Of A Peaceful World and Pacifist Idealism by Nathaniel Jonah
When in November 2008, Barack Obama emerged as the first African American President, not a few political pundits and global commentators were of the view that his presidency would herald a paradigm shift from the militaristic aggression of his predecessor. Aside from the epoch making event that culminated into the ascendancy of a black man into the oval office, a feat which was hitherto considered unattainable given the long decades of civil rights agitation among Americans of African descent and their white sympathizers, Obama’s squeaky clean credentials as a new kid on the block drew global goodwill and empathy. His catch phrase of “YES WE CAN” was seen all over the world as a new dawn in the history of American politics specifically and a new chapter of the America foreign policy in general.
Given the present global political upheavals, the global wave of enthusiasm and relief that welcomed Obama’s presidency is gradually fading away into disappointment and despair. This is especially against the backdrop of declining global peace and stability which clearly stand in contrast to Obama’s enthusiastic pursuit of a peaceful world devoid of armed conflict. From Eastern Europe where the internal conflict between the pro-Russian separatist and their protagonists in Kiev is threatening to snowball into a renewed cold war. This is clearly highlighted by the waves of renewed economic sanctions from the West against a seemingly recalcitrant Vladimir Putin who seems determined in his quest to strengthen the Russian sphere of interest.
The Arab spring which was popularized by the Western media in early 2011, when the successful uprising in Tunisia against former leader Zine El Abidine Ben Ali emboldened similar anti-government protests in most Arab countries was touted as symptomatic of Obama’s diplomatic approach to the Arab world as opposed to the militaristic and aggressive tendencies of former President George Bush Jnr.
Kow towing the traditional Democrats’ political ideology and foreign policy initiative which tends to relegate the flagrant display of America’s military prowess as the last resort and the glorification of diplomacy and dialogue as a means of resolving global disputes, Obama did not mince words as to his intention of changing the hitherto held global public opinion of America as the world police officer. And sticking to his widely publicized campaign promises, he immediately wound down the war in Iraq and set an effective time frame for ending the decade long war in Afghanistan. As if to lend credence to his pacific credentials and his ability to lay the groundwork for a peaceful world devoid of wars and nuclear warfare, the Norwegian Noble committee awarded him the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize for “his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.” In so doing, the Nobel committee in its hallowed wisdom inadvertently aligned itself with President Obama’s vision of and work towards a world devoid of nuclear wars and global conflict.
At the core of President Obama’s alternative methodology in resolving conflicts all over the world, and ensuring the peaceful and harmonious coexistence of nation states, is the tenacious and sacrosanct belief that multilateral diplomatic advocacy should be pushed to the front burner while highlighting the traditional roles of the United Nations and other diplomatic channels as an effective tool of conflict resolution. In this regard, he sounded the death knell to what global commentators describe as the “war mongering ideologue of the Bush’s administration”.
The conferment of the Nobel Peace Prize on President Obama was not without its backlash. This is especially against the backdrop of what was considered as his political inexperience. One of the participants of an opinion poll conducted by debate.org succinctly posits that “I don’t understand how the Nobel Committee could justify awarding him with the Peace Prize. All he had to his name was serving as an Illinois senator and then one term in the U.S. Senate. Now five years later, I’m pretty sure there’s no chance of him getting another one.” Others simply viewed the Nobel peace prize as tantamount to putting the cart before the horse, especially as recipients of the highly prestigious prize should have earned it. Those who belong to this school of thought are of the view that “The question of whether Mr. Obama deserved to win the Nobel Peace Prize can be answered as a simple matter of time frame. The Peace Prize was awarded less than one month after he because President. You might argue that he did something as a State Senator or U.S. Senator that deserves the Peace Prize, but there’s nothing in his record that compares to other winners of the Peace Prize. It would have been better to reevaluate Mr. Obama’s eligibility for the prize after he leaves the office of the President.”
Half way through his celebrated second term in office, President Obama is yet to achieve his much talked about dream of a nuclear free world and world peace devoid of armed struggle. On the contrary, the world continues to tether on the brink of global instability. This is especially more obvious in the light of the escalating conflict between the Ukrainian government and the Russian backed separatists. The broader implication of this conflict is the tendency to draw the world back to the cold world era with the United States and its allies hurling series of sanctions against Vladimir Putin’s’ Russia for arming the rebels. Although in his interaction with the white house media Obama repeatedly ruled out the possibility of a military confrontation with Russia over the Ukrainian debacle, the trend in of events in the troubled Eastern Europe and the growing division between the west and the east, is evidently indicative of the cold war blues.
The hope and optimism which heralded the wind of change in the Arab world has continued to fizzle out as the Arab spring has turned out to be a nightmare. While the Arab spring was initially indicative of Obama’s major shift in “manner of approach” of relating with the Muslim world, i.e. seeing them as potential partners in global stability rather than as axis of evil, the catastrophic end result of the Arab spring has left many pundits bewildered. From Tunisia to Egypt, Syria and Libya, the situation is the same. The elimination of oppressive dictators through what was seen as the people’s will has not yielded any dividends of democracy for the people, rather, these regions continued to slide down the path of anarchy and political instability.
In the final analysis, with two years to the end of what many though would be a radical change to the American foreign policy under the Barack Obama’s presidency, peace has continued to elude the world which inadvertently elicits the question as to whether the world is not yet ready for Obama’s dreams of a peaceful world or his pacific idealism is not suitable for the present world order.