Sunday, October 11, 2009

Irony or strategy?

3 UPDATES (which tell the story)

Yesterday I blogged:
Perhaps the hope is that awarding Obama the prize now will encourage Obama to take a step back from the precipice; that it might alert this young president not to continue his steady drift toward the Dark Side.

If so, the prize does not come a moment too soon.  The Obama presidency may be only a few weeks away from being inexorably squandered. 
  A decision on General Stanley McChrystal's proposal to escalate the war in Afghanistan looms.  The US seems to be standing in the way of progress at the Bangkok Climate Change Talks
Naomi Klein, interviewed from Bangkok for Democracy Now, also picked up on the irony of Obama winning the prize in view of the American negotiating position at the Bangkok Talks: of the things that the Obama administration is being rewarded for with this prize or what Barack Obama is personally being rewarded for in this prize is his supposed breakthroughs on international relations. What we’re actually seeing, as we speak, in Bangkok—this is the final day of two weeks of climate negotiations—has been extraordinarily destructive behavior on the part of the United States government, on the part of the Obama administration, absolutely derailing the climate negotiations in the lead-up to Copenhagen. Developing countries are absolutely shocked by what US climate negotiators have done. They have gone into these talks saying, you know, “We’re back. We want to reengage with the world.” What they’ve actually done is made a series of demands that would destroy the Kyoto Protocol and the binding emission architecture that was set up under Kyoto. So, to reward the Nobel Prize in the context of destroying the climate, where the US is destroying the climate negotiations, or threatening to, to me, is just shocking.
Have any mainstream media commentators taken any notice of this remarkable coincidence?  Not to my knowledge. For more on the talks, see my post: In Bangkok US talks "green eggs and ham"

Earlier in the week, shortly before five Norwegian parliamentarians would award Obama the Nobel Peace Prize, Norway stepped up the ante at the Bangkok Climate Change Talks.  On Oct. 8, Oxfam reported in a media release from Bangkok:, "“Today, Norway has entered this debate and set a target of 40 per cent below 1990 levels, so we know what leadership looks like.” 

A Huffington Post story explains why the Norwegian initiative at the Bangkok talks matters:
Because Norway is the first developed nation to make any solid commitment on this front and it has the potential to break through a major impasse. Up until this point developed nations - like the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, France and Japan - have been unwilling to bring anything to the table on this point.
This announcement from Norway, a major petroleum producing country, testifies that the Norwegians take climate change question extremely seriously.

On Friday, after the Bangkok Climate Talks had  ended in an atmosphere of recrimination, The Guardian reported:
Global climate change talks came to an end in Bangkok today in an atmosphere of distrust and recrimination, with the rift between rich and poor countries seemingly wider than ever. After two weeks of negotiations there have been no breakthroughs on big issues such as money or emissions cuts.

With just five days of negotiating time now left before the concluding talks in Copenhagen in December, delegates said it appeared a weak deal was the most likely outcome, and no deal at all was a possibility.

However, President Obama's expected visit to Oslo to receive the Nobel peace prize in the middle of the climate talks raised hopes that he would make the short journey to Copenhagen to galvanise governments.

"World leadership is now vital if the talks are not to fail completely. It is inconceivable that Obama could now ignore the climate change talks," said one diplomat.
One striking connection between the Copenhagen Climate Conference and Obama's Nobel Prize Award concerns the calendar:
  • Nobel Peace Prize award ceremonies in Oslo: Dec. 10, 2009
  • Copenhagen Climate Change Conference: Dec. 7-18.
Obama's Nobel Prize would seem to raise the expectations for the United States at Copenhagen. Might the decision to award the Nobel Peace Prize to Obama have been a strategic last-ditch attempt to, in effect, corner the Obama Administration?   Is it conceivable -- as per my suspicion  yesterday -- that the Norwegians on the prize committee were not exhibiting Eurobamania, but had actually thought this one through -- -strategically?  

If you were to get all your news from mainstream US media, it would be hard to comprehend the extent to which Europeans, Scandinavians in particular, consider climate change to be the issue of our times.

I would venture to say that when Americans hear the words "Nobel Peace Prize" they think about their country's wars.  But my hunch is that this year in particular, the Norwegians would have been thinking about their Peace Prize in terms of stopping climate change.  Copenhagen is a big deal. To understand why Obama got the prize, it makes sense to consider Norway's position on the climate change question.


  1. it would seem that Obama winning the Nobel Peace prize represents a vote of confidence from Europe

  2. If I understand it correctly, you are suggesting that the vote for Obama to win the prize might symbolise a hope for a better cooperation in particular fields such as solving the global warming problem? It's very interesting idea and I suppose, there is a possibility that awarding Obama with this prize could be a motivational instrument. Now we can just wait for its effect. Julie


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