Saturday, November 22nd, 2014

Obama's Nobel Prize: More hope than change

The Nobel committee said Obama has "created a new climate in international politics."
The Nobel committee said Obama has "created a new climate in international politics."

Lots of people were surprised to hear that President Barack Obama has been awarded the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize. After all, he was just elected last fall and hasn't yet finished a full year in office.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee said it was recognizing Obama for "his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples," and particularly noted "Obama's vision of and work for a world without nuclear weapons."

"Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world's attention and given its people hope for a better future," the committee said. "His diplomacy is founded in the concept that those who are to lead the world must do so on the basis of values and attitudes that are shared by the majority of the world's population."

There may be lots of hope, as the committee notes. But on our Obameter, which rates the progress of Obama's promises, most of Obama's significant promises on international relations are still rated In the Works.

The most notable Promise Kept was his pledge to Give a speech at a major Islamic forum in the first 100 days of his administration , Promise No. 178. Obama told the Turkish Parliament in April that the United States is not at war with Islam. In June, he gave a notable speech in Cairo where he called for a "new beginning" between the United States and the Islamic world. We also gave him a Promise Kept for promise No. 125, Direct military leaders to end the war in Iraq .

The list of Obama's promises we've rated In the Works, though, is much longer.

A few that we've rated In the Works:

• Promise No. 195, Seek verifiable reductions in nuclear stockpiles. Obama has pursued negotiations with the Russians for reducing nuclear weapons.

• Promise No. 196, Extend monitoring and verification provisions of the START I Treaty. Treaty negotiations are ongoing.

• Promise No. 128, Launch robust diplomatic effort with Iraq and its neighbors. Diplomatic efforts are ongoing; we're waiting to measure their vigor.

• Promise No. 455, Work with the United Nations on climate change. Lots of talk, but we're waiting for concrete action.

• Promise No. 170, Double U.S. spending on foreign aid to $50 Billion a year by 2012. We'll see whether Congress approves the budgets for this.

But not all of Obama's international efforts have met with positive progress. We've rated two promises Stalled that affect how the world sees the United States, both having to do with the treatment of terrorism suspects.

We found that Promise No. 177, Close the Guantanamo Bay Detention Center , is meeting with opposition from Congress. We found that No. 178, Develop an alternative to President Bush's Military Commissions Act , is Stalled because Obama has backtracked from developing an alternative to military tribunals to adjudicate detainees.

The Nobel Prize committee said it awarded its prize to stimulate "international policy and those attitudes for which Obama is now the world's leading spokesman." Obama has just over three years to make good on his campaign promises. We'll be watching to see if his ideas result in measurable results.