A Great Day to be an American

Proving there’s some special significance to an American who can make 100,000 Germans cheer the United States, President Obama became this morning only the third sitting U.S. President to win the Nobel Peace Prize, for “his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.”

obama berlin 2

The greatest thing about this award is that its prestige inures to all American citizens, as proof that the world is willing to listen to our leadership, unassumedly given, again.

Admittedly, there’s some truth to the argument that Obama’s achievements are largely inchoate. And surely the other nominees were deserving too. But a man who dreams big, and takes real steps to realizing those dreams, deserves recognition. Ideas matter. It’s now incumbent upon Obama to deliver on his promise, but in that task, he’ll have some help.



  1. This is going to be hilarious to watch for the next week or so. Liberals are all going to be on a natural high and probably breaking into spontaneous rounds of “We Are the World” while the Right laughs.

    Wilson started the League of Nations. TR ended a war. Obama…gave some good speeches? I thought the Nobels jumped the shark when they awarded one to Paul Krugman, but that was apparently just a prelude to this insanity.

    1. I’ll correct my prediction. Even most of the liberals I am reading this morning seem to think this is a bad idea. It appears ACG is in a slim minority of Americans this morning that are pleased with this announcement.

    2. Things have been so partisan, I thought it would be hilarious to see conservatives whine about it. The nobel prize as a sort of F you.

      But outside of my personal bitterness, I don’t see why they wouldn’t wait to make the decision until at least his first term to see how much influence he actually had. Weird.

    3. Yeah, Oneiroi, I think they’re trying to send a message: “don’t be discouraged.” I agree that Obama’s best is still to come, but I do think what he’s done already is worthy. What this does is send the right message about the US’ change of leadership, and put the pressure on. If Obama fails to live up to the award, there’ll be hell to pay.

      1. What has he done so far that has been ‘worthy’? He made a small gesture to nuclear disarmament he completely tanked on his first attmept to help with Israel/Palestine.

  2. Seriously, what did he actually win the award for? I can think of only two possibilities, either this an award was for not being Bush, or the world was really short on peace this year. If he had brokered a peace treaty or was the driving force behind a major international treaty then sure, give him an award. However, he really hasn’t done anything but give a lot of speeches and tried hard not to antagonise anyone.

    1. Yes, because we all know that giving speeches and setting the policy of the world’s remaining superpower doesn’t matter at all…

      Oh, wait.

      1. To what ends though. He has done nothing, no peace accords, no treaties, nothing to show for it. He has been bogged down in internal politics for more than 6 months. France has made more progress with Israel-Palestine. Sri Lanka has just ended a civil war. Zimbabwe has managed a power sharing government. All these things have brought about more peace then Obama has and they all managed without the US.

      2. Unlike the other Nobel prizes, the Peace Prize is not awarded for discoveries or accomplishments, but simply for “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 Prize committee probably thought, and I agree, that a clear realignment of the US foreign policy towards multilateral diplomacy and support for international organizations, international law, and nuclear disarmament is pretty much the best thing that can be done for “fraternity between nations” at this point in time.

        So it’s basically the committee’s way of saying “We like where you’re going with this, keep up the good work.”

        1. I wonder how they feel about the thousands of troops he is likely to be sending to Afghanistan in the coming months?

        2. Since a) the intention presumably is to end the conflict as soon as possible, and b) it’s a peace prize, and not a pacifist prize, I can’t imagine that being much of a problem.

          But you could always ask them yourself if you’re interested.

        3. Yeah Mike that’s a nonstarter. Nitball wars are created equal, and if you don’t get that maybe that’s why you’re confused about this award.

  3. I was shocked to say the least and now question the Nobel committee’s reasoning!! The nominations were offered at the beginning of February; Obama had only been president for a couple of weeks.

  4. Ack, terrible decision. Aside from the fact that he hasn’t really done anything yet in international diplomacy, this is just going to give the right another reason to bash the Pres. Of course they’re going to make it Obama’s fault he was awarded the prize, or at least give them more ammo for the “Obama as the liberal messiah” meme. I’m almost tempted to watch Glenn Beck tonight just to see the fireworks, but in the long run…well, let’s hope Obama does end up earning the award.

    1. The right is having a field day with this. I agree with a few of the other comments here. I do think it’s a big f*ck you to Bush and I do feel, because there’s no other explanation really, that’s it was given to Obama to further encourage his vision of global unity. Bush wouldn’t talk to anyone, Obama wants to talk to everyone. A huge difference that’s now, I guess, being rewarded.

      1. This was clearly an attaboy award — Obama’s already changed the tambre of America’s relationship with the world. Admittedly he needs to keep fleshing that out, but as the right continues to oppose Obama’s efforts to be a real leader on tr global stage, this award is an important reminder that his efforts haven’t gone unnoticed and should continue. That’s good for Obama and good for the world.

