Seriously? The decision by the Nobel Prize committee to award Barack Obama with the 2009 Peace Prize is perhaps the most absurd decision by a committee that has long reveled in absurdity. Obama has, since coming to the office in January, accomplished exactly nothing in his foreign policy. His "negotiate first" approach to dealings with Russia, Iran, and North Korea have not borne fruit; he has, to appease his domestic constituencies, initiated a trade war over an idiotic tire issue; he has continued the withdrawal from Iraq started by President Bush; he has done nothing to deal with the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan; he's made absolutely no progress in resolving the Palestinian-Israel problem.
But wait, you say...it's too early to judge these outcomes. His decision to terminate the ballistic missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic may yet work out, especially if it gets Russia to bear down on Iran; he's still deciding what to do in Afghanistan and it will surely be several years before we know the outcome there; the trade war with China won't develop as China realizes that domestic protection is just part of normal politics. But that's exactly the point. It's far too early to determine that Obama deserves a peace prize. And everyone knows it.
It's even possible the Nobel will complicate Obama's efforts. Obama is not the president or leader of the world; he is the president of the United States and acts in the interests of the US, not the world. Sometimes those interests are aligned, but sometimes they aren't. But now his policies have the imprimatur of the international community: What's good for the US is good for the world. How will that affect negotiations with Iran or North Korea or Russia or the Palestinians?
So, if Obama hasn't actually done anything to deserve it, then he must have been given the award on one of two (or possibly both) criteria: What he plans/hopes to accomplish in his presidency or that Nobel committee likes him and is especially glad that he's not George Bush. Officially, the award was given for Obama's work to create a "new climate in international politics" and his work on .
But look at the recent list of winners. 2001: The UN and Kofi Annan. 2002: Jimmy Carter. 2005: The International Atomic Energy Agency and Mohamed ElBaradei. 2007: Al Gore and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. A laundry list of hopers, wishers, and dreamers who have actually accomplished little.
The problem with the committee awarding the prize to those striving towards peace, rather than those who's work has actually accomplished anything is the overt politicization that has emerged with the prize. Yes, the committee has given the prize to many truly deserving people: Martti Ahtisaari, Wangari Muta Maathai, and Muhammad Yunus among the recent winners. And these are exactly the kind of people who should be winning the award. Activists, not politicians.
Additionally, who knows what will happen? Maybe Obama will be forced to attack Iran, or allow Israel to do it. Maybe at some point in his administration, as most US presidents do at some point in their administrations, Obama will decide to use force to advance US interests at the expense of international opinion. Awarding the prize on intentions and wishes is exceedingly dangerous given the volatile and complicated nature of running the most powerful country in the world.
Could the committee not have found someone more deserving? Like Morgan Tsvangirai (OK, he's a politician, but he is literally struggling day and night to transform Zimbabwe and end the reign of one of the world's worst dictators), like someone in Iran leading the protests against the regime, like someone in Iraq working to reconcile Sunnis and Shia, like someone in Afghanistan risking reprisals from the Taliban to educate Afghani girls? Like a Chinese human rights activist?
Obama's best move would be to turn down the prize, and ask the committee to reconsider him once he's succeeded in his policy initiatives. But that's not going to happen.
This is an embarrassment that taints the prize beyond repair.