Obama Wins Nobel Prize for Nuclear Disarmament, Multilateralism
Washington - Why did President Obama win the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize after only nine months in office? The Norwegian Nobel Committee cited Obama's "extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples," particularly his work to rid the world of nuclear weapons.
(Media-Newswire.com) - Washington — Why did President Obama win the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize after only nine months in office? The Norwegian Nobel Committee cited Obama’s “extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples,” particularly his work to rid the world of nuclear weapons.
Since taking office, the president has undertaken some sweeping changes in the U.S. approach to the world. In recent years, the United States had come under heavy international criticism for what many saw as a unilateral approach on issues ranging from the decision to take military action in Iraq to the failure to join global efforts to combat climate change.
But much has changed since January 20 when Obama was inaugurated. “Obama has as President created a new climate in international politics,” the Nobel Committee said in its October 9 announcement. “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. 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.” ( See “Nobel Committee on Awarding of Peace Prize to President Obama.” )
President Obama’s work for nuclear disarmament began with an April 5 speech in Prague, where he proposed reducing and eventually eliminating existing nuclear arsenals; strengthening the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty ( NPT ) and stopping the spread of nuclear weapons to additional nations; and preventing terrorists and political extremists from obtaining nuclear weapons or materials. ( See “Obama Seeks World Free of Nuclear Weapons.” )
The United States is committed to “seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons,” Obama said in Prague. In the first nine months of his presidency, he has emphasized how central that goal is to his administration’s overall agenda.
The president took the opportunity September 24 — as the first U.S. president to chair a summit-level meeting at the United Nations Security Council — to oversee the passage of Resolution 1887, which calls for the elimination of nuclear weapons and sets out a broad framework on how to reduce nuclear dangers in pursuit of that goal. ( See “U.N. Security Council Commits to Global Nuclear Disarmament.” )
The spread and use of nuclear weapons is a “fundamental threat to the security of all peoples and all nations,” Obama said at the Security Council meeting. If one nuclear weapon exploded in a major world city, he said, it would kill thousands, and “it would badly destabilize our security, our economies, and our very way of life.”
Every country has the right to peaceful nuclear energy, but those nations that already have nuclear weapons “have the responsibility to move toward disarmament,” and those that don’t “have the responsibility to forsake them,” he said.
The Obama administration also has been negotiating a follow-on agreement to the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty ( START ) with Russia to further reduce the number of nuclear weapons and delivery systems. State Department Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security Ellen Tauscher said October 6 that “within a few years the United States will have 75 percent fewer strategic nuclear weapons deployed than at the end of the Cold War.” ( See “Nuclear Nonproliferation a Shared Responsibility, Official Says.” )
In addition, the president has called for a March 2010 summit for the purpose of securing loose nuclear materials and achieving the highest possible levels of nuclear security. That will be followed in April 2010 by the five-year review conference of the NPT.
President Obama’s intention to halt and reverse the spread of nuclear weapons also has shaped his approaches to North Korea and Iran. There is a “basic compact” among nations “at the center of the nonproliferation regime,” the president said September 25, after it was revealed that Iran had secretly built a second uranium enrichment facility near the city of Qom.
“All nations have the right to peaceful nuclear energy; those nations with nuclear weapons must move toward disarmament; those nations without nuclear weapons must forsake them. That compact has largely held for decades, keeping the world far safer and more secure. And that compact depends on all nations living up to their responsibilities,” Obama said. ( See “Iran Must Restore Global Confidence after Concealing Facility.” )
RENEWED EMPHASIS ON MULTILATERAL ENGAGEMENT
When the United States’ ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, told a New York audience on August 12 “the United States is back,” she spoke of “dramatic changes” in how the Obama administration would engage with the world. To the president and his advisers, working in concert with other countries at the United Nations is seen as the most effective way of promoting U.S. national security interests, she said. Behind this principle lies a recognition that those security interests are shared and cannot be solved by the United States alone, she added.
There are extraordinary global challenges, Rice said, such as the dangers of nuclear proliferation, climate change, pandemic disease and the global financial crisis. “If ever there were a time for effective multilateral cooperation in pursuit of U.S. interests and a shared future of greater peace and prosperity, it is now,” Rice said. ( See “United States ‘Ready to Lead Once More’ at United Nations.” )
President Obama also has reached out to Muslims around the world, seeking to end what he described June 4 in a speech in Cairo as the “cycle of suspicion and discord” that had developed between Muslims and the United States.
“There must be a sustained effort to listen to each other; to learn from each other; to respect one another; and to seek common ground,” Obama said. “So long as our relationship is defined by our differences, we will empower those who sow hatred rather than peace, those who promote conflict rather than cooperation that can help all of our people achieve justice and prosperity.” ( See “Obama Calls for a New Beginning with Muslims Around the World.” )
In other changes designed to mitigate global criticism that the United States had abandoned some of its commitments to international justice and human rights, the president issued a ban on the use of harsh or “enhanced” interrogation methods and announced that the military detention facility in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, would be closed. Both directives, in the form of executive orders, were issued in the very first days of the Obama presidency. ( See “Obama Orders Guantánamo Shut Down.” )
Obama also has said that “the days when America dragged its feet” on the issue of climate change “are over.” In his September 23 address to the United Nations General Assembly, he acknowledged that the United States and other wealthy nations, whose carbon dioxide emissions throughout the 20th century triggered the start of global warming, had a responsibility and obligation to lead efforts to preserve the planet. Part of that leadership also involves working with developing countries to reduce their emissions and helping poorer nations adapt to the effects of climate change, he said. ( See “Obama Challenges United Nations to ‘New Era of Engagement.’” )
In its statement, the Nobel Committee described President Obama as “the world’s leading spokesman” for the aspirations for a better future that the committee seeks to promote, citing Obama’s commitments to multilateral diplomacy and dialogue, instead of force, to resolve conflicts, his pursuit of a world free of nuclear weapons and a world where democracy and human rights are strengthened.
“The Committee endorses Obama's appeal that ‘Now is the time for all of us to take our share of responsibility for a global response to global challenges,’” the statement said.
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