My Own Mixed Reaction To Obama Peace Prize

Being on the west coast sometimes means you react to news stories a little behind the curve and since others had already posted I thought I’d wait a bit to gather my own thoughts on this issue.

I think most people who read my posts know that I did not vote for the President last November and while I agree with him on some subjects I have also expressed my dismay over the growing deficit and other policies that I think could be harmful to the country. At the same time I’ve expressed the view that I think he is a good man who wants to do the best he can for the country.

I guess you’d call me a generally respectful sometimes critic.

So when looking to this award a couple of thoughts come to mind. Certainly as an American I am going to be proud of any other American who wins a Nobel Prize, whether it be a President winning the Peace Prize or a doctor winning the prize for Medicine.

But if they awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine to someone who had just started doing research that might someday lead to a cure for a disease, I would be confused as to why they got the award now. The same views apply in this situation, where the President has been in office for less than a year (and who was nominated 11 days after taking office).

The statement released with the award recognizes that it is being made more for the inspiration than for the actual, but is this really appropriate ? The prize is the Nobel Prize for Peace, not the Nobel Prize for Inspiration and Good Intent.

Indeed one of the areas where I have been critical of the President is that he has not yet moved to withdraw our forces from Iraq and Afghanistan. It seems therefore doubly odd that he gets the prize while we are still at war. Taking the Prize for Medicine analogy again it would be like the doctor who hoped to cure the disease in the future had failed to stop policies that caused the disease. Obviously in the case of Iraq and Afghanistan I recognize that these things take time, but it would then seem logical that the Peace Prize could wait until a future date.

Some comparisons have been made between this award and the award of the Prize to Martin Luther in 1964. But when King won the award he had already spent a decade or more as the leader of the Civil Rights Movement and we had seen some real concrete accomplishments. Certainly part of the award was for his inspirational impact but it was also recognizing all the real accomplishments.

Looking at the reaction in the blogosphere it seems that even some on the left are a bit confused by this award, with many encouraging Obama to politely decline the award as premature. Kudos to those on the left who, while supportive of Obama, recognize that some things are just not quite right.

Sadly some of the other reactions are too typical, with many right leaning bloggers using it as an excuse for a partisan attack on Obama while some on the harder left use it as a way to attack anyone who dares to question Obama.

In some ways the situation almost reminds me of how you feel when you win a game or get an award in high school because your best friend was on the awards committee or because the other team was missing their best player. You are proud of winning but still have that feeling that maybe you didn’t really earn the win.

Again, as an American there is always for me going to be pride in the award of a Nobel Prize to any of my fellow citizens, even if I may not support their political agenda. But I’d be a lot prouder of the award if I did not have the feeling that this award wasn’t really earned.

Author: PATRICK EDABURN, Assistant Editor

23 Comments

  1. But if they awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine to someone who had just started doing research that might someday lead to a cure for a disease, I would be confused as to why they got the award now.

    It’s worse than that though. It’s a bit like giving it to “Bill Nye the Science Guy” because you feel he’s sure to inspire some kid to go on to great discoveries.

  2. God we are arrogant. Decline the award because some believe that it is not deserved? Stating that you do not believe that you deserve the award, yet humbling accepting it is the proper and respectful way to handle it. Who are we to determine who does and does not deserve the award? I thought that was the Nobel committee's job?

  3. I guess the question begs, Patrick.

    To whom do you think the Nobel Peace Prize should have gone?

  4. The Dutch newspaper Volkskrant has, for whatever it's worth, provided a partial answer to the question, “Why did Obama receive the Nobel Peace Prize,”

    It says,

    “Obama heeft de Nobelprijs voor de Vrede gewonnen. Waarom? Omdat hij zich zo heeft ingespannen voor de internationale diplomatie. Omdat hij zoveel mensen hoop op een betere toekomst heeft gegeven. Omdat hij vindt dat degenen die de wereld leiden, dit moeten doen op basis van de waarden en houdingen, die door de meerderheid van de wereldbevolking worden gedeeld.”

    I'll be busy translating the article today, but basically it says:

    “Obama has won the Nobel Peace Prize. Why? Because he has put so much effort into international diplomacy. Because he has given so many people hope for a better future. Because he believes that those who lead the world, must do so based on values and principles that are shared by a majority of the world’s population.”

    I know, sounds like a bunch of “feel-good stuff.” But if the Dutch, and many other nationalities, find some merit and some pride in this event, is it asking too much for Americans to share a little bit of it?

