Friday, October 9, 2009

Obama's Nobel prize

The prestigious Nobel peace prize has been given to US President Barack Obama for "his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and co-operation between peoples".

But the decision by the Nobel Committee is controversial as Mr Obama has been in office less than a year and his policy of engagement is just a few months old.

think it is great to recognise the remarkable policy of international engagement that Barack Obama has undertaken in the last nine months. He has opened numerous diplomatic avenues simultaneously, many of which show promise.

But there are problems with the decision to award him the Nobel Peace Prize now.

US President Barack Obama
There was widespread surprise at the Nobel Committee's decision

Engagement doesn't necessarily mean success, and I think the Obama administration knows this. America may still be the most powerful nation in the world, but its power is increasingly challenged and, in any case, does not always translate into influence. There are no guarantees that his good diplomatic policies will pay off.

Given this reality, awarding President Obama this prestigious prize now is not helpful. First, it further raises international expectations at a very delicate time in Obama's presidency - expectations that may not be fulfilled.

Second, it will be more grist to the mill for his critics back home. The Nobel Peace Prize speaks to the existence of a global community and international values.

If the polls are to be believed, increasing numbers in America want to know that President Obama's first priority at this difficult period in American history is to protect and further US interests. Receiving the prize right now will make his opponents even more cynical about his policies, and make many of his supporters more anxious.


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