Nobel Peace Prize pointing towards American foreign politics?

11Oct08

This year’s Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to the Finnish politician and diplomat Martti Ahtisaari. A former president of his country for six years, Ahtisaari is best known for is work as a diplomat in various conflicts all over the world.

After becoming Finland’s ambassador to Tanzania in 1979, Ahtisaari put his efforts into mediating between conflict parties. His contributions were essential in Namibia’s way to independence from South Africa in 1989. After his presidency, Ahtisaari moved on to found his own small non-governmental organisation “Crisis Management Initiative” to continue his efforts in peace building measures. In 2005, he led negotiations between rebels and the government in Indonesia’s province of Aceh which ended successfully: The rebels were disarmed, their demands for independence dropped, Indonesia’s troops withdrawn. Later that year, Ahtisaari was appointed to head the development of a future strategy for the Kosovo and Balkan region, a task he announced to have finished in 2007. The outcome of Ahtisaari’s plans, which include a UN-monitored independence of the Kosovo, can not yet be seen.

What makes Ahtisaari’s work special is his commitment to finding a pragmatic solution. As Michael Thumann of German’s weekly “Die Zeit” puts it:

“For Ahtisaari there was nothing like negotiations. For him the armistice was the goal to save human lifes. He did not think highly of moral indignation or the refusal to have talks which possibly prevented an armistice.”

During the civil war on the Balkan, Ahtisaari negotiated with all parties: The Yugoslavs, the Bosnian Muslims, the Croatians. He was in talks with war criminals like Radovan Karadzic while their troops were killing innocent civilians because he believed that diplomacy was the only way to stop them.

Martti Ahtisaari’s willingness to sit at the table even with the worst of the worst is what has won him the Nobel Peace Prize, the highest order to be awarded to a politician on earth. It may be true that not all of the previous winners were as great as the prize’s fame – Yassir Arafat or Henry Kissinger are all but known for their pacifism – but still it is awarded for success as well as for efforts.

In the current US elections, the democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama has been heavily criticized by his opponents for his willingness to have talks with leaders like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad or Raúl Castro “without preconditions”. During the first presidential debate on September 26, Obama stated that “this notion that by not talking to people we are punishing them has not worked” and therefore the United States should engage in direct diplomacy even with those countries the current Bush administration famously named the “Axis of Evil” – something John McCain responded to as “dangerous”.

Martti Ahtisaari’s winning the Nobel Peace Prize must be seen as supportive to Obama’s political ideology. While the committee may not have intended this, Martti Ahtisaari stands for the politics of talks which Barack Obama promises to reinstall in the United States after eight years under the “Bush doctrine”.

One should not forget about Obama’s affirmative statements towards a possible invasion in Pakistan in order to fight Osama bin Laden and the al-Qaeda network. One should not forget about Zbigniew Brzezinski being one of Obama’s advisors. One should, after all, never forget the US’ long history of intrigues, invasions and murders.

Barack Obama is promising change. If it really is “change we can believe in”, it must be a change in foreign politics. That is what especially the European citizens expect of Obama when they support the democratic nominee. That change in foreign politics must be a change towards the foreign politics of a Martti Ahtisaari, including talks without preconditions with every single leader the US consider their enemy, and the end of the Bush doctrine.


"„Der Unterschied zwischen Reich und Arm ist der, dass die Armen alles selbst tun müssen mit ihren eigenen Händen, die Reichen aber können jemanden anstellen, der die Dinge für sie tut.“"— Betty Smith


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