On Friday, President Barack Obama won the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize. All Americans can share some national pride — and try to embrace some of the optimism — reflected in the Norwegian committee’s decision to honor our freshman president’s efforts and intentions.
Even the five-member committee — elected by the left-leaning Norwegian Parliament — acknowledged the award is intended to honor the new tone Mr. Obama has brought to international diplomacy, rather than for any concrete accomplishments, which could hardly be expected after a mere eight months in office.
The stunning announcement — even the president’s strongest supporters assumed the committee would wait a few years to see what kind of fruit Mr. Obama’s initiatives bear — may have resulted in part from the lack of other high-profile nominees. Speculation had focused on such candidates as Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, a Colombian senator, a Chinese dissident and an Afghan women’s rights activist.
The president accepted the award with good grace, and he deserves congratulations.
All that said, however, it was a jaw-dropping decision that could hurt Mr. Obama by implying he has won a series of struggles which still lie before him, and before us. It was also a choice that can only further undercut the reputation of the Nobel Prizes for gravitas and sagacity, accelerating the 20-year tendency of the outfit to promote leftist political goals and indulge in modern liberalism’s most pathetic foible, that being to place high-flying rhetoric and the assertion of good intentions ahead of actual accomplishments.
In his 1895 will, chemist Alfred Nobel — in part based on his dismay at the military uses of his best-known invention, dynamite — stipulated that the peace prize should go “to the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between the nations and the abolition or reduction of standing armies and the formation and spreading of peace congresses.”
Up till 20 years ago, the Peace Prize honored those wishes while maintaining some real-world credibility. The Nobel committee’s real divorce from reality began to become apparent when the 1990 prize went not to Ronald Reagan for helping bring down the slave empire of the Soviets, but (incredibly) to his adversary, Mikhail Gorbachev, honored for his last-ditch attempts to keep bankrupt Russian communism afloat, which the committee chose to interpret as “helping bring the Cold War to an end.”
The 1994 prize went to Yasser Arafat, who drove his own people into exile and poverty by trying to violently overthrow the government of Jordan, and never gave up his goal of “driving the Jews into the sea.”
The 2007 prize went to former American Vice President Al Gore for promoting the economic suicide of the West in the name of halting “man-made global warming.”
And now this?
Associated Press writers Karl Ritter and Matt Moore may have gotten to the heart of the matter Friday, reporting: “The award appeared to be at least partly a slap at Bush from a committee that harshly criticized Obama’s predecessor for his largely unilateral military action in the wake of the Sept. 11 terror attacks.”
It appears Barack Obama just won the Nobel Peace Prize for precisely the same accomplishment that got him elected president: He’s not George W. Bush.
What we have yet to see is whether that’s enough.