, seemed to be some kind of conservative. Or maybe she was a moderate liberal.
Which leaves Georgie Anne Geyer—where? People who refer to mainstream conservatives as the Far Right are leftists.
Georgie Anne Geyer
ARE WE WITNESSING THE DEMISE OF ‘AMERICAN EXCEPTIONALISM’?
WASHINGTON—In all the nasty, sarcastic, ridiculing words from the Far Right about President Barack Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize, there has been an important historic undercurrent that has been little noticed.
Perhaps The Wall Street Journal’s first-day editorial on the award expressed this current best, when it editorialized that President Obama sees the U.S. differently from, say, Ronald Reagan and his “city on the Hill” or even Madeleine Albright and her “indispensable nation.” He calls for a “humbler America … working primarily through the U.N.”
The Journal went on, saying that, “What this suggests to us—and to the Norwegians—is the end of what has been called ‘American exceptionalism.’ This is the view that U.S. values have universal application and should be promoted without apology, and defended with military force when necessary.”
Now this could surely be seen as a rather curious interpretation of the prize, since in fact, the prize could be more generally seen as once more applauding America. Moreover, a “humbled” President Obama’s own words linked the prize to the American people and to the specific American journey. He accepted the prize as “an affirmation of American leadership.”
As to the earliness of the prize and its European subjectivity, in fact just about everyone—from the surprised president to the enraged Republicans to the speechless Democrats—wondered whether it was, in fact, truly earned. The president is less than a year into his leadership, with many beginnings but few really specific polished accomplishments. In fact, all nominations had to be submitted by Feb. 1, just 12 days into his presidency, which gives one reason for pause.
This, however, is not surprising with the Nobel Peace Prizes. They have often been given to organizations, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross, which has worked years on end on human rights causes. But it has been almost as often been given to “transformational” or “aspirational” individuals or causes, such as Willy Brandt and his “Ostpolitik” opening to Eastern Communism in 1971, long before the policy ended in the dramatic 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall.
One also has to note that Nobel Committee chairman, Thorbjorn Jagland, has said over and over that “The question we had to ask is who has done the most in the previous year to enhance peace in the world. And who has done more than Barack Obama?”
So if the question really revolves around the “previous year,” then the American president does not seem such a daring choice after all.
But is he being honored, as the Norwegians and perhaps many of their European sympathizers would put it, for his formidable ability to speak eloquently about the need for diplomacy, for understanding, for peace in the world under American leadership—or is he being honored, as some of those leaders of the American Far Right are saying, for speaking out for an America which is actually no longer the leader? For an America that he feels inside himself has lost its historic exceptionalism?
Well, if it is the latter, then the irony of it all lies in the fact that it is exactly those leaders of the Far Right who have carried us to such a point. Who was it, exactly, who led the United States into not one, but two and now probably three (Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan) crazy wars halfway around the world? Who was it who left President Obama with an economy falling down around his pant legs? Who was it whose convulsively uncivil language and behavior left America with a barely civil Republican Party that could not even congratulate an American president on a Nobel Prize?
If America has lost its exceptionalism, that is largely due to the eight years of the last administration, with its pugnacious pretensions to a “New Rome” and to editorials like The Wall Street Journal’s!
Nevertheless, it may be true that America is declining. If you carefully read the reports on the international meetings held over the last year, it is very clear that China, which may well return to its 8 to 9 percent growth rate this year while we flounder about in negative growth, is beginning to be treated like a, if not the, world leader. The fact that it owns America is well-known, especially by the Chinese.
But power is also moving to other areas and groupings. The European Union is coming together, with Poland last week becoming the 26th member of the 27-member organization to sign its final treaty, which will create a viable EU president and a foreign minister for the new “Europe.” In addition, the G-20, the group of 20 industrialized and developing nations, is suddenly becoming “the” predominant voice of those countries, with the International Monetary Fund becoming its highly experienced staff.
In all of this, the U.S. could be said to be a partner, no longer necessarily a leader—but we don’t know yet.
Meanwhile, the U.S. remains locked in combat—and in planning—over its wars in what are essentially economically unimportant countries that should play little role at all in taking the time of the “greatest power on earth.”
If someone says again that Barack Obama didn’t deserve the Nobel Peace Prize because he is destroying American exceptionalism, kindly remember this.