nuclearization of fundamentalist regimes. There is no other rhetorician capable of demanding that the citizens of the free world wake up, unite, enlist and sacrifice. All that's needed is courage, backbone and Obama's maturation as a leader.
In April, Obama delivered a speech in Prague describing his vision that our children will live in a world without nuclear weapons. However, everything that has happened since the Prague speech indicates that Obama is liable to leave our children a world in a state of nuclear vertigo. If the Nobel laureate does not want to be remembered as the leader in whose term of office the nuclear genie escaped from the bottle, he must gain his composure immediately. He must use the little time remaining to lead a resolute campaign against the extremist forces acquiring nuclear capability.
It is possible that such a campaign will fail. It is possible that it will cause serious complications. However, what lies in the balance now is no less than the world order. If Obama does not rise above himself and fulfill his mission, the event at which he will star this evening won't be remembered only as a grotesque occasion. It will be remembered as a tragic one, too.
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