In a twisted way, there's something edifying about the Nobel committee's decision to award Obama the Nobel Peace Prize. They must have known they would make themselves a laughingstock, but they sacrificed their honor in hopes of influencing US policy by appealing to Obama's famous vanity. It might work. Why not? This is an opportunity for Obama to re-brand his presidency as unproblematically lefty-peacenik, and as far as I'm concerned, I'd be happy to see him do it. I think there are a lot of places in the world where an assertion of US power could be useful, but only under a leader with a moral compass. On Honduras, on Iran, on Russia/eastern Europe/Georgia, Obama again and again has seemed wilfully to take the cynical position in order to distance himself from the ideals of democracy and freedom which are now indelibly associated with the Bush administration. Even a cynical exercise of US power is better than the alternative in many parts of the world, so I would not wish a full retreat into isolationism. But a partial retreat into isolationism would probably be better than the incompetent and unprincipled interventionism which is the likely alternative. The other good thing about this is that it debases Jimmy Carter's 2002 Nobel Peace Prize by making it clear that the Prize is sometimes awarded on grounds unrelated to the merits of the recipient in order to try to influence US politics.
The looming question now is how much damage will have been done to the US and the world by the time the Obama interregnum is over. How many man-years of unemployment will we have suffered, and what will be its long-term financial and psychic costs? How far will America's alliances have frayed due to acts of petty neglect, cynicism, and betrayal? What new totalitarian ideologies will have been incubated in the friendly climate of American weakness? How many hostile regimes will have gone nuclear? How much land will Russia and other aggressors have grabbed? How much will the national debt have risen? How will the institutions of American economic governance have been degraded? For now, though, we're not thinking about those things. Escapism is triumphant.