In a surprising move, the Norwegian Nobel Committee has awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 2009 to United States President Barack Obama, "for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples. The Committee has attached special importance to Obama's vision of and work for a world without nuclear weapons."
While the committee further adds that "Obama has as President created a new climate in international politics," many raised their eyebrows when they heard of the decision, going as far as to call it a mistake and premature. Obama has been in office less than a year. In fact, he took office less than two weeks before the February 1 nomination deadline. Some question the grounds for the award, saying that while his words certainly resonate in the context of the Nobel Peace Prize, what has he actually achieved?
While he's already tried his hand at Middle East politics, the Israelis and Palestinians are no closer to a settlement today than when Obama took office nine months ago. While he immediately tried to negotiate a new treaty on nuclear disarmament with Russia, no treaty has been concluded. He "has no concrete achievement to his credit," writes David Blair of the Telegraph.
Further, given the stated reasons for the award, there haven't actually been any breakthroughs in nuclear arms control, Vladimir Kozin, a political analyst notes. While Obama's vision "of a world free from nuclear arms has powerfully stimulated disarmament and arms control negotiations," as the committee writes, it is still in the realm of vision, not actions.
Not to mention, Obama is currently presiding over two wars. The committee writes that "Dialogue and negotiations are preferred as instruments for resolving even the most difficult international conflicts," but what conflicts has he resolved?
Even those in favor of the award admit that it's aspirational, that Obama has given hope not just to Americans, but to the world. Still, he's a sitting politician whose future actions are unknown. Moreover, the committee has previously awarded the prize to politicians who later took actions that were not so peaceful, as Peter Lavelle, a political commentator explains.
Critics of the decision, however, will probably agree with the Nobel Committee that "Thanks to Obama's initiative, the USA is now playing a more constructive role in meeting the great climatic challenges the world is confronting."
But when the committee says that "Democracy and human rights are to be strengthened," or "given its people hope for a better future," one must ask why hope and future possible outcomes have been factored into the award.
Has the Nobel Committee given Obama the award in the hopes that it will affect his future actions? If so, then perhaps the basis for the award should be re-examined. Did the group simply jump on the Obama bandwagon, falling for his charismatic nature and worldwide celebrity status?
Obama is the 108th recipient of the award and the third U.S. president to win the Nobel Peace Prize, beating 204 other nominees on the shortlist.