    Perhaps it is…

  5. “The earth and I are more like cousins than actual friends, but I have to admit that it and the sun did a darned good job with the tomatoes in my back yard this summer. I can assure you that represents a decisive break from the past. I don't expect a Nobel for my bright promise of next year's tasty Beefsteaks and Early Girls, but now that they've started giving Nobel prizes for good things that could happen in the future, I'm as eligible as the next guy, right? As for now, well, I'm no Hendrick Danckerts — who is? — but I'm still a little disappointed to be overlooked. I even think they knew about my plans to build a shed.”

    – Larry Neal, spokesman for U.S. Representative Joe Barton, R-TX

    “Think about it, it's so post-modern: a leader can now win the peace prize for saying that he hopes to bring about peace at some point in the future. He doesn't actually have to do it, he just has to have aspirations. Brilliant.”

    – Iain Martin

    “The announcement certainly suggests that Europeans attach more importance to the president’s efforts to change the tone and the approach of American foreign policy than do many of the president’s own countrymen and women. The committee’s announcement made it clear that talking about international cooperation, a new era of cooperation with the Islamic world, reducing if not eliminating nuclear weapons, and ending an era of America unilateralism were enough for now.

    Americans hear such goals laid out in a speech and tend to ask: So what have you done about it yet? The committee’s view seems to be different; it is saying that, to the rest of the world, changing the words alone is a big deal.”

    – Gerald Seib

    “Al Gore at least had to write a couple of books and make a documentary to win one-half of a Nobel Peace Prize. President Barack Obama has won the whole thing, apparently just for his intentions to do something about nuclear weapons, climate change, and international strife.”

    – Keith Johnson

    “”The award is likely more for the promise of what Obama hopes to accomplish on global warming, nuclear weapons reduction, Middle East peace, and other issues than it is for what he's accomplished to date. Whether the award helps the president achieve those objectives remains to be seen.”

    – Alden Meyer (Union of Concerned Scientists)

    “[... It] reflects his commitment to tackle profoundly important issues and re-engage the world community, as well as his ability to inspire hope and optimism that bold change is possible.

    We have concerns though, that the Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded President Obama this award on the basis of expectations that have not yet been met. …”

    – Erich Pica (Friends of the Earth)

    * * *

    “I think it's thrilling that President Barack Obama has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. I think it's an honor for our country — it's an honor for him, first and foremost, but it's a honor for our country. I think it’s extremely well deserved. I think that much of what he has accomplished already is going to be far more appreciated in the eyes of history as it has been by the Nobel Committee in their announcement early this morning.

    Just to pick one example, I think it'll take some time before people put together all of the different moves that linked his speech at the United Nations on the phasing out of nuclear weapons, his shift on the missile defense program in Eastern Europe and the movement of Russia to join an international consensus that confronts Iran with the need to abide by the non-proliferation treaty. I cite that as only one of the examples that was included in the Nobel Committee's statement this morning.

    Another of the examples they used was his success in changing the way the world is approaching the climate crisis — the climatic challenges, as they put it — now confronting the world.”

    – Al Gore

  6. this selection of Barack Obama is growing on me. . .at first surprise?. . .but now as it settles i think it is a great choice that points to that which is deeper, the essence, the substance, the tone, the character, the civility, that which truly shapes the world that is so often never mentioned or acknowledged. . . a Nobel Peace Prize for Consciousness, a consciousness that attempts to hold to the light of the ideal in spite of the density of materialism and self-interest. . .

  7. Follow-up on my Dutch newspaper commentary on Obama winning the Nobel Peace Prize:

    As one who likes to write satire, I should have caught the satirical nature of the article almost right away…but it took me a while—thus, it was good satire.

    Guess what, it is an article that those on the right will just love and cheer.

    Now that I am committed (and have egg on my face) I will still post it, as I say to the delight of my right wing friends and critics.

    Stay tuned

  8. I, too, have mixed emotions.

    The first emotion that came to mind was, “Oh my goodness. Another Al Gore moment! What in the world had President Obama actually done to deserve this prestige.” In my mind, Al Gore did not deserve the award (and I still feel that way) and perhaps Obama did not as well.

    The second (more logical) emotion that came to mind was, “Well, that's great for Obama. A fellow American won the prize.”

    It's not as if he lobbied the Nobel Prize committee to win the award, as it appeared that Gore's people did. He is honestly (IMHO) trying to work toward peace, whether I agree with his tactics or not. Democrats tend to be less willing to go to war. That CAN be a problem when you have extremist dictators bending the world's will. However, it comes in handy when they are handing out Peace Prizes.

    I do agree with the article that states it may be like awarding the Prize for Medicine for someone beginning research, but what can you do? Nobel spoke and Obama won. I'll be the first conservative type to say, “Congratulations, President Obama”.

