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Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize, Seven Years Later


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obamas-nobel-peace-prize-seven-years-later-1475795772Wall Street Journal:

Seven years ago this week the Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded the Peace Prize to Barack Obama. The decision was greeted with ridicule in the U.S., and it unsettled even supporters of the president, who hadn’t finished his first year in office. Still Mr. Obama flew to Oslo and delivered one of his trademark speeches. The philosopher-president was the toast of Europe.


Mr. Obama today almost never mentions the prize, and the Nobel Committee’s former secretary has expressed regret over the choice. Barack Obama the Nobelist is a bad memory among Europeans, who face more pressing concerns, chief among them a Syrian civil war that has flooded the Continent with more than a million refugees.


Yet this Nobel indigestion is unfair to Mr. Obama. On its own terms his prize has been a resounding success. Seven years later the president has achieved the future-tense victories first celebrated in Oslo.


The committee that awarded the prize hoped for an America that would no longer play the hegemon. The Norwegians wanted a U.S. president who would “strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples,” as the Nobel citation put it. A leader who would emphasize “the role that the United Nations and other international institutions can play,” whose decisions would track the “attitudes that are shared by the majority of the world’s population.”


This was the heyday of transnationalism, the philosophy that says all states—strong or weak, free or unfree—must submit to “norms” drawn up by law professors and global organizations such as the U.N. and European Union. The transnationalist view can’t tolerate an exceptional nation that imposes its will on others, even with the best intentions.


Mr. Obama was (and remains) a committed transnationalist, and he staffed his foreign-policy team with like-minded thinkers such as the journalist Samantha Power, the Yale Law School dean Harold Koh and the Princeton scholar Anne-Marie Slaughter. At his Nobel lecture in Oslo, Mr. Obama declared: “I am convinced that adhering to standards, international standards, strengthens those who do, and isolates and weakens those who don’t.”


The real-world results are a different matter. They are on display in Aleppo, where the Bashar Assad regime and its Russian and Iranian patrons are close to bringing to heel Syria’s last non-Islamic State opposition stronghold. Syrian forces shell houses and drop shrapnel-packed barrels on what remains of the city’s civilian buildings. Vladimir Putin’s pilots stalk the skies, setting women and children alight with incendiary ordnance.



The world the Peace Prize president made.

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