US President Barack Obama today became the third sitting US President awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Despite taking office only two weeks before the nomination deadline of 2.1.2009, the Nobel committee praised Obama for his “extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples”. The choice was such a shock that many in the room for the announcement gasped in surprise.
I-as do all Americans-congratulate President Obama on this magnificent tribute. Nonetheless, I find the award ill-timed.
I suggest that President Obama should send a thank you note to George W. Bush ASAP, because clearly this award was less for what Obama has done and more for his not being George W. Bush.
President Obama has been in office less than nine months. He has spent much of that time dealing with domestic politics and economic issues. Necessity has made foreign policy something of a back burner concern…and yet it is enough to win the Nobel Peace Prize? Come on…
Compare his accomplishments to the other sitting presidents who have received this award:
Teddy Roosevelt negotiated the end of the Russo-Japanese War, i.e., he stopped a conflict bringing…peace. A substantive achievement.
Woodrow Wilson was the prime proponent of and a primary creator of the League of Nations, an international body tasked with helping achieve peaceful solutions to world problems…also a substantive achievement.
Barack Obama-did some talking. The prize has been given out for work on environmental concerns (Al Gore, Wangari Maathai of Kenya), Economics (Muhammad Yunus for fostering micro credits), negotiation and ending conflict (Martti Ahtisaari).
You would be correct to point out that many awards have been given for people who have “fostered” a better world, but it has typically been for a specific act or actions over a period of years. They have been activists. Mother Theresa, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King come to mind, but there are also Shirin Ebabi of Iran and Aung San Suu Kyi of Burma. Recipients have not only spoken out to foster a better world, they have lived the example and they have done it over a period of years.
President Obama-not so much.
It is unfortunate for our President this award came to him now. It is clearly not an award for what he has achieved, but for what he is not-namely, his predecessor. The Nobel Prize Committee was outspoken in its opposition to the foreign policy of G.W.Bush, and they have recognized his predecessor simply because he is not ol’ GW. How much better for him if the award came later in his first term, when they could make the same highly generalized claim but with a better foundation for the award.
Yep, send that thank you note to #43…and resign yourself to the idea that history will likely consider this award as one of more politically motivated in the history of the Nobel Prize.
UPDATE: Lest I be derided as being “partisan” or “a hater”, see Lowell’s commentary at Blue Virginia. Folks across the political spectrum are shocked yet cognizant of the true driving force behind this award.