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The Carletonian

Born in the USA: Obama’s Peace Prize: blessing or a burden?

<uldn’t the Nobel Peace Prize have a higher standard than awarding it to someone who might do something or who garners high expectations? Sure, Barack Obama’s Presidency is young and he might tackle major issues around the world, but so far he has not done anything to deserve this prize.

Obama has not made any tangible progress in creating peace in the Middle East, stopping Iran’s development of a nuclear weapon, halting North Korea’s testing of missiles and flaunting its nuclear capabilities and ending the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Those are only the issues that are on the front page everyday. Other pressing issues that Obama has not addressed are human rights violations in Burma, Sudan and Congo.

Obama can’t be blamed for receiving the Peace Prize though; he did not nominate himself less than two weeks after being inaugurated and did not campaign for the committee to vote for him. The blame falls on Nobel Committee, who have raised expectations of Obama to an almost unreachable level and who have acted like children in rebuking President George W. Bush yet again.

During Bush’s presidency, Jimmy Carter and Al Gore both won the Nobel Peace Prize, a clear slap in the face to Bush and his style of diplomacy and foreign policy. The Nobel Committee said that it hopes Obama’s award can “contribute a little bit to enhance what he is trying to do.” Using that same logic, didn’t its veiled criticisms of Bush undermine his efforts by telling the world that the benchmark for evaluating peace and global relations did not have confidence in him? Just as some Americans hope the award will give Obama much-needed political capital, the same committee stripped Bush of equally needed political capital.

I, however, find it hard to believe that receiving the prize will help Obama. Obama has to make very tough decisions soon on Afghanistan and Iran.There is a possibility that Obama will make his decision not based on what is the best course of action but instead based on being an ambassador of peace and having to live up to the standard set by people like the Dalai Lama, Elie Weisel and Nelson Mandela (to name a few). If Obama does decide to send additional troops into Afghanistan, essentially escalating a war, then the whole legitimacy of the Nobel Peace Prize comes into question.

On the other hand, there is a way for Obama’s award to help his presidency, which every American will be hoping for. Just as Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela’s awards brought worldwide attention to their causes, Obama’s prize will put America on watch by the rest of the world. In our history, there has never been a time when a sitting president has been viewed as such a moral authority by the rest of the world. If leaders of Russia, Iran, North Korea and other countries the US needs to work with recognize this and are therefore more cooperative and willing to negotiate with Obama, the prize will surely have worked in his favor. This could signal a shift in the way citizens around the worldview Americans and restore America to the city on a hill.

Obama said winning the Nobel Peace Prize is a “call to action” to take on challenges around the world, but Obama will need partners to cooperate with him in order to tackle these challenges. It is hard for me to imagine world leaders throwing each of their agendas out the window to incorporate Obama’s world vision. There are already signs that this will be harder than expected, as just this past week Vladimir Putin refused to support Obama’s proposed sanctions against Iran, calling them premature. If Obama can use the Nobel Peace Prize as leverage to obtain his goals, then choosing Obama will prove to be a wise decision by the committee. Otherwise, his selection will be remembered as being far too premature and undeserving.

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