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Martin LeFevre: Obama’s Foreboding Nobel

Obama’s Foreboding Nobel

by Martin LeFevre

A week after the International Olympic Committee made a goat of Barack Obama for traveling to Copenhagen with Michelle and Oprah in his bid to plant the world’s flags in Chicago in 2016, the Nobel Committee restored him to god-like status by crowning him as the world’s peacemaker. Or did it?

Not since the war criminal/elder statesman Henry Kissinger shared the prize with Le Duc Tho in 1973 (for setting the stage for America’s ignominious departure from Vietnam), has the Nobel Committee expressed such contradiction and confusion over America’s place in the world.

Brushing aside all the babble about the ‘devaluation of the Nobel Prize’ (awarding it to Kissinger irrevocably did that 36 years ago), why did the Nobel Committee award the Prize to Obama, and what does it mean for the foreseeable future of humanity?

This Nobel Prize has a weird feel to it. All over the world, people are shaking their heads. ‘What’s Obama done to deserve it? It’s a bit premature, isn’t it?’ are common refrains outside the United States.

In the States, one hears, beyond the expected din of conservative commentators who hate Obama and all that he compromisingly stands for, the resounding thud of utter indifference. So we have two disconnects: the Nobel Committee from ordinary citizens around the world; and the Nobel Prize from the American electorate.

Despite or because of Obama’s strained modesty in accepting the prize, and his renewed declaration that his accolade is “an affirmation of American leadership on behalf of aspirations held by people in all nations,” this Nobel has the sense of a metaphysical set up.

In the first place, despite Obama’s star status in some quarters of Europe, ‘American leadership’ is a thing of the past. Therefore beyond the Nobel Committee’s perennial attempt to influence international policy, this prize is a glaring example of wishful thinking by over-educated people.

There’s a hollow ring to Obama’s protestation that “I do not feel that I deserve to be in the company of so many of the transformative figures who’ve been honored by this prize.” Perhaps he means it, but when you ride the tiger of the hopes and dreams of millions of inchoate world citizens, you can’t let go.

If Barack Obama was really the transformative figure so many people desperately still hope he is, he would have turned down the Nobel Prize until the transformations he so eloquently orates about had actually begun.

In one sense, conservatives are ahead of progressives. They are perennially attacking “the imaginary world community” and “totalitarian global governance” before either has voice or form, knowing at subconscious levels in their reptilian brains that world community and global governance are the only direction for humanity.

Most progressives still believe the nation-state is the indispensable foundation of any global compact. Thus the last gasp of the old world order has been ephemerally reenergized with the charismatic voice of Barack Obama. That’s what the Nobel Committee is desperately affirming.

So, in a sense, progressives who believe in the ‘community of nations’ are also conservative, since they’re trying to conserve the old order. And thereby we play into the hands of the neo-cons, who are plucking the dying chords of ‘my country first and last’ to the bitter end.

The central idea of pluralism—that all the separate but equal strands of national, ethnic, and religious identification can be woven together in a beautiful tapestry of harmonious and pleasing color—is as naïve in its own way as the conservative belief is reactionary in its way.

And Barack Obama, in serenely standing above it all, seems more and more to sadly stand for nothing.

Global citizens are ahead of Obama and the Nobel Committee. We know that no nation-state, including the USA, can fill the vacuum of leadership in the global society. Given the new economic and political realities of the world, America couldn’t fill it at its best. And now we’re a spent people and nation.

In 1920, Woodrow Wilson was awarded the Nobel Prize for starting the League of Nations, which the United States refused to join. There’s a feeling of foreboding and the same sad irony in Obama’s award.

The Nobel Committee, like many others across the political spectrum, demonstrate an astounding failure of imagination in the face of the growing environmental, economic, and ethical crisis facing humanity.


Martin LeFevre is a contemplative and philosopher. More of his work and an archive can be found at the Colorado-based site Fountain of Light (

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