Saturday, October 10, 2009

Obama's Nobel Peace Prize

The big question on the surprise announcement that President Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize is whether he did anything to earn the prize. I think commentators that argue that President Obama earned the prize because of his accomplishments as president are disingenuous. One cannot name a single international problem that the President has solved. This is not a knock on the President, it is simply a recognition that he is a new arrival on the world stage and has not yet had the time to make his mark such that he would be a candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize. This is not to say that the Norwegian Committee was wrong to award the prize to the President.

By awarding the prize to the President, the Committee has put him on the spot on the international stage. For example, his decision on further troop buildup in Afghanistan is not just a domestic decision with international implications, it also becomes an international decision. The Committee has given the world a voice for retrospective evaluations of a plethora of Mr. Obama's decisions. These include not only Afghanistan, Iraq, and the Middle East, but obviously climate change, nuclear nonproliferation, international monetary policy and the like.
The Committee's decision is a very nifty political move. It is political not because the left-wingers on the nominating committee was rewarding one that they viewed as their own and making a statement on the Bush years. That may have been part of the politics. But the important part of the politics is putting the President in a position that makes his actions more accountable that it was previously to the international community. The President clearly recognizes this problem/opportunity. If he can live up to those expectations this will be good for him and even for us.

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