Nobel Committee, Strategic as Ever, Taps Obama for Peace Prize

Friday, 09 October 2009 09:12 By Robert Naiman, t r u t h o u t | News Analysis | name.

Nobel Peace Prize.
In a surprise announcement, US President Barack Obama was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace. (Photo:

    The Norwegian Nobel Committee has awarded the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize to President Obama.

    Some initial commentary has called the award unprecedented and wondered why the committee would give President Obama the award when he "hasn't done anything yet."

    But anyone who thinks this award is unprecedented hasn't been paying attention.

Also see below:     
President Obama Wins Nobel Peace Prize    â€¢

    The Nobel Committee gave South African Bishop Desmond Tutu the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 for his leadership efforts to abolish apartheid in South Africa. Apartheid wasn't fully abolished in South Africa until 1994. The committee could have waited until after apartheid was abolished to say, "Well done!" But the point of the award was to help bring down apartheid by strengthening Bishop Tutu's efforts. In particular, everyone knew that it was going to be much harder for the apartheid regime to crack down on Tutu after the Nobel Committee wrapped him in its protective cloak of world praise.

    That's what the Nobel Committee is trying to do for Obama now. It's giving an award to encourage the change in world relations that Obama has promised, and to try to help shield Obama against his domestic adversaries. The committee is well aware that history is contingent and that Obama might fail. It knows very well that the same country that elected Obama also gave the world George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan.

    The initial steps that Obama has taken are already under fierce attack. The Obama administration has now recognized that the Afghan Taliban are not a threat to the United States and that the United States can live with the Afghan Taliban playing a role in the government of Afghanistan. But right-wing forces in the military, Congress, think tanks and the media are denouncing these moves toward sanity as surrender. They want a full-out Vietnam against the Taliban.

    The Obama administration has begun its promised diplomatic engagement with Iran. Of course, as every honest person knew, real engagement meant de-emphasizing the unachievable demand that Iran end its enrichment of uranium and instead focusing on achievable demands like opening Iranian enrichment facilities more fully to UN inspections and greater international oversight over the enriched uranium that Iran has already produced. Here also, the "endless war" right-wing is trying to undermine Obama.

    In giving this award, the Nobel Committee is telling these right-wing forces to back off. And it's sending a message of encouragement to those Americans who put Obama in office:

"Showing signs of significant improvement. Keep up the good work."


President Obama Wins Nobel Peace Prize

by: Steven Thomma  |  Visit article original @ McClatchy Newspapers

    Washington - President Barack Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize, it was announced Friday, making him the first American president to win the award in his first year.

    Despite his brief tenure on the job and lack of tangible achievements yet, the Nobel Committee said it honored Obama "for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples."

    "Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world's attention and given its people hope for a better future," said Nobel chairman Thorbjoern Jagland.

    Obama was notified of the surprise award at about 6 a.m. in a call from Press Secretary Robert Gibbs. Obama planned to make a statement in the White House Rose Garden at 10:30 EDT.

    Obama becomes the fourth American president to win the award and the third to win while in office.

    Theodore Roosevelt won the 1906 prize after personally interceding to negotiate a peace between Japan and Russia. Roosevelt brought the two sides to New Hampshire in September 1905 and helped negotiate a peace treaty after several weeks.

    Woodrow Wilson won the 1919 prize after he pushed to create the League of Nations following World War I, traveling to Europe to personally negotiate. The U.S. Senate ultimately rejected the U.S. role, however.

    After leaving office, Jimmy Carter won the 2002 prize for what the committee called decades of work. As president, Carter personally brought Egypt and Israel together for weeks of talks at Camp David, Maryland, that produced a peace deal. As an ex-president, he's traveled the globe trying to promote human rights and mediate disputes.

    Obama has no comparable accomplishments. He has urged peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians but has so far been rebuffed. His one measurable achievement has been to improve the U.S. standing in the world as measured by polls in foreign countries, particularly after reaching out to the Muslim world in several speeches, including one from Cairo, Egypt.

    "The prize signals that America is definitively back in the world's good graces and the President deserves full credit for that," said Martin Indyk, Vice President and Director for Foreign Policy at the Brookings Institution, a former official in the Clinton administration.

    "Now comes the hard part: turning goodwill into concrete results that can heal the wounds of a very troubled world. If Obama can do that he'll deserve another Nobel."

    The prize was a surprise even at the White House.

    "It's an honor. It's nothing anyone expected. It's certainly nothing the president sought," senior adviser David Axelrod said on MSNBC. "I think that he's less interested in individual honors and this certainly is one than in advancing the causes that the were cited by the Nobel committee."

    Axelrod also said it was not known if Obama would travel to Oslo, Norway, to personally accept the award.

    "This is all news to us," he said, "so I don't know what we're going to do with regards to that. I would assume so, but I don't know."

In a surprise announcement US President Barack Obama was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace.(Photo:
Last modified on Friday, 09 October 2009 09:23