Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Americans may be excused for asking what President Obama has actually accomplished to deserve the Nobel Peace Prize.
Congratulations to him, yes, but aren't most awards supposedly for results?
Not this one.
Like many previous Peace Prizes, the purpose of this award isn't to recognize past success but to support someone's current efforts that the Nobel committee particularly likes.
And what does the Norway-based group like about Mr. Obama's approach, less than a year into his presidency?
It is his "extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples." In other words, he is being commended for improving on the process of everyone getting along in the world.
That is indeed a worthy desire, and Obama's style of leadership is certainly suited to it. He inspires by playing up commonalities rather than differences. He reaches out to neglected groups. He seeks to reform rather than isolate international institutions that aren't working.
Unlike any previous U.S. president, for example, Obama chaired a special session of the United Nations Security Council. He laid his prestige on the line by convening a summit last month on the issue of ridding the earth of nuclear weapons, a cause that was the second commendation for the peace prize.
Many critics may see this prize as simply a slap by European elite on George W. Bush for neglecting their interests and their fear of a superpower untethered by global constraints. But that criticism ignores a deeper concern in this award -- and one that Obama himself may be all too aware of.
The concern is this: How much does the U.S. simply get along with the rest of the world without also going along with practices that rub against its own ideals?
Cooperating in diplomacy is fine until it steps on the principles that have led the United States to become the world's natural leader -- in ideas, economy, culture, and global stability.
So more power to the new U.S. president in earning this prize and as he tries to more closely engage with rogue states and wobbly allies. He is in a delicate dance between get-along and go-along, between good tactics and bad strategy.
Perhaps the Nobel committee might have waited a couple years to see the measure of Obama's actual success in blazing a new world order. But at the least, it has added momentum to this president's worthy hopes.
--Christian Science Monitor