Barack Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday in a stunning decision that honored the first-year U.S. president more for promise than achievement and drew both praise and skepticism around the world.
The bestowal of one of the world’s top accolades on a president less than nine months in office, who has yet to score a major foreign policy success, was greeted with gasps of astonishment from journalists at the announcement in Oslo.
Obama said he felt humbled and unworthy of being counted in the company of the “transformative figures” of history who had won the prize.
“I do not view it as a recognition of my own accomplishments but rather an affirmation of American leadership,” he said, speaking in the White House Rose Garden. “I will accept this award as a call to action.”
The Norwegian Nobel Committee praised Obama for “his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples,” citing his fledgling push for nuclear disarmament and his outreach to the Muslim world.
Obama has been widely credited with improving America’s global image after the eight-year presidency of George W. Bush, who alienated both friends and foes with go-it-alone policies like the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.
But critics called the Nobel’s committee’s decision premature, given that Obama so far has made little tangible headway as he grapples with challenges ranging from the war in Afghanistan and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to nuclear standoffs with Iran and North Korea.
The White House had no idea the Nobel announcement was coming. Obama, who got the news of the prize in a pre-dawn call from his press secretary, now also has the burden of living up to its expectations.
The first African-American to hold his country’s highest office, Obama, 48, has struggled with a slew of foreign policy problems bequeathed to him by Bush, while taking a more multilateral approach than his predecessor.
Despite troubles at home including a struggling economy that have eroded his once-lofty approval ratings, the Democratic U.S. president is still widely seen around the world as an inspirational figure.
I found an article on reason.com titled How to Win a Nobel Peace Prize informative:
1. Be a famous humanitarian. This is the obvious approach. It is also the hardest. The Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to Albert Schweitzer, who built hospitals in Africa; to Norman Borlaug, who developed high-yield strains of wheat; to Muhammed Yunus, who devised a new method of giving loans to low-income entrepreneurs; and to the Dalai Lama, who…actually, I’m not sure what the Dalai Lama does, but evidently it impresses a lot of people.
Does your achievement need to be related to peace? It can—as with, say, Linus Pauling, who capped off an impressive scientific career with a crusade against above-ground nuclear testing. But the peace angle isn’t necessary. It isn’t even strictly necessary that your accomplishments be as impressive in practice as they are in your intentions. (You’ll note that Gore has not actually stopped global warming.) The best way to get credit in Oslo is to conduct your humanitarian pursuits while working with some vast global agency. Indeed, if you don’t think you have the chops to, say, revolutionize Third World agriculture, you can always get a Peace Prize the next way:
2. Start an international organization. Or, if you can swing it, be an international organization. Over the years, the Nobel Peace Prize has gone to Amnesty International, Doctors Without Borders, the UN’s International Labor Organization, and the Red Cross.
… 3. Kill a lot of people, then stop. In 1973, the Nobel Peace Prize was shared by Henry Kissinger and Le Duc Tho. Kissinger’s CV included the “secret” bombing of Cambodia and the “Christmas” bombing of North Vietnam; just a month before his prize was announced, he was complicit in the coup that installed a brutal dictatorship in Chile. So why did he win? Because he and Tho had reached a truce to end the Vietnam War. Tho wasn’t a particularly peaceful man either, but at least he had the common courtesy to refuse the award.
More recently, the prize went to Palestine Liberation Organization chief Yasser Arafat, a man whose career to that point had been spent arranging terrorist assaults on civilians. He shared the award with Israel’s Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Rabin; the three of them, like Kissinger and Tho, had negotiated an end to a war. In this case the peace agreement didn’t hold, and both the state of Israel and various Palestinian groups went on to produce many more corpses. So don’t worry if you develop a taste for blood during the initial stage of your Peace Prize campaign: You’re free to resume killing once Mr. Nobel’s money is safely in your hands.
By this method, the prize could conceivably go next year to Dick Cheney, the Janjaweed, or anyone else in a position to bring a war to a temporary stop.
What really happened is that Bush and Cheney were so incredibly, so preposterously, so monsterously un-peaceful, that Obama is getting a prize for displacing them. Overthrowing Bush and Cheney is seriously one of the most stabilizing things that could have happened in world politics. Obama has already accomplished this, and so, the award is justified.