There is a refrain I encountered over and over across the Internet and in the media today: it says that President Obama has offered nothing more than speeches and vision in the cause of peace. Now, I’m not arguing that he has done enough to merit the Nobel Peace Prize, but his administration has *taken definitive action* to make the world a more peaceful place than the one left by his predecessor.
1. Announced Unequivocal End to Torture, Ordered the Closing of Guantanamo and the Closing of Secret Prisons.
2. Improved Relations with Iran.
Remember when we were worried about a potential invasion of Iran while we were already mired in Iraq and Afghanistan and John “Bomb Bomb Iran” McCain? Instead, we now have one-on-one talks between Iranian and American envoys.
Tehran’s decision to agree to the US’s request for a one-on-one meeting, specifically tailored to discuss Iran’s nuclear program, may come as a shock to the hawkish critics of Obama’s Iran policy. They have painted the Iranian government as rigid and inflexible.
3. Improved U.S. Policy on Climate Change.
In addition to the effects that we will see from the administration’s acceptance of human-influenced climate change, Obama’s administration is already working to improve the global climate through a very real $15 billion injection for alternative energy and transportation. Obama is also responsible for the following:
launched high-speed rail, exercised the power to declare carbon dioxide a pollutant, sought a low-emissions zone for 200 miles surrounding our coasts, enacted the toughest auto-emissions standards in U.S. history, and begun converting the auto industry to electric vehicle production. He’s preserved two million acres of wilderness and a thousand miles of rivers.
Those actions, which occurred through the Stimulus Bill, the federal budget, and number of executive orders, all have a positive impact on the global climate.
4. Set a Timetable for Exiting Iraq.
5. Improved Relations with Russia.
Which not only means less tension with the world’s second most powerful military, but also improving conditions for two other key concerns for global peace efforts:
Obama has already improved the atmosphere for cooperation with Russia, which is key to diplomatic efforts to curb Iranian and North Korean nuclear ambitions.
6. Made the Rights of Women around the World a Core Component of U.S. Foreign Policy:
Clinton and Obama jointly deserve credit for this, and Clinton deserves it for much of the Obama administration’s foreign policy successes. American prioritization of the welfare of women is already impacting areas as diverse as microlending, AIDS, the sex-trade, and the prosecution of perpetrators of widespread rape and mutilation of women.
Clinton says preventing the exploitation and marginalization of girls is no longer an afterthought but a core foreign policy objective of the United States, which is co-sponsoring a Security Council resolution on the issue next week.
7. Improved Relations with the Islamic World.
Obama has made speeches to far-reaching Muslim audiences and has backed his words with by reversing the Bush policies that made many suspicious of America to begin with.
President Obama made his most direct outreach to Muslims around the world Monday…Bush’s invasion of Iraq, imprisonment of Muslims at Guantanamo Bay, isolation of Iran, and support for Israel in its relations with the Palestinians and in the war with Hezbollah made many in Islamic nations believe that his administration was hostile to their religion.
Obama has reached out to Iran, ordered the closing of the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, and taken an early interest in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with the appointment of a Middle East envoy. His aides have outlined a new approach to Muslim countries that would reach beyond confronting terrorism to include a set of mutual interests on trade, education and health care.
8. Made Progress towards Greater Cooperation on Limiting Nuclear Proliferation.
Mr Obama, who became the first US president to chair the UN Security Council, won unanimous support for a resolution that Washington said should lead to tighter controls on weapons states, an end to loopholes exploited by countries such as Iran and a lower risk of new nuclear arms race.
“The historic resolution we just adopted enshrines our shared commitment to a goal of a world without nuclear weapons,” Mr Obama said. “And it brings Security Council agreement on a broad framework for action to reduce nuclear dangers as we work toward that goal.”
Rhetoric Means Something on the Global Stage:
And Obama’s rhetoric means something more because he is backing them with actual policy changes, but in the international arena, talking about global partnership and replacing military threats with invitations to discussion really do mean something. In at least one way, peace is about more talk, if the talking is the promotion of an environment and the strengthening of relationships that lead towards increased cooperation and a reduction in conflict.
Again, I’m not saying that any of this merits a Nobel Peace Prize; but given the above, I don’t see how anyone can say that President Obama and his administration have done absolutely nothing to make the world a more peaceful place.