By Marc Seltzer; originally published on October 9, 2009, at care2.com
President Obama’s winning of the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize recognizes his multilateral emphasis in resolving international conflicts. Critics, who wonder what he has done, are overlooking the importance of this cooperative approach to the rest of the world.
During the first decade of the 21st Century, President Bush rattled Europe with his willingness to take unilateral action and use force to achieve America’s international goals. The U.S. is more willing to go this route in part becauses it has not been scarred by international wars on its home soil. The attacks on Pearl Harbor, New York and Washington D.C. were painful, but Europe lost far more than fifty million lives, many of them civilians, during World War II.
President Obama struck a chord with the Nobel committee and people of all nations when he spoke of working in cooperation with the international community. With the benefit of hindsight, President Obama recognizes that problems such as Middle-East conflicts and totalitarian regimes are not so easily fixable by the United States, despite great diplomatic and military power.
It is worth noting that many European nations were still monarchies in the 20th century. Even as those monarchies were replaced by democracies, Europe plunged into two destructive wars and needed help from the United States to free itself, first of Nazi aggression, and then of Soviet oppression.
In many ways immitating the U.S. and Canadian models, European nations have now solidly pursued a democratic vision and free markets, trade and immigration among member states. These policies have led to prosperity, stability and increased international leadership.
Since the Second World War, Europe gradually built a stable community of nations using organizations such as European Union and NATO and determined, constructive, diplomatic efforts. European nations have used negotiation to form a union.
The current U.S. concerns over nuclear proliferation, totalitarian regimes, and violent extreamists may or may not resolve through diplomatic efforts. But President Obama’s multilateral approach is the best option for peaceful resolution of conflicts. Finding common ground with China, Russia and the European Community can bring tremendous power to our efforts to diffuse dangers abroad. There is no magic wand that guarantees peaceful solutions, but the President is both realistic and savvy about how to ally the greatest force against enemies of democracy and peace.
In this light, the Nobel prize is a high honor for Barack Obama, a recogotion of a new attitude in U.S. foreign policy, and a confirmation that there is great desire in the world for 21st century international cooperation.
Follow my writing on Twitter.