It feels like only yesterday that Barack Obama was being fêted worldwide, the incredible byproduct of modern democratic expression who could fill an auditorium in Cairo just as easily as a stadium in Berlin. The early hype over his presidency reached its zenith when he was bizarrely awarded a Nobel Peace Prize in September 2009. But the nomination of Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor hiding out in Vladimir Putin’s Russia, for this year’s prize by a pair of Norwegian lawmakers on Wednesday capped a stunning fall from grace for America’s 44th president. His embrace of drone warfare and expansion of a mass surveillance regime have made the United States — no global darling during the George W. Bush presidency — an ogre to much of the international community, and Snowden a hero for exposing it.
That the president has enjoyed some modest foreign policy successes, helping bring an end to the Gadhafi era in Libya and cleanly winding down the American military presence in Iraq (if not actually stabilizing the country, as a recent explosion of insurgent activity has reminded us), matters little. He made a bold vow to engage the world, and specifically the Muslim diaspora, in his 2009 speech to Egyptian intellectuals and students in Cairo. That has not happened. His administration has instead overseen a proliferation of civilian deaths in Muslim communities in parts of Africa, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. And European pols were clearly shocked by the scope of American intrusion into their affairs, as highlighted by German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s admonishment of Obama. That a few Norwegian lefties have taken it upon themselves to stick it to the American president by nominating his fugitive gadfly makes plenty of sense. Even if the nomination goes nowhere, Obama finds himself with clock running on his legacy-repair efforts.