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.
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"Criticism of [Jagland] is really picking up after this announcement. He had a lot of influence over the decision,'' says Mr. Borgen. "The Nobel Committee is supposed to be completely independent and nothing to do with the Norweigan parliament. But Jaglund has been prime minister, minister for foreign affairs and president of the parliament.”Skip to next paragraph
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Jagland, on the left side of Norwegian politics, is deeply interested in Middle East peace. He was one of the five members of the commission led by George Mitchell in 2000 that led to the creation of the so-called "road map" for peace that is still the framework for ongoing negotiations. Mr. Mitchell, a former US senator, was named Obama's Middle East envoy earlier this year.
Announcing the award, Jagland insisted that we "are not awarding the prize for what may happen in the future, but for what he has done in the previous year" and praised Obama for going "to Cairo to try to reach out to the Muslim world, then to restart the Mideast negotiations, and then he reached out to the rest of the world through international institutions."
Jagland, like Obama, is a big fan of international institutions - he once nominated the European Union for the Nobel Peace Prize. Yet while Obama's speech to the Muslim world in Cairo has been widely praised, Palestinians and other Arabs have been grumbling of late that they were empty words with limited follow-through.
Jagland seemed to hint at this in his further comments, when he addressed the political intent behind the award. "We are hoping this may contribute a little bit for what he is trying to do.... [The prize] is a clear signal to the world that we want to advocate the same as he has done to promote international diplomacy."
Martin Indyk of the Brookings Institution in Washington, writes that the atmospherics behind the award are politically useful for Obama. "Winning over world opinion, which the Nobel prize award signifies, can help. It frees up governments to respond positively to Obama's call for them to assume their responsibilities. And that in turn puts pressure on rogue leaders to mend their ways and join the developing international consensus," he wrote. "But if it turns out that George Will is right and Obama ends up being "adored but ignored" then the Nobel committee will have done him no favors."
Borgen argues that rewarding Obama now devalues the Nobel. “It’s too early to award a peace prize to a president who has only been working eight months and has really done nothing for peace,” he says. “A president who plans to send 40,000 soldiers to fight a war in Afghanistan should not be given the Nobel peace prize especially given that the numbers of civilians being killed is at the same level as it was under George W. Bush."