Friday, October 09, 2009

Pitch perfect as usual

What else could Obama say about winning the Nobel just 37 weeks into his Presidency?

Mr. Obama said he doesn't view the award "as a recognition of my own accomplishments," but rather as a recognition of goals he has set for the U.S. and the world. Mr. Obama said, "I do not feel that I deserve to be in the company of so many transformative figures that have been honored by this prize."

But, he said, "I will accept this award as a call to action, a call for all nations to confront the challenges of the 21st century.''

Actually, the claim that Obama has so far accomplished nothing concrete on the world stage is exaggerated. Under his leadership, the G-20 meeting in March, at the depths of the financial crisis, exceeded expectations, producing a strong financial commitment to cushion the downturn for developing nations. The G-20 in late September also surpassed expectations, effectively establishing the G-20 as successor to the G-8 in real decision-making power and subjecting member nations to regulatory peer review. The meeting of the U.N. Security Council last month exceeded expectations, securing a commitment to revitalize and strengthen the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. And the highest-level direct negotiation with Iran in 30 years exceeded expectations, yielding Iran's agreement to submit about 75% of its known nuclear stockpile to Russia for enrichment and to open its newly disclosed nuclear facility outside Qom to inspection.

Of the G-20 meeting in March, Philip Stephens wrote, "Mr Obama shows wisdom beyond his years in realising that to understand the extent of US power – and it is still unrivalled – a president must also map its limits" That's true of all four of the meetings referenced above. That's why each yielded something concrete.

Not the stuff of a Nobel by established standards, perhaps. But Obama has done far more than deliver a handful of uplifting speeches on the world stage. Though those speeches themselves were a key part of the paradigm shift that Stephens articulated.

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