I was at Heathrow Airport last week when the news came along that President Obama had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. The award made sense there. The buzz in Europe is hopeful, and people are asking any American they can find: “Will Obama be able to make a difference?”
The Nobel Prize choice is more sensible than the analysis spread forth even by so-called middle-of-the-road news media, let alone the explosive rants on the cable-news-right, where some bloviating big mouths seemed likely to explode in the gross, gluttonous style of a Mike Myers character in Wayne’s World.
A lot of people in Europe are troubled by strident ignorance on the extreme right in the U.S.
Yes, of course, the award is political. The Nobel committee and millions of others outside the United States think that Barack Obama embodies their optimism in what they think the United States is all about.
The prize also applies pressure at a time when the president has big decisions to make – think Afghanistan, where the choices of troop involvement and fighting terrorism are monumental. It’s a call to the U.S. – find the peaceful solution.
Sure, as one cartoonist joked, it’s the No-Bush Prize; another said that in one way it’s like giving a gold medal to a runner at the starting line. And of course, President Obama could have refused the award with a “thanks anyway,” saying he hadn’t done anything yet.
But that all would be missing the point. First of all, you can’t separate the award from the context. President Obama, in part, said this:
…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.
World opinion supports President Obama’s move toward changing the world order – something simple, like saying that sometimes, we have to speak to countries identified as “our enemies,” instead of just threatening to invade and bomb them. Now, the Nobel Committee reminds him that the world is watching – on Afghanistan, Iran and the Middle East, above all.
Less than a year after his election, the U.S. has grown vastly in international public esteem.
Suddenly, people admire the U.S. once more.
President Obama might have refused the award, but it would have been wrong. The peace committee, to the extent that singling out any person for any award makes a difference, recognizes this particular person in this case who has the power in hand to change course and make profound decisions on war and peace.
The timing was just right.
– Peter Eisner