Friday, October 09, 2009

On Obama's Nobel Peace Prize

To be honest, I was very surprised at the announcement that President Obama has been awarded the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize.

While I am pleased at Obama's multilateral approach and his commitment to strengthening international institutions - all in sharp contrast to the narrow nationalism of the Bush era - I agree with Paul Reynolds at the BBC who describes the unexpected award as "more of an encouragement for intentions than a reward for achievements."

The trouble is that the prize has not generally been awarded for intentions but for measurable accomplishments in promoting and achieving lasting peace in specific situations.

Consider 1998's Peace Prize Laureates, David Trimble and John Hume, for instance. They were at the heart of a painstaking process that brought a thirty-year civil war to a close in Northern Ireland, the fruit of this peace being felt every day by millions of people. Mandela and DeClerk in 1993 are at least as striking examples of peace achievers.

Changing the tone of America's international relations and beginning talks on nuclear disarmament - good though these moves are - hardly seem to be in the same league.

I hope this does not represent a devaluing of the currency of the Nobel Prizes. Even worse, I hope it doesn't mean that we've become so accustomed to permanent warfare that we've forgotten what peace actually feels like.

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Anonymous said...

I hadn't heard about the award until I read your post. It seems bizarre that someone who has been President for a comparatively short (and relatively low key) period of time should deserve such an award. Unless of course I am missing achievements he has made before he became President

Al Shaw said...

I think the award states that it is in recognition of his activities since becoming US President.

Thanks for visiting.

Tom Foster said...

Capello had an interesting comment following last night's game ;-) Perhaps Obama has friends on the committee? Not really.

""After eight months as President he won the Nobel Prize," Capello said, "and after 30 minutes David won the man-of-the-match." The England manager's surprise at the decision, after such a brief involvement, was matched by that of the 76,000-strong crowd and David Beckham himself. "I don't know how I got it," he said although the award was made by his former Manchester United team-mate, Steve Bruce.