So, the news broke early this morning that President Barrack Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize.
And, you know what? I elated about it! I really don’t have time today to respond to all the posts and tweets and blogs from people asking why, so I’m going to quickly dump my thoughts here in one place.
The big question is: Does he deserve it?
In his 1895 will, Alfred Nobel specified that the prize be given “to the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between the nations and the abolition or reduction of standing armies and the formation and spreading of peace congresses.” The prize is awarded on a very specific to the timeline. The 2009 Nobel Peace Prize is for work done during the year of 2009 only.
People say that because we have troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, he doesn’t deserve it. However, his administration is not the one that sent those troops there, that started these unnecessary wars. Yes, if the wars are unnecessary, then he should pull the troops out, and he hasn’t done so. And, I wish he would. But, the prize isn’t awarded on things people haven’t done…it’s based on what they HAVE done.
Yes, during the past 9 months, there hasn’t been much done regarding “abolotion or reduction of standing armies”, but President Obama has been extremely active in fostering “fraternity between nations” and the “promotion of peace congresses”. He has met with many world leaders who are considered U.S. enemies…something many previous presidents have not done. He has made real advances in US-Russian relations, for example.
(Side track rant: I love the arguments I’ve seen recently that his being so open to improving foreign relations makes him a “beta male” or “exposes the US’s belly to the enemy”. Seriously? The man is trying to negotiate peace and that makes him weak? I just don’t get that line of thinking. Was Ghandi weak? Is the Dalai Lama weak? The whole “strength = being powerful, closed off and secretive” standpoint got us nowhere during the Bush administration, and I’m very thankful the current administration isn’t following suit.)
Anyway, in the literal sense, based on the criteria in Nobel’s will, he does deserve it, especially in today’s climate. Take this quote this Newsday article:
“You have to remember that the world has been in a pretty dangerous phase,” Norwegian Nobel Committee chairman Thorbjoern Jagland said. “And anybody who can contribute to getting the world out of this situation deserves a Nobel Peace Prize.”
Next question: Does he deserve it more than anyone else? Honestly, I do not know, and my inclination is to say no, he probably doesn’t. I don’t know who was in the running against him. And, like many critics, I do think that he really hasn’t been in office long enough to see the results of his work yet. I think he’s on the right track and in 4 years (hopefully 8!) there will be absolutely NO question that he deserves it. But, perhaps giving him this award is a little premature.
But, despite that, I am still glad that he won. The fact that this was awarded to a U.S. President is huge! He’s only the third sitting president to get it. And, it’s awarded by an international committee. IMO, U.S. Citizens have been so focused on the internal health care debates that they have not been paying attention to President Obama’s international efforts (except for pundits who claim talking to enemies make us weak). For the past 8 years, the international opinion of the U.S. has not been good. But, with the election of Obama, that has changed. According to the same Newsday article:
Obama’s election and foreign policy moves caused a dramatic improvement in the image of the U.S. around the world. A 25-nation poll of 27,000 people released in July by the Pew Global Attitudes Project found double-digit boosts to the percentage of people viewing the U.S. favorably in countries around the world. That indicator had plunged across the world under President George W. Bush.
Even before he was ever elected president, he made it clearly known that improving foreign relations was a high priority. Here’s proof, in the form of an essay he wrote in 2007: Renewing America’s Leadership. Heck, International Relations was his major in college, and I think his focus on the topic is one of the things that got him elected. Americans are tired of being hated by the rest of the world.
Now, I will not deny the fact that there is definitely political motivation in the decision to give him this prize, though I very much wish that were not true. I hate politics. Really. I especially hate them outside of the normal political arena, like in the workplace or in cases like this. But, politics in these situations are as certain as death and taxes in my opinion.
So, yes, I do believe that the committee was also thumbing their noses at the Bush Administration with this award by giving it to President Obama. They were quite critical of the military attacks Bush perpetrated after 9/11, and Obama has shown he is not doing things the way Bush did. This their way of saying “I fart in your general direction” to Bush. And, I find that childish and unbecoming.
Now, here is the surprise ending to this post: Because of the politics involved in the picking of Obama for this award, and because of the mostly negative reaction of the U.S. Citizens I’ve seen to the news, and because of the question of whether he really deserved the award, I think that President Obama should NOT accept it. He should ask that someone more deserving receive it. Perhaps such humility will help deplete the new fuel for the “I Hate Obama” fire. It certainly could only continue to improve the international opinion of the U.S.
Addendum: This article pretty much sums up my thoughts: Obama’s Nobel and America’s Popularity