        The right’s sour grapes are embarassing. They delight in turning strengths into weaknesses with bitter sneering, and they’ll try here. But the majority of Americans will get the message: America is s hegemon in form and substance again.

        1. Maybe the day will come when someone from the right wins an award for good ideas, cooperation, listening with an open mind, consideration and an understanding for and of other cultures. So far, these have been an anathema to the right.

        2. Yeah, not bloody likely!

          1. oh, trust me I ain’t holding my breath on a spec of humanity from the right!

        3. Ghandi was denied the Nobel Peace Prize 5 times…and it was just given to a man who has done nothing but talk for 9 months. It’s easy to earn the admiration of the world when you haven’t actually done anything.

          This will be the gift that keeps on giving for the Right.

          1. Meanwhile, for the rest of us, it is quite enlightening to see that all the Right apparently can muster is their usual bilious peevishness. I mean, seriously, guys. This is a happy occasion! An American President is recignized for doing something the rest of the world approves of, how often does that happen?!

            As for Ghsndi, please see http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/peace/articles/gandhi/index.html

            1. I think what the rest of the world approves of is that he really hasn’t done anything. They prefer American Presidents to be hesitant and meek.

            2. Or that they work for international peace and stability, and do so within the established diplomatic framework.

              Tomato-tomahto, I guess.

              1. Four words: Bagram Air Force Base

                1. Remember the post a few weeks back about the difference between Bagram and Gitmo? Probably not — you tend to avoid posts like that, preferring to make fun of me in others for talking about Glenn Beck.

                  1. Well making fun of you all for talking about Beck IS a hobby of mine….however, your defense of Bagram was poor. It’s not being used simply for battlefield detentions. New prisoners stopped arriving at Guantanamo in 2006. So where did they go? Bagram is basically Guantanamo East. Compound that with the current administrations attempts to legally define indefinite torture (what Rachel Maddow called worse than anything the Bush administration did with detainees) and you have a serious situation. but hey, why should Obama be held to the same standards as the previous administration when he has legions of law school graduates anxious to legally justify the same actions they criticized the last administration for?

              2. Do try to keep things in perspective. It’s the Nobel Peace Prize, not the Nobel Prize for Being a Living Saint About Whom Nothing Bad Can Ever Be Said. Roosevelt, Gorbachov and freakin’ Kissinger all got the price, and God knows none of them were exactly pacifists.

                In the end, the price is awarded for working for peace and that’s precisely what he’s doing. Now get over it.

                That said, I’m certainly happy that you’re calling attention to the evils of places like Bagram, and look forward to seeing you continue this attitude in the future.

                1. Every US President has ‘worked for peace’ at some point. Very few merited the Nobel Peace Prize, especially after 2 weeks in office. This was about expectations…not accomplishments.

                  As for Bagram, I’m still waiting for the promised closing of Guantanamo.

            3. Although if the alternative to “hesitant and meek” is “descend into a crass and simplified unilateralism and start a poorly-thought-though war for no good reason”, sign me up for the former, please!

            4. ‘The rest of us’?

              From The Times of London: “Rarely has an award had such an obvious political and partisan intent. It was clearly seen by the Norwegian Nobel committee as a way of expressing European gratitude for an end to the Bush Administration, approval for the election of America’s first black president and hope that Washington will honour its promise to re-engage with the world. Instead, the prize risks looking preposterous in its claims, patronising in its intentions and demeaning in its attempt to build up a man who has barely begun his period in office, let alone achieved any tangible outcome for peace.”

            5. That’s Michael Binyon’s personal opinion, and from what I can see, he’s pretty much in the minority.

              He also misses the point that the Peace Prize is supposed to be political and partisan in nature. This isn’t a public prize – it’s established in the will of a private individual, and obviously the prize committee is obliged to follow his intentions.

              1. Wasn’t he also a war profiteer?

                1. he also invented dynamite.

              2. Absolutely, one of the greatest of his time. He basically turned the Bofors company from an iron mill into one of the world’s largest weapons factories.

                Which goes a long way towards explaining why he also established a peace prize in his will, if you think about it.

        4. On the subject of ‘atta boy’ awards:

          Peter Beinart: “I like Barack Obama as much as the next liberal, but this is a farce. He’s done nothing to deserve the prize. Sure, he’s given some lovely speeches and launched some initiatives—on Iran, Israeli-Palestinian peace, climate change and nuclear disarmament—that might, if he’s really lucky and really good, make the world a more safe, more just, more peaceful world. But there’s absolutely no way to know if he’ll succeed, and by giving him the Nobel Prize as a kind of “atta boy,” the Nobel Committee is actually just highlighting the gap that conservatives have long highlighted: between Obamamania as global hype and Obama’s actual accomplishments.”

  5. lanfranc…been there done that and we have the shirts. No thank you.

