I know the world is now awash in commentary on the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to President Obama this past Friday. And no wonder--when was the last time something so illogical, so improbable, and so far beyond belief happened on the world stage? Even so, I'd like to add my two cents' worth to posterity and share a few thoughts on this surreal and singular event.
When I first heard that the President had been awarded the Peace Prize, I thought it was a joke. So, apparently, did some White House aides ("It's not April 1, is it?"). But upon checking the report I found that it was all too true--too awfully, pathetically true. If it weren't, the whole affair would make a hilarious skit on Saturday Night Live. Had this happened to George W. Bush instead of Barack Obama, a whole new comedy industry would be spun out of this one incident (but since it happened to the entertainment industry's darling, it won't be).
My incredulity first centered on the the Nobel Committee's action in awarding its most prestigious prize to a national executive who hasn't been in office long enough--less than nine months--to have had even a chance to accomplish anything concrete or enduring for peace. He has had (arguably good) ideas and has launched initiatives, but these are just starting to get off the ground, if they ever really do--we'll have to wait and see. Much time and work lies ahead before anyone is in a position to assess whether the President's plans were wise and his actions more likely to produce good than harm. So far, all one can really credit the President with is (a) not being George W. Bush and (b) resolving to go in different directions than Bush did. But to say that that's enough to earn the world's most prestigious international award is ludicrous on its face, and cheapens the honor to the point of worthlessness. Why did Mother Teresa bother to spend all those agonizing years in the slums of Calcutta, toiling over the world's most wretched, when the mere idea and intent to do so apparently would have been enough to merit the Nobel Peace Prize (as if she would have cared)? The Nobel Committee took a Peace Prize already regarded by many as debased (Yasir Arafat) and corrupted (Al Gore), and turned it into a mere laughingstock. What a sad fate for something once viewed as among humanity's highest honors, and what an insult to everyone who actually accomplished something toward world peace.
What was even more astounding to me was the President's decision to participate in this charade by accepting the Prize. Given that the deadline for Peace Prize nominations is February 1--meaning that the President was nominated after only 11 days in office--the patent absurdity of the award should have been as obvious to the President and his advisers, as it was to observers here and even overseas. Had he any sense of the proper dignity of his office, the President could have noted the incompleteness of his work for peace, thanked the Nobel Committee for its vote of confidence in his administration and its endorsement of his new directions in policy, and gracefully declined to accept the Prize in deference to others equally or more deserving of it at this time. In doing so, he could have reaped all the political benefit of the award while distancing himself from the presumptuousness of its bestowal upon him. He would have emerged as a monument to chivalry and immeasurably enhanced his stature and moral authority. By accepting the tainted award and the million-and-a-half dollars that go along with it (he'll give that to charity, but of course charities of his choice--and will he claim the tax benefits of doing so?), he instead reinforces the impression so many people have of him as a self-glorifying narcissist. Like his last-minute, comic-opera grandstanding before the International Olympic Committee a few days ago, he seems to believe and bask in his own personality cult, and is determined to feed it. I don't like feeling this way about the President of my country, but he never misses an opportunity to dispel those feelings.
More distressing yet is the impression that the Peace Prize was extended to the President, and that he will accept it as such, "on credit"--as an inducement to continue pursuing policies favored by the Nobel Committee and its internationalist, socialist, global-warming-alarmist fellow travelers. Can President Obama now be trusted to make hard choices to protect American and free-world interests if they happen to conflict with the preferences of the United Nations or the Nobel Committee? Or will he be tempted to sacrifice our security, freedom, and well-being on the altar of his own glory and the demands of foreign interests jealous of our blessings and determined to end them?
If he had only declined this award, the President could have avoided feeding such suspicions. Now, they'll haunt him and his policies. I believe that Mr. Nobel's Prize, like Mr. Nobel's dynamite, will only explode in his face.
UPDATE Oct. 12, 2009 - Obama fails to win Nobel prize in economics