The world has noted the irony that President Barack Obama is delivering his acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize after launching an escalation of the Afghanistan war. Of course, the critique is a little misplaced, since the prize is for a specific policy success, not for being a pacifist.
Still, Obama was clearly given the prize to encourage him in the direction of peace. It is the tragedy of the sole superpower that it is unconstrained by peers and so can launch wars of choice and shatter international law at will. It can be counseled but not blocked. He was awarded this honor as a counsel.
So here are the things Obama can do to redeem his prize.
1. Get out of Iraq on schedule. We can't stop their low-intensity conflicts, and they are more likely to compromise with each other if we are not there.
2. Resist calls for Iran to be bombed. Such a raid would guarantee that Iran would start a crash program to develop a nuclear weapon, and there would be no way to stop it short of full-scale war.
3. Stop allowing the CIA to operate drones with which to assassinate people. It is illegal and shameful. The U.S. military must be in charge of defending the country by force or we are a police state.
4. Get the Palestinians a state by the end of 2011, even if by unilateral recognition. Palestinian statelessness is the biggest human rights scandal in the world, since citizenship is the right to have rights. This step alone would solve the bulk of U.S. problems in the Arab world and would deal a deadlier blow to al-Qaida than capturing Osama bin Laden.
5. Stick to the plan of beginning a U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan in summer 2011. Karzai and the generals will attempt to embroil us in a decades-long quagmire. No one will remember his Nobel Peace Prize if President Obama lets that happen.