Barack Obama Doesn't Deserve the Nobel Peace Prize

Congratulations on the surprise honor, Mr. President.

But I have almost no clue why you were just awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. (ht/DH)

Here's the committee's justification:

“for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.” The award cited in particular Mr. Obama’s effort to reduce the world’s nuclear arsenal.

I know Steve S might disagree with me, as he certainly finds more to like in Obama's recent moves in Eastern Europe.  But even if Obama's steps have been laudable, do his diplomatic actions rise to the level of earning a Nobel Peace Prize?  I don't believe they do.

For one, Mr. Obama has not even been in office for a year.  And his foreign affairs involvement and experience (besides his own upbringing) prior to taking office was almost nonexistent.  He hasn't even been in office for nine months.  Given that fact, Mr. Obama would have had to accomplish something dramatic on the world stage to deserve the award.  Nothing sticks out in my mind.  He's made a general diplomatic push to reduce nuclear weapons, sure - and he pulled the plug on the Czech and Polish missile defense sites.  He made a speech to the Muslim world.  He made an underwhelming, hermetically sealed speech in Ghana.  A number of small diplomatic overtures have been underway (we gave Russia a reset or "overcharge" button) but I nonetheless remain stunned because I have not seen anything reminiscent of high profile, meaningful actions worthy of the prize.

General diplomacy for a few months is not enough.  As Steve S stated less than a month ago, noting Obama's moves on the world stage: "The honeymoon has worn off -- it's time for Obama to prove he can bring results on the international stage."

I draw my standard of who's deserving of a Nobel Peace prize in large part from past U.S. Presidents who received the prize.  Three presidents achieved this honor before Obama:

* Jimmy Carter won in 2002 as ex-president for what the Nobel prize committee said were "his decades of untiring effort to find peaceful solutions to international conflicts, to advance democracy and human rights, and to promote economic and social development".

* Woodrow Wilson won the 1919 prize in recognition of his Fourteen Points peace programme and work in achieving inclusion of the Covenant of the League of Nations in the 1919 Treaty of Versailles at the end of World War One. "The President succeeded in bringing a design for a fundamental law of humanity into present-day international politics," the Nobel Committee said.

* Theodore Roosevelt won the 1906 prize for his role in ending the bloody 1905 war between two of the world's great powers, Japan and Russia. The result was the Treaty of Portsmouth signed by Russia and Japan on Sept. 5, 1905, at Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

I believe all of those awards were deserved, although I think Teddy Roosevelt's probably had the most tenuous basis.  But even his work represented a real accomplishment with highly visible, tangible results.  Wilson, for all his flaws, largely shaped world affairs with a concrete way forward - that almost the entire world engaged with in a formal, highly visible way - as he tried for what he thought was a noble thing.  And Jimmy Carter has given his life for decades to sometimes unpopular efforts for peace.   Even Bill Clinton, who did not receive the award, is more deserving of a Nobel Peace Prize, I think, than Barack Obama - Clinton at least had a long record of trying, as president, to solve the Middle East crisis and a tangible, if checkered and unwise, attempt to use U.S. might for humanitarian purposes.

I think part of the Nobel's reasoning comes from a desire to show the American people that the world community is rewarding them for denouncing Bush and marking a new American approach to the world in the form of Obama.  But as I've long stated here, I think the hurdle after Bush was so low that anyone could have jumped over it with ease.

The reason President Barack Obama's receipt of the Nobel comes as such a "shock" is because few would have thought that his scant record could sustain the weight of the medallion.  I think this will hurt Obama domestically - two or three years into his administration, no problem.  But this premature act by an international body makes Obama, who's already overexposed domestically, even easier to shrug off.