Barack Obama Wins Nobel Peace Prize
Like practically everybody else, I’m very surprised that the Nobel Prize committee has awarded President Barack Obama the Nobel Peace Prize for 2009:
OSLO — In a stunning surprise, the Nobel Committee announced Friday that it had awarded its annual peace prize to President Obama “for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples” less than nine months after he took office.
“He has created a new international climate,” the committee said in its announcement. With American forces deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan, President Obama’s name had not figured in speculation about the winner until minutes before the prize was announced here.
I will leave the analysis of this for others adding only this. This award is clearly as much aspirational as anything else. In that light doesn’t the award belong to the American electorate?
UPDATE (James Joyner): I’m more befuddled than surprised. This simply makes no sense. I understood, for example, Jimmy Carter winning it a few years back even though I disagreed with the rationale for awarding it that year; but he’d certainly earned it as a lifetime achievement award if nothing else. But, surely, an uptick in approval for the United States in Western Europe doesn’t do much to further peace, given that the likelihood of conflict breaking out over the former state off affairs was nil.
The reaction seems to be shared by more than the usual suspects. In addition to Dave above (who, after all, voted for Obama and on the basis of his foreign policy at that) Jim Henley, Robert Farley, Michael Russnow, Steven Taylor, and most commenters even at the lefty blogs where the poster defends the decision think it bizarre or worse. In addition to Henley’s expletive-laden tyrade, I especially like Farley’s suggestion that Obama will likely win the AL Cy Young.
The defenses are much along the lines of Dave’s “aspirational” argument. For example, Steve Clemons thinks getting the award prematurely will help Obama earn it in the long run:
[T]his Prize puts some air back in the Obama Bubble — and this is good for the country and world as the challenges in the international system are enormous today.
Obama’s efforts to talk the world into a better place have indeed created opportunities that were hard to imagine during the Bush administration — but now a lot of heavy lifting and deal-making are required, and the Nobel Prize will give Obama a boost in these efforts.
That’s not typically how the Prize has been used, especially in the case of American presidents. Recall that Carter didn’t win one for the Camp David Accords. Nor did Ronald Reagan for ending the Cold War without firing a shot. Or Bill Clinton for closing the deal with Arafat and Rabin. Aspirational awards are usually to dissidents or leaders of NGOs working on an impossible but really neat cause.
UPDATE (Dave Schuler)
David Ignatius’s reaction is considerably less profane than Jim Henley’s (linked above) and I think is worthy of consideration:
Obama’s achievements are in the “good intentions” category, but that doesn’t mean they are insignificant. America was too unpopular under Bush. The Nobel committee is expressing a collective sigh of relief that America has rejoined the global consensus. They’re right. It’s a good thing. It’s just a little weird that they gave him a prize for it.
The open question is whether President Obama’s popularity overseas (92% favorability rating in Germany, 90% in the Netherland, 77% in Europe, generally) will translate into popularity for America overseas or even support overseas for the foreign policy that President Obama actually puts into place. I’m skeptical.