The irony shouldn’t be lost on any of us that an award ostensibly devoted to peace so often is the cause of such spirited debate and at times outright feuding. What else would one expect from an award named for the man who invented Dynamite I suppose.
In any event, there are a few points to consider with regard to Barack Obama’s reception of the Peace Prize: 1) Do his accomplishments merit the recognition; 2) Is the award premature; 3) Biographically, just how “incredible” is the Peace Prize for Obama the individual?
Question one perhaps is the most open to debate and largely depends upon how you define “accomplishments.” While it would be accurate to acknowledge that few foreign policy acts have emerged from Obama’s yet young term, it would be inaccurate to conclude that he has had no foreign policy achievement.
In recognizing, for example, Reagan’s “Tear down this wall” and Kennedy’s “Ich bin ein Berliner” as pivotal moments in U.S. – international relations, we acknowledge that the scope of foreign policy achievement is broad and includes words and deeds as much as as much as treaties and compacts. Let’s not minimize the impact of an American president’s tone in setting the table for diplomacy.
In my view, the second question seems more fitting: Why would a committee that extols the virtues of peace present a Peace Prize to a president at a time when he’s poised for further military engagement in Afghanistan and potentially elsewhere later in his term. This represents the most fundamental inconsistency for the Nobel committee.
Although the committee claims not to be trying to influence future events, that explanation doesn’t seem entirely forthcoming. Committee chairman Thorbjorn Jagland in fact admits, “We do hope that this can contribute a little bit to enhance what he is trying to do.” That clearly sounds like the committee’s taking an activist position to influence American policy for global peace.
Not that that’s a bad thing. Perhaps it’s appropriate; the Nobelists’ intent after all is to influence policy by recognizing individual accomplishments.
Lastly, there’s the question of the magnitude of this award for Obama the individual. That’s an easy one. The guy was an unknown state legislator three or four years ago. Since then, he’s won his party’s nomination, then the American Presidency and now a Nobel Peace Prize.
If you don’t think that merits the label “incredible” then perhaps you should have your eyes checked.