Year After Obama Won Nobel, World Looks for Signs of Peace

Increased fighting in Afghanistan, stalled negotiations in the Middle East.

October 7, 2010, 2:52 PM

Oct. 8, 2010— -- One year after the Nobel prize jury made its controversial decision to award President Obama the prize for world peace, a larger jury is still waiting for the president to live up to those lofty expectations.

Even some of Obama's allies -- like former Nobel laureates Al Gore and Jimmy Carter -- declined to assess his performance in fulfilling what the peace prize citation said was his "vision" of world harmony.

The one year anniversary of Obama's prize comes as fighting is escalating in Afghanistan, the war in Iraq continues to smolder and Obama struggles to keep fledgling Middle East peace talks from collapsing. Drones are firing missiles in unprecedened numbers and confrontations with Iran and North Korea are hotter than ever.

In addition, wars rage in Somalia, Africa, Asia and South America, fueled by religion, tribal hatreds, poverty and piracy.

The anniversary of Obama's prize also comes as the Nobel committee selected its 2010 winner, imprisoned Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo.

Despite repeated calls by, the White House declined to comment on how it believed the president advanced the cause of peace this year. The president did, however, issue a statement on this year's prize going to Liu.

"I welcome the Nobel Committee's decision to award the Nobel Peace Prize to Mr. Liu Xiaobo. Last year, I noted that so many others who have received the award had sacrificed so much more than I," Obama said.

During his tenure, Obama has withdrawn tens of thousands of troops from Iraq. He rushed to the relief of Haiti after its devastating earthquake and redirected U.S. helicopters and aid to help the millions of Pakistanis whose homes were washed away by catastrophic floods.

But for anti-war activists, the award was premature. Obama's continued war footing is proof enough that he has not sufficiently advanced the cause of peace and has not lived up to the mantle of being a Nobel peace laureate.

"Of course we're disappointed with the president," said Dana Balicki, National Campaign Coordinator of the anti-war group Code Pink. "He simply hasn't live up to it. There was a great deal of skepticism that he deserved the prize in the first place."

An untested and untried Obama accepted the Nobel Prize for Peace last year, just months into his presidency. He was selected, prize committee chairman Thorbjorn Jagland said, not for what he had accomplished but for the promise of what he would accomplish.

President Obama's Peace Record One Year Later

"We've seen an escalation in Afghanistan. We've seen a withdrawal in Iraq, but with the left hand comes a withdrawal and with the right hand an increase in private mercenary army a funded with tax dollars. Thousands of people are dead, because of those policies," Balicki said.

Nearly 500 U.S. troops have been killed in Afghanistan and nearly another 500 troops from other Western allies since October 2009.

The president has his defenders. Mirwais Yasini, Deputy Speaker of the Afghan Parliament gave the president "high marks for his efforts" and said it was naive to believe peace could be achieved overnight.

"President Obama has chosen to diffuse the so-called 'conflict of the civilizations,' the wars by extremists all over the world," Yasini said.

Acknowledging the growing body count of Afghan civilians, Yasini said: "Whether there is peace in Afghanistan is a different subject than whether President Obama is promoting good ideals. We must do many things to make peace -- development, justice, good governance, democracy. He cannot do this alone."

Following the announcement of Obama's nomination last year, America's two most prominent peace laureates, Carter and Gore, hailed Obama's selection. Carter called Obama's nomination a "bold statement of international support for his vision and commitment."

But perhaps as a statement on the difficulty of measuring peace efforts, both Carter and Gore declined to comment on the anniversary of Obama's prize.

The American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker anti-war group that has received a Nobel Peace Prize, also chose not to comment on Obama's record versus expectations.

One of Obama's riskiest efforts has been his attempt to kick start long stalled talks between the Israelis and Palestinians. The president set himself the high bar of achieving a peace deal in one year, on the eve of his next election.

"The president gets some credit for having made this a priority," said Dan levy a Middle East analyst and former Israeli peace negotiator.

Some Praise President Obama's Peace Efforts Amid War

"He deserves credit for putting pressure on himself to deliver. Has he delivered? No. Does it look like he will deliver? No. But would it be unique in presidential history not to achieve peace? No," said Levy.

Levy said Obama made some critical missteps when he first decided to enter the contentious Mideast negotiations.

"He had the opportunity to go about this in a new way. Instead, what we're looking at is not promising or encouraging. Unfortunately, he's still working in the same fashion that has fallen short for the past 20 years. As a practioner, and now analyst, I'm disappointed that he didn't review things and say let's change what we're doing wrong. Are we taking the power of the settlement lobby serious? Are we taking Palestinian divisions serious enough? He dropped the ball," Levy said.

The Palestinians, too, acknowledged the effort Obama has shown in recent weeks, but are not holding their breath for a deal.

"I was hoping he would accomplish peace in three months or six months," said Riyad H. Mansour, permanent observer ambassador from Palestine to the U.N.

"But knowing the complexity of political situation, I know it isn't possible. He has put in a tremendous effort and his heart in the right place. Now we have to wait and see," he said.

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