The international politics behind Obama's Nobel Peace prize
The Nobel Peace Prize awarded to Barack Obama appears to be an effort to spur on, rather than reward, peacemaking.
STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN; and BOSTON -- The surprise decision to award President Barack Obama the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize had much of the world scratching its head on Friday, even among the president's most ardent fans. Less than a year into office, the young president has made lofty promises, committed his administration to diplomacy, and convinced the world that a less belligerent America is in the offing.Skip to next paragraph
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But he is also the commander-in-chief for the Afghan and Iraq wars, as well as ongoing lower-scale US military efforts in Pakistan, the Horn of Africa, and the Philippines. Later on Friday, Obama will hold a strategy session with his war cabinet that could lead to a commitment of more combat troops to Afghanistan. A commentator on Britain's Sky News captured the mood well when he said it appeared Obama had won the prize for "not being George Bush."
America's international standing was at a nadir by the end of the Bush administration, and Obama's decision to negotiate with Iran over its nuclear program (already bearing some fruit) and promises to reinvigorate US efforts in Israel-Palestinian peacemaking have quickly remade America's international image, with the US leaping into the top spot in a recent survey on the world's most admired countries. That's especially so in Europe, where Obama's decision to cancel a planned missile-shield system in Eastern Europe that had rankled Russia has been widely praised.
And the five-member Norwegian committee that picks the annual peace-prizewinner clearly has something more in mind than simply giving Obama a $1 million high-five for being such a popular guy. Unlike the other Nobels, which are given for a lifetime of generally indisputable high achievement in areas like physics, chemistry, and literature, the peace prize has often been awarded more in hope than hindsight -- and with an eye to nudging world events.