Obama’s actions not enough for Nobel Prize

The Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded President Barack Obama the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize on Oct. 9 for “his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy.”

But many people are wondering, what exactly were those efforts?

He hasn’t done anything concrete to bring peace to the world. But the Nobel committee praises “his vision of a world free from nuclear arms.”

But is that enough to win the award?

The United States is still at war in Afghanistan and Iraq, and Obama ordered another 21,000 troops to fight in Afghanistan earlier this year. This, combined with a slight reduction in global nuclear weapons stockpiles since Obama took office, has some believing the award came a little too soon.

The Times of London editorialized its disdain with the decision on Oct. 9.

“Rarely has an award had such an obvious political and partisan intent,” the Times said. “It was clearly seen by the Norwegian Nobel committee as a way of expressing European gratitude for the end to the Bush Administration.”

The Nobel committee is simply trying to make sure Obama ends what the Bush Administration began. After all, won’t winning the peace prize make the president think twice about sending additional troops overseas?

The Times also said, “The prize risks looking preposterous in its claims, patronizing in its intentions and demeaning in its attempts to build up a man who has barely begun his period in office, let alone achieve any tangible outcome for peace.”

This is another valid point. Unlike former Nobel-winning presidents such as Theodore Roosevelt and Jimmy Carter, Obama was nominated for the award less than two weeks after taking office.

Surely the president hasn’t accomplished as much as many past winners such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Mother Teresa.

How about something that hits a little closer to home?

On Oct. 2, non-profit organization Hope For The City chose the Rev. Dennis Dease, university president, for its “Partner in Hope Award,” praising his work establishing community medical clinics in Uganda. Run by nurse practitioners, these clinics charge patients an affordable price in places where there is little available health care. By 2015, Dease hopes to have 400 clinics around Uganda providing accessible, affordable health care.

Making basic health care accessible to every individual in a developing country is certainly more impressive than a bunch of pre-presidential rhetoric.

Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele said it best.

“It is unfortunate that the president’s star power has outshined tireless advocates who have made real achievements working towards peace and human rights.”

Others, like 2005 Nobel Peace Prize winner Mohamed ElBaradei, disagree with this statement. They believe President Obama has already shown outstanding leadership and has spread a message of hope.

“In less than a year in office, he has transformed the way we look at ourselves and the world we live in and rekindled hope for a world at peace with itself,” ElBaradei said.

President Obama’s reaction? He said in his acceptance speech that he was “most surprised and deeply humbled.”

My reaction was shared with many around the world: most surprised and deeply disappointed.

Zach Pagano can be reached at paga7147@stthomas.edu

20 Replies to “Obama’s actions not enough for Nobel Prize”

  1. Great observation, the only nation that will reduce arms under Obama’s watch will be the USA. That leaves many other dangerous nations with weapons. How do you think that will work out for the USA. Do you think a weaker USA will bring about the HOPE for peace? If you think anyone, let alone Obama, is going to talk Russia, North Korea or Iran out of their weapons they need to wake up.

  2. “In less than a year in office, he has transformed the way we look at ourselves and the world we live in and rekindled hope for a world at peace with itself,” ElBaradei said.


    Speak for yourself my friend…

  3. Our president’s comment was most appropriate. Great honor for every American, I believe. You needn’t feel disappointed – an in-appropriate reaction for any American, but certainly you may choose to feel the way you do. I don’t.

  4. Clearly, both the the history of Nobel Peace Prize and the timeline of Obama’s presidency is lost on some of the commentors and the author. While I will not attempt to to present opinion as fact, there are several reasons for President Obama’s bequeathment of the Nobel Peace Prize.

    Firstly, the selection is made sometime in February, as such the following acts were completed by the President beforehand:
    January 20th: A halt on regulations left by the Bush Administration pending review.
    January 22th: Signed an executive order to close Guantanamo Bay detention camp within a year, signs a prohibition on using torture techniques, and ssued an executive order entitled “Ethics Commitments by Executive Branch Personnel”.

    Secondly, if one is going to successfully challenge this selection, then they should be able to challenge previous Laureates as well. For example, in 1997 the award went to the International Campaign to Ban Landmines and Jody Williams (the primary spokesperson). I wholeheartedly support banning landmines and personally feel the campaign also deserved their award, but if you are strictly looking for some sort of tangible effect there it is not there. Major success did not come to the campaign until December 1997 (10 months after the Campaign was selected) when a treaty was signed to ban landmines.

    This meaningless challenge on the President seems rooted in an unnecessary standard established merely to show how far he stands from it. The only possible way to show how undeserving President Obama is to show exactly how he deviates from Alfred Nobel’s desription of a potential recipient, “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.” To contend that the fact that he has not literally ordered soldiers from occupied nations would discredit many of the previous Laureates as well as prevent those without such abilities from ever winning.