  6. As has been pointed out above, the Nobel Peace Prize doesn’t explicitly require actual lasting accomplishments (or at least claims thereof), and had long ago become a travesty given to under-deserving nominees for insufficient reason. Obama’s win merely continues that trend. He didn’t deserve it, but neither did a bunch of previous winners. So in my mind, it’s like the Heisman: an award that’s become divorced from what it’s supposed to represent to the point that it’s a “no big deal”. I mean, this is supposed to be about “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” and it’s been turned into an ‘atta-boy!’ instead! Giving awards as attaboys cheapens and ruins them.

    Basically, what I’m saying is I think the Peace Prize was turned into a bullshit award a long time ago, so giving it to someone who has only inchoate (aka “no”) accomplishments in the field is bullshit, but it’s un-noteworthy and unsurprising bullshit.

    1. The problem is that the only person who really knew what the Peace Prize is “supposed to be about” was Alfred Nobel, and he only left the vague instructions in the will – at least the other awards talk about “most important discovery or invention”, but what does ““the most or the best work” mean?

      The only people qualified to interpret that are the members of the Storting committee, so effectively, the Prize is supposed to be whatever it is in their eyes, as long as they follow the basic mandate.

      Furthermore, although there may be a certain sense of public ownership because it’s as prominent as it is, none of this is really any of our business, since it’s purely privately-funded.

      That said, the history of the Peace Prize has been full of controversies, and yet, over a century later, it’s still the absolutely most prestigious award of its kind. It’s not going away anytime soon.

      1. You’re right, but that’s very perplexing to me. Nobel left vague instructions that resulted in an award that’s whatever the Storting committee members think it is and has been given for dubious reasons (League of Nations) and to dubious winners (Kissinger). So why is it the absolutely most prestigious award of its kind? The only reason I can think of for it to be prestigious is that it’s the most well-known award of its kind, but that’s circular reasoning: it’s prestigious (well-respected) because it’s prestigious (well-known). So there must be some other reason for it to be prestigious – but I can’t figure out why. It certainly isn’t because everyone agrees the award really went to the “most or the best work”. I mean, the committee flat-out said that Obama won the award more for winning the election than for garnering results in fraternity between nations, the abolition or reduction of standing armies, and the holding and promotion of peace congresses. And really, if they wanted to say repudiating Bush was the most & best work in Peace, they should’ve given the award to The American Electorate – which would be in keeping with the International Red Cross/Red Crescent, the UNHCR, UNICEF, the ILO, Amnesty International, UN Peacekeepers, Doctors Without Borders, and the various other non-individuals that have won.

        Guess what I’m trying to say (while backing off the confrontational “bullshit” language) is that I don’t think the Peace Prize deserves its prestige, because I don’t think it has the legitimacy – due to a combination of Nobel’s vague instructions and the Storting’s committee’s repeated poor judgment – to back up that prestige. In that regard, I see it as a sideshow to the three “real” Nobel Prizes… and as Peace’s equivalent to Football’s Heisman Trophy For Overhyped Division 1 Quarter-and-Runningbacks: an excessively promoted award that’s not as merit-based as it says it is.

      2. That’s a good question, I’ve never really thought about that.

        For one thing, there aren’t that many other similar prizes around – I can think of the Pacem in Terris Award and a couple awarded by the UN, but that’s it – and the Nobel Prize is easily the oldest one still around. The fact that it’s awarded by a parliamentary committee probably also matters a lot.

        However, I really don’t see this poor judgement that you accuse them of. Many of the awards have been controversial, to be sure, but that’s only to be expected for an award that’s so obviously political in nature.

        But perhaps it’s exactly a steady strem of controversial awards that’s part of the reason for its prestige? At least it ensures that people keep talking about it, as we’re all doing right now.

  7. Sorry I haven’t been able to respond more — I’ve been off molding New York in my own graven image, and now I’m going to go to a movie. But I’ll be back. And there’s going to be hell to pay. Ooooooooh you better believe it.

    Until then, read Professor Brinkley’s (RICE UNIVERSITY BITCHES) defense of the prize, here.

  8. Note back on Bagram: Obama has not sought indefinite detention in Bagram or otherwise. And neither you nor I can really be sure of the prisoner composition of Bagram, pending an ACLU FOIA request. My point was only that whatever’s happened there is legal under current habeas doctrine. Whether it’s moral is another question. I have no problem with battlefield detention of warriors captured in Afghanistan or other war zones being transferred to Bagram. Whether the administration is detaining non-combatants at Bagram is currently an open question. I’ll be disappointed if it is occurring.

    On the Noble prize, it is hard to argue that Obama deserve it for his accomplishments during the nomination period. But as a note of the world’s expectations for him, and an acknowledgment that his accomplishments to date put him well on track to change the world for the better, I think that’s well done.

    It’s absurd to think that the right could “score” off of this, too. Whether Obama deserved it or not, as I said, it’s a good day for America when the world decides that we’ve regained our moral authority — which the Prize does implicitly acknowledge. That Steele/Limbaugh/etc are treating this as a bad thing is a sure sign of the right’s continuing deficit of real statesmen.

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