Friday, October 9, 2009

Has the Nobel Peace Prize Jumped the Shark?

According to Alex Massie, it has.

I like President Obama and I admire what he's trying to do, but after less than ten months in office, this seems a bit premature.

Can Obama already be "the person who [has] done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses"?

Slate's John Dickerson says no.

The Peace Prize Committee has suggested that it's merely trying to encourage the president to hold fast on his commitments to diplomacy and nuclear arms reduction. Thorbjoern Jagland, the head of the Committee, said today, "It was because we would like to support what he is trying to achieve."

This seems like a well-intentioned argument -- we certainly should support many of the goals that the president has outlined -- but I think earning a Nobel Prize makes the president's job more difficult in ways both practical and political.

WaPo's Glenn Kessler has a good analysis of the problems that could arise from awarding this kind of "aspirational" Peace Prize so early into President Obama's first term.

Update: The president strikes the right tone:

"Let me be clear: I do not view it a recognition of my own accomplishments but rather as an affirmation of American leadership on behalf of aspirations held by people in all nations," he said.

“To be honest, I do not feel I deserve to be in the company of so many of the transformative figures who have been honoured by this prize."

Update II: I think Megan McArdle is right:

I guess I must hate America, but I actually think it's kind of ludicrous that anyone is even trying to argue that Barack Obama truly deserves this Nobel Peace Prize. Could he have deserved it, after he'd had more than nine months in office? Easily. But he hasn't had time to, y'know, accomplish anything. Unless they're giving out the Prize these days for stimulus bills and banking sector interventions. The committee claims they awarded it for his "extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples"? Can even his most ardent supporters come up with any effort he's made that really qualifies as more extraordinary than those of everyone else in the world?

It's not like I want to take the prize away, and I'm certainly not angry about it . . . but I'd rather have seen Barack Obama honored for something besides not being George W. Bush.

I couldn't agree more.

Certainly, the reaction from many conservatives has been overstated (and in some cases, down right offensive), but it's absurd for some on the left to suggest that questioning whether President Obama actually deserves this award amounts to being unpatriotic.

I assume this criticism would also apply to the president himself?

Update III: NPR political commentators E.J. Dionne and David Brooks discuss whether the president should have accepted the Nobel Peace Prize.

Update IV: Peter Beinart, who blogs for The Daily Beast, writes:

The Nobel Prize Committee should be in the business of conferring celebrity on unknown human-rights and peace activists toiling in the most god-forsaken parts of the world; the people who really need the attention (and even the money). It should be in the business of angering powerful tyrants by giving their victims a moment in the sun. Choosing Barack Obama, who practically orbits the sun already, accomplishes the exact opposite of that. Let’s hope Obama eventually deserves this award. And let’s hope the Nobel Committee’s decision meets with such a deafening chorus of chortles and jeers that it never does something this stupid again.

1 comment:

MediaMaven said...

I agree. On the surface, it's merely sensational, not a real appraisal of the work that Obama's done. It's not yet deserved.