  5. well Al Gore won it… and he didn’t really do much besides make a documentary and buy carbon credits… from himself

  6. I am with Zach and Jim. I think the Nobel Committee made a travesty of the Peace Prize! I do not understand how someone who has not brought one of our fighting men home since he went to office and continues to send them to Iraq and Afghanastan can be considered to receive a Peace Prize. There is certainly been no peace for the families of the men who are have lost their lives there since he has been in office.

  7. Yes, it is nice to have an American win the Peace Prize.

    But I think the entire world is left scratching their heads after this one…

  8. Thank you Brett for saying just about everything I was hoping to say! The fact that he has not brought home soldiers seems relevant until you understand the peace that they are bringing in Afghanistan. No one can even imagine the war and destruction that would come about if the U.S. were to abandon any force in Afghanistan. Contrary to the belief of “Mission Accomplished,” the Taliban has risen to power again in Afghanistan and minorities are being persecuted as bad as ever. It is also common knowledge that there has been a significant reduction in troops in Iraq… Its funny that when President Obama loses a fight to get the Olympics in the US ‘we’ cheer and then he wins the Nobel Peace Prize and ‘we’ boo. It seems like if he ended world hunger ‘we’ would simply complain that he overpopulated the planet. Is this argument really over the Nobel Prize or is it about the Presidency itself?

  9. The Nobel Committee has done something extraordinary… it has awarded the world’s most prestigious prize for making the world a better and safer place, to a man who has made some terrific speeches. It is the ultimate triumph of style over substance.

    Sure, President Obama may very well bring about nuclear disarmament and universal world peace. At this point, however, he has only made a handful of speeches about them. Have we seen one nuclear enrichment plant halted? How about one missile program?

    In a world where there are real nuclear weapons and real enemies, the notion that the perception of peace matters more than is reality is not just absurd, it’s dangerous.

    Ronald Reagan brought down the Iron Curtain, freed millions from tyranny, ended the Cold War, defeated the Soviet Union, ELIMINATED tens of thousands of nuclear weapons, and he didn’t even get an honorable mention from the Nobel Committee. Obama makes (by my count) 7 great speeches and he gets a Nobel Peace Prize. Go figure.

  10. I have been an Obama supporter since the primaries. His message of hope is exactly what this country needed, especially after 8… interesting years. But I doubt that I am alone in wondering whether this award is slightly premature.

    It’s hard to point to a single place where Obama’s efforts have actually brought about peace (Gaza, Iran?)

    President Obama is being rewarded for his “extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy.” But while it’s ok to give school children prizes for “effort” (my kids get them all the time) I think international statesmen should probably be held to a higher standard.

  11. This isn’t unprecedented, so if you think the nobel prize has lost credibility it lost it long ago. Look at the leaders in the Mideast who won the award for their willingness to engage in the peace process. The award isn’t always about results- in fact with politicians it’s often a means of encouragement to make progress on expressed ideals. Imagine the pressure he’s now under to follow through on his promises. If that’s the spirit it was given in, then I support it.

  12. Brett, you make a very clear point. I wouldn’t go as far to say President Obama is the “best qualified” recipient in the history of the award. I wouldn’t say that winning the award makes him a better president. I do agree that he was qualified for the award, and positive things can come from him winning the award. However, now the pressure really is on. He better clean up the nukes, the torture and the government corruption.

  13. It would be very unfortunate if President Obama took this award as a sign that he’s doing a stellar job and should plow ahead in the same manner. Thus far, a whole lot as been said about health care, closing Guantanamo and sorting out Afghanistan, but very little has gotten done.

    And before anyone replies with the old “He’s only been president 3 months/6 months/9 months, give the man a chance!” rallying cry, let me remind you: 9 months is close to a quarter of a presidential term, and he is by no means guaranteed a second one. He can only count on strong Democratic majorities in Congress for another year; there’s no telling what will happen in 2010’s midterm elections.

    The President doesn’t have the luxury of time, so he needs to get serious about his agenda and hop to it. Giving Obama an award right now doesn’t push him any closer to doing so.

  14. @Tom- I don’t think he saw it that way at all. He KNOWS he hasn’t done much yet, and i think if anything, this might be a sign for him to act on all the promises he’s made.

  15. It was too soon. There may be a time when President Obama is deserving of this award, but for now, he will have to try his best to live up it.

  16. +

    A man who advocates the killing of millions of unborn human beings, each with a unique DNA of the human species, is no advocate of peace. Any other good things he may do, sadly pale in comparison to his support for abortion and infanticide.

  17. Oh boy…. here we go. I’m not getting into the abortion argument, but he’s not advocating killing anyone. He’s saying that it’s the woman’s right to choose what she does with her body, her child, whatever. he’s NOT saying “hey everyone, go get an abortion!” and it’s not like people ENJOY getting abortions. Your argument seems a bit off-topic though…. just let everyone have their own beliefs, k?

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