Friday, October 09, 2009

Obama Wins the Nobel Peace Prize

Didn't see this coming.

My first thought was, I'll be honest: too soon. But as Jonathan Adler, Robert Naiman, Steve Benen, and many others have noted, the Peace Prize is often as much about encouraging a "prospect" than it is about rewarding prior accomplishment. The goal of the Nobel is to create and foster momentum for changes they like to see (in the case of Obama, nuclear non-proliferation seems to be the heavy hitter), rather than waiting until the finish line has already been crossed. And the Nobel committee chair seems to have given the award in that spirit.

The second thought, though, was about the symbolic meaning of the award. I've cautioned against giving too much weight to symbolic victories, and I'll do so here as well. But, particularly in the foreign arena, I've talked about its importance as well, and I think it is noteworthy. The fact that President Obama seems to be an inspirational figure to many people worldwide is an asset of tremendous value to the United States worldwide. It is part of what is allowing America to slowly, painfully, reassert its moral authority to lead in the wake of the Bush administration. His election was a window into America's soul, and the world liked what it saw -- that we weren't going to keep electing Bushes year after year.

In a global community, it matters what your neighbors think of you. The Nobel Prize, if nothing else, is a symbol that our neighbors think well of us -- that they are proud to live in our neighborhood. That's a good thing, no matter how you slice it.

UPDATE: You'll note a pattern in the "world reactions" to Obama's victory. He gets congratulations from everybody except the President of the International Federation of Human Rights, Iran, Islamic Jihad, and the Taliban. Both the IFHR and Iran were actually somewhat neutral (the former wanted the prize to go to a Russian activist, the latter saying it is "not upset" -- but clearly not thrilled either). The last two, obviously, were apoplectic.

UPDATE #2: Meanwhile, in Israel and Palestine reaction is mostly positive. Prime Minister Netanyahu, President (and fellow Nobel laureate) Shimon Peres, and Defense Minister Ehud Barak all had warm things to say, as did chief Palestinian peace negotiator Saeb Erekat. In addition to the aforementioned Islamic Jihad, Hamas was displeased with Obama winning the award, and a chilly reception also went out from Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin (Likud), who called the decision "very strange".


Grant said...

There must be innumerable laudable causes and organizations in the world that could really use some extra encouragement and publicity. I submit that a quite popular president of the most powerful country in the world is probably quite low on that list.

People have pointed out the real good remarks Obama made when he got the news, and that the Prize is often about encouragement. Those things, in my mind, reduce the decision from "slap in the face insulting to the people who have actually done great things in the world" to "remarkably stupid." As you say, it's good to keep straight that symbolic prizes and whatnot aren't THAT important. But this just seems like a blockhead move by the folks running this show.

Chris Brown said...

All you guys do is complain and bitch about Obama this and Obama that, what has he done to you that Bush didn't start, Hello wasn't Bush the one that started the war ? Or wasn't he the reason Gas went sky high, also he's the reason we lost our jobs and our houses are in foreclosure since Obama came in office I was able to afford school, and make something out of my self you people that talk all this nonsense about one's accomplishments are simply selfish ignorant morons who have nothing better to do but throw your tea partys and juice up prejudice if he had been a White man you would be happy and cheering but because he is black you are talking shit and spreading nothing but hate if you even dare claim to be a christian I cast your sorry asses to hell. Because of Obama your un-employed asses are able to log online and talk and spread this hate, I mean think about all the drama in florida with everything going on Republicans did this to our Country not Obama and if you believe everything the press says you are a stupid fuck, Wake up people wake the hell up.

And yes I'm proud to be BLACK

PG said...

Chris, the only source I've seen thus far that seemed to be kind of racist about this was (surprise) Fox News:

"OSLO -- Despite less than one year in office and leading two wars, President Obama snatched the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize on Friday, stunning the world one week after failing to win an Olympic bid for his adopted hometown."

Yes, there's a certain amount of "this belonged to a deserving white person and the black dude mugged him for it."

But that's really the only one. It is surprising for Obama to have been nominated two weeks after he took office. However, when one looks at Nobel's will and the basis for awarding the Peace Prize("to the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses"), Obama's efforts to recover international cooperation from Bush's ravages are significant.

PG said...

Oops, wait, here's another:

Erick Erickson, writing on the conservative, suggested Obama won in part because he is black.

"I did not realize the Nobel Peace Prize had an affirmative action quota for it, but that is the only thing I can think of for this news," Erickson wrote. "There is no way Barack Obama earned it in the nominations period."

party said...

Actually i thought what he had done in past month weather he deserve the Noble prize..

Matthew said...

I can't believe Chris Brown would show his face on the Debate Link after what he did to Rhianna.

Sam Kaufman said...

it would seem that Obama winning the Nobel Peace prize represents a vote of confidence from Europe -- nice improvement

Lisa said...

I think the Nobel Prize is an honor for the President, he was very gracious about accepting it.

PG said...

BTW, does an organization that dubs itself "Islamic Jihad" seem likely to want *anyone* to win a peace prize?