Barack Obama and the Nobel Prize
The Nobel Academy’s surprise announcement that Barack Obama will be the recipient of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize for his, ‘for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples’ is an unexpected turn of events. The Nobel prize has been awarded since 1901, though it is not given out in years that the Academy do not believe that work undertaken in the previous year has been of such importance that granting the prize would be worthwhile. There have been five Irish winners of the prize; John Hume and David Trimble in 1998, Betty Williams and Mairead Corrigan in 1976 as well as Sean McBride in 1974. Previous US Presidents have won the award though not while in office; for example, Jimmy Carter in 2002 for his work with the Carter Foundation.
The Norwegian Committee has emphasised Obama’s policy as regard to nuclear weapons, though given Russian President Medvedev‘s agreement to enter into talks regarding Russian policy on the reduction of nuclear stockpiles, it is somewhat surprising that the Academy did not seek to award some similar acknowledgement to him.
The other reason given by the Academy is with regard to America’s re-engagement with international diplomacy and law under the Obama administration. However this seems to simply reward the type of engagement that most other countries carry on with the vast majority of the time. While certainly the Bush years were not the time of multilateral engagement and openness by the United States, it seems strange to reward a President for returning to normal diplomacy.
While this is not as strange a choice as say Henry Kissinger by the Academy, I do sincerely hope that Barack Obama works to deserve the accolade bestowed by working towards peace in Afghanistan and ensuring a peaceful solution can be found to Iran’s nuclear policies.