Obama, The Nobel, and the endless possibilities of action

"The possibilities are numerous once we decide to act and not react." George Bernard Shaw

"The possibilities are numerous once we decide to act and not react." George Bernard Shaw

This morning the Norwegian Nobel Prize Committee awarded U.S. President Barack Obama with the Nobel Peace Prize, citing his extraordinary hand in changing the tone of international relations since his launch onto the world stage. Detractors point to the fact that he had only been in office for twelve days when nominated, and that short time in office is the main reason why he should not be receiving this  accolade. They point to Afghanistan, The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, nuclear proliferation and a slew of other reasons why Obama has not lived up to the expectations of the Nobel Prize.


I recognize the validity of those criticisms, but also feel strongly that the reasoning behind the Nobel Committee’s decision is bold and sound. It recognizes how Obama’s words have changed the way countries engage with one another, and the hope for peace that he has given individuals all over the world. As Foreign Policy’s Ronald Krebs pointed out in July, the Nobel Peace Prize is aimed at changing the world by merely being bestowed, and since the 1970s this politically charged award has been given to 27 people for their promise. Obama promised dialog, and that is what we have. North Korea has come back to negotiating table and Russia is warming up after bitter relations with the U.S. at the tail end of the Bush administration. World leaders like Mahmmoud Ahjmadinejad and Hugo Chavez can no longer point to the leader of the greatest power on earth as the greatest evil on earth. And let’s give credit where credit is due: it was the hunger of the American people for a different kind of power, a different position in world, that made Barack Obama a success.

I should also thank George W. Bush, which is something I find troubling about this award. Is it possible to judge Obama’s interaction with the world without thinking about the hawkish foreign policy of his predecessor? Is it fair to juxtapose opposing philosophies and validate one before it has been given time to prove its worth? Or is that the Committee’s point?

The Economist recognizes Obama’s international engagement and recognizes the Nobel Committee’s attempt to encourage him, but considers it might have reserved its judgement for later.

The Financial Times compares him to a CEO receiving a compensation package and lists its concerns about the way the money and medal should be dispersed. Their Rachmanblog compares the award to elementary school child’s “A for Effort.”

Red State’s Eric Erickson states that he didn’t realize that the Nobel had an affirmative action component and compares Obama to President Carter.

The Atlantic’s Mark Ambinder considers that the award can’t hurt and might give him room in Afghanistan. He also wonders where Obama’s Oscar is and how hard Bill Clinton is crying right now.

Who Runs Gov provides with the typical messaging war between the Republican and Democratic National Committees.

The Corner’s Yuval Levin thinks the award will seem pompous and have a negative effect on the White House. His fellow Corner writer, Jonah Goldberg calls it “Hilarious and Sad.

TPM’s John Marshall confirms our fears and contrasts Obama with Bush.

Slate’s John Dickerson, perhaps more appropriately, contrasts Obama with other Nobel winners like Yasser Arafat and Henry Kissinger arguing that Obama may be more deserving than they as they started wars and he has not.

And alas, Hot Air’s ALLAHPUNDIT deems it the “Screw Bush Award.”



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