Editorials and Opinions

Opposing Viewpoints: Barack Obama’s recent Nobel Peace Prize win is a signal of impending progress

By Alice Lee
Published: December 2009

When I first heard that the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize was to be awarded to President Barack Obama, I can’t deny that I was surprised. Nominations for the Prize were postmarked in February 2009′€just a week or two after the President took office. And I was unaware of any extraordinary act of diplomacy that merited the Peace Prize.

According to the Nobel Committee, the Prize recognized Obama’s efforts at solving complex global problems, like nuclear warfare, with dialogue and negotiation. Unlike previous awards, the Committee focused not on any specific action but on the change in international climate that the new President has cultivated and the way that he has “given people hope for a better future.

The Committee’s decision this year is, above all, a rally for hope; in awarding the Peace Prize to a man who espouses hope above all else’€whether or not it is fully realistic’€it signals its own hope that Obama will live up to the title. The President’s preliminary efforts and inspirational rhetoric have secured him an approving nod, and he now has an obligation to put his money where his mouth is.

This is not to say that Obama has been thus far sitting on his hands. His American envoy in the Middle East, George Mitchell, is currently advocating for peace negotiations between Israel and Palestine. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has been in discussions with European leaders about international efforts to end Iran and North Korea’s nuclear programs.

But the fact is that the President’s body of work is still to come. While some say that is grounds for why he should not receive the Peace Prize, I say that the Committee’s reasoning has some basis. Few can deny that Obama’s vision and inspiration has changed the atmosphere of global politics.

Of course, those who make the case that Obama has not pulled troops from Afghanistan’€and in fact approved a significant troop increase’€are not wrong in their facts. But they argue that these decisions make him a “man of war and thus completely disqualify him from receiving any praise as a peacemaker.

While I will pass no judgments on the troop surge, it must be acknowledged that the President’s objective is not warmongering, but stabilization and security, which he considers necessary for the health of the nation. His ultimate goal is peace, and for the time being he is taking what he believes is essential action.

Obama’s win was unexpected, that is certain. While I do believe that he deserves recognition for the hope he has inspired’€no mean feat’€whether or not it merits something so extreme as a Nobel Peace Prize is another question entirely.

But as I see it, instead of protesting or denouncing the Committee’s choice or bemoaning Obama’s short time in office, people should see the award as a signal that global peace, or efforts toward it, are soon to come.

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