Awarding of Nobel Prize to Obama undeservedly early

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On Friday, the Nobel committee announced from their ivory tower in the far northern land of Norway that U.S. President Barack Obama would be this year’s recipient of the much-lauded Nobel Peace Prize. The committee chair was quoted in The New York Times: “The question we have to ask is who has done the most in the previous year to enhance peace in the world?” Apparently, in his nine months as President, Obama has done more to effect world peace than anyone else anywhere, even while attending fancy dinners at Phipps Conservatory and lamenting that he didn’t get any of Pamela’s pancakes.

I must start by saying that I was most certainly one of the majority of Pittsburghers who cheered when Obama took Pennsylvania in November’s election and once again when his victory in California cinched his seat in the Presidency. It also certainly cannot be denied that the rest of the world — especially Europe — was pleased to see Obama win, though many were likely disappointed they could no longer use their collection of eight years’ worth of George Bush jibes. They won’t underestimate us any longer.

The committee’s official reasoning behind the choice of Obama, according to the same New York Times article, was his commitment to nuclear disarmament and his efforts to engage the rest of the world in more constructive dialogue than that of his predecessor.

Both of these goals are, of course, very noble pursuits. After all, how useful is it for Random Country Number One to be able to say, “Random Country Number Two, we have enough arms to obliterate your population 3500 times”? Nuclear weapons have proven to serve nothing more than a potential threat to other countries since we slaughtered over 100,000 Japanese in Hiroshima and Nagasaki — as estimated in The Avalon Project of Yale’s law school — and crippled many thousands more, even years later.

But while nuclear disarmament is certainly a significant goal, Obama’s efforts have not changed much in the level of nuclear armament in the world. The Associated Press reported last Monday that Kim Jong Il said North Korea “is willing to attend multilateral talks ... depending on the progress in its talks with the United States.” So if Kim thinks Obama is nice enough, he will consider discussing the possibility of reducing its nuclear arms. That’s progress.

Obama has been selected for one of the most prestigious awards in the world based on this progress. But, of course, the Nobel committee insists that they did not select Obama based on his potential, but the work he has already accomplished, work like “his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples,” along with his preference for negotiation and his vision of a cooperative world of shared values, an Oct. 9 New York Times reported.

This year’s Nobel Prize in medicine went to a group of scientists who discovered that the shortening of the ends of chromosomes is important in clocking the life span of a cell — information that may be significant in learning more about cancer cells, whose chromosomes do not shorten. Herta Müller was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature for a series of works censored in her native Romania because of her depiction of the political landscape of the country.

In short, the other Nobel laureates this year deserved the award for groundbreaking achievements and significant contributions to their respective fields. Obama was granted an award because he has a commitment to making future changes. While I certainly did not evaluate the 205 nominations the committee received for their individual contributions, I can only assume at least one person on the list must have made an actual accomplishment worth noting.

Even Obama was surprised at his selection, saying “I do not feel that I deserve to be in the company of so many of the transformative figures who have been honored by this prize, men and women who’ve inspired me and inspired the entire world through their courageous pursuit of peace.”

While this humbling statement is the mark of a well-honed public speaker — and would be the correct thing to say even if Obama was certain he deserved the award — when the President himself says he doesn’t deserve the award, what can the rest of America and the world do but follow suit?

France’s president, Nicolas Sarkozy, referenced the award as “America’s return to the hearts of the world’s peoples.”

Others attribute the selection as the world’s relief to see Bush out of office. “From our standpoint, you know, we think that this gives us a sense of momentum,” said State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley in a Fox News article, “when the United States has accolades tossed its way, rather than shoes,” referring to an incident in 2008 when an Iraqi reporter threw a shoe at President Bush during a news conference.

Regardless of why he was chosen, Obama’s award represents poor judgment on the part of the committee, who unanimously voted on the selection. As impressive and significant as Obama’s promises are, they are still just promises, and as most everyone recognizes, campaign promises are worth about as much as the paper they are written on. The only good thing that can be said at this point is that Obama intends to give all of his $1.4 million of reward money to charity.