  9. I've just got to say this:

    “There are only two things I can't stand in this world. People who are intolerant of other people's cultures and the Dutch.” – Nigel Powers from Austin Powers: Goldmember.

  10. Some interesting responses.

    As to the comment on arrogance, I'm not sure if the intent was to call me arrogant or the many left leaning bloggers or Obama himself (since he said he doesn't merit the prize). I think it's perfectly reasonable to say that it's just not time yet. Martin Luther King certainly deserved the award in 1964 but for him to get it in 1955 would have been premature.

    As to who deserved the prize, I don't know because I don't really follow things that closely.

    But I can say that it's a little bit early for Obama.

    I may not have entirely agreed with Carter or Gore getting the prize, but I could at least see where they had a track record of doing things for many years. Obama may well do something in the coming years to merit an award but I just don't see how he's done it yet.

    Nonetheless, as I said in my post, I am proud that our President has won, I think all Americans should be proud when any American wins a Nobel Prize. But that doesn't mean I can't question whether it was a good idea.

  11. Well said, shannonlee.

  12. PE…I wasn't referring to you. I was referring to the people you were referring to :)

  13. I was just thinking about how horrible it will be if this award goes to Obama's head and he starts thinking he can really resolve some of these problems, like he was the President of the United States or something,

  14. I assumed as much but since the people I referenced were largely left bloggers and you seemed to be coming from the left, I thought it odd to attack your own side is all.

    After all Obama himself said he didn't think he merited the award yet.

  15. Lurxst:

    I don't think so, at least according to this note Obama sent, probably to virtually every Democrat:

    “Dorian –

    This morning, Michelle and I awoke to some surprising and humbling news. At 6 a.m., we received word that I'd been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 2009.

    To be honest, I do not feel that I deserve to be in the company of so many of the transformative figures who've been honored by this prize — men and women who've inspired me and inspired the entire world through their courageous pursuit of peace.

    But I also know that throughout history the Nobel Peace Prize has not just been used to honor specific achievement; it's also been used as a means to give momentum to a set of causes.

    That is why I've said that I will accept this award as a call to action, a call for all nations and all peoples to confront the common challenges of the 21st century. These challenges won't all be met during my presidency, or even my lifetime. But I know these challenges can be met so long as it's recognized that they will not be met by one person or one nation alone.

    This award — and the call to action that comes with it — does not belong simply to me or my administration; it belongs to all people around the world who have fought for justice and for peace. And most of all, it belongs to you, the men and women of America, who have dared to hope and have worked so hard to make our world a little better.

    So today we humbly recommit to the important work that we've begun together. I'm grateful that you've stood with me thus far, and I'm honored to continue our vital work in the years to come.

    Thank you,

    President Barack Obama “

  16. Looking a gift horse in the mouth is bad form.

    This is a glorious moment. We should admire our President for his genuine humility.

    I think I will buy a Nobel medal lapel button and wear it for a month.

    Yes indeedy.

  17. Way to go, F.T.!

    Let me know where I can get one of those lapel pins

    Dorian

  18. As I've said I prefer the President's own reaction, which is to acknowledge this is a bit early.

    If even questioning this is unacceptable to some, so be it. But I have to ask everyone to consider, what if a person you did not like politically (say Bush) had won the prize. Would you adopt the same view or would you be upset ?

    Just food for though

  19. I fail to see the benefit it declining the award, except to appease for a moment or two those on the domestic front who will criticize him for something else seconds later.

    This is a rare opportunity for a sitting U.S. President to take sole possession of th global stage to press his agenda for nuclear disarmament, climate change, and – as I suggested in other posts, perhaps bring a person like Sima Simar in Afghanistan – emphasize the benefits of U.S. policies.

    BTW, I would feel the same about Bush. If the POTUS represents the our nation, what is the value in declining other than – maybe – gaining some political points on the domestic front?

  20. I, for one, respect your opinion and your reactions, Patrick, and certainly do not think that they “are unacceptable.”

    I just happen to have a different opinion.

    As to what if GWB “had won the prize,” yes, I would have been one of the many who would have loudly said that he does not deserve it, and given a pagefull of reasons.

    I guess that is being honest enough, albeit not objective and “fair” enough to many.

    Thanks for your post,

    Dorian

  21. I did not mean to imply you did not, simply that in the broader blogosphere there are some on the left who do not tolerate any dissent to Obama, just as there were some who felt that way on Bush.

    Thanks for the kind and thoughtful comments.

  22. Good point. Lets see, had Bush won in Oct. 2001, I would have cheered. Had he won Oct. 2005, I would have demanded a vote recount.

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