The announcement that Barack Obama has won the Nobel Peace prize today came like a bolt out of the blue. How can a man who has been in office just nine months warrant such an accolade? Whilst I am completely pro-Obama, and think he’s getting an undeservedly harsh time in America over health care reform, this prize does seem absurd.
Obama had only been in office for two weeks when he was nominated for the award, and since then he has refused talks with the Dalai Llama (an earlier Nobel peace laureate) for fear of angering China. This is hardly the kind of behaviour that will bring about world peace. Obama has been greatly ambitious in his aim of global nuclear disarmament, and it will be interesting to see how he goes about this, but so far (and I have to agree with the Saturday Night Live critics here) it is more talk than action.
Given three more years in office, Obama may well merit the Nobel Peace Prize. But giving it to him now, just as the honeymoon period wanes in the States, is surely evidence that the world is still celebrating him, whilst his electorate have started to see past the wave of hollow optimism which ushered in his presidency.
Obama becomes the fourth American president to win the Nobel Peace Prize and by far the fastest. Previously Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson and Jimmy Carter have won the prize, but they had to wait five, six and 25 years respectively after their inauguration before becoming laureates. This context makes Obama’s nine months to win the prize all the more ludicrous. I am certain that the smooth-talking president will come out with a statement of modesty, and so he ought. His work to bring about world peace has only just begun.