The Norwegian Nobel Committee, appointed by the parliament of Norway, shocked the world today by awarding its Peace Prize—already devalued in the eyes of many for honoring former president Jimmy Carter and former vice president Al Gore, as well as Palestinian Liberation Organization leader Yassir Arafat—to President Barack Obama. The prize was officially awarded to Obama “for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.” When I saw the news alert in my e-mail this morning, I thought it was a joke.
It’s unclear what those "extraordinary efforts" might be, especially when you consider the timeline for the award. Nominations were due February 1, just 12 days after Obama was inaugurated. Of course, anyone can be nominated, but the committee cut down the nomination to a short list by the end of March. The outstanding accomplishments, doing more to advance peace as president than any other living person has done in his or her lifetime, during those two months are unclear.
Actually, they don’t exist at all.
Agot Valle, a Norwegian politician on the committee, openly acknowledged that Obama hasn’t done anything yet, saying: “There will be criticism, because he hasn't achieved his goals yet. It will take time, but this is a support.”
A support? The prize, which carries an enormous cash award of nearly $1.5 million, was established in Alfred Nobel’s will. He wrote that it should be given “to the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.”
The most or best work? Really?
We remain in Iraq. We remain in Afghanistan, and are likely to increase troop commitments. Guantanamo is still open for business. We’ve done nothing on Darfur, despite President Obama's campaign promises. Nuclear proliferations continues apace in a number of hotspots, and the United States has done nothing to pursue nuclear weapons reductions. So the Norwegians explain to us that they gave “special importance to Obama's vision of, and work for, a world without nuclear weapons.” Talk about grasping for straws.
This prize is the total triumph of hope over results. It is not a recognition of a person who has done the most or best work for peace, but a nakedly political move from adoring Europeans to boost Obama’s political fortunes. In the age of Obama, it seems, good intentions are all that matters.
In his announcement of prize, Thorbjørn Jagland, the chairman of the committee said: “Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world’s attention and given his people hope for a better future.”
So it’s basically official: Barack Obama has been awarded a Nobel Prize for hope. But as he strains to convince centrists Democrats in Congress to support his sweeping plans for a partial Washington takeover of health care, all this adoration in the world from left-wing elites in Europe may not help him.