As I believe most people (including the President himself) were, I was surprised to learn today that President Obama has been chosen to receive the Nobel Peace Prize for his "extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples."
It's a very exciting honor for our President to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, and I commend the efforts he is making toward more cooperation between nations and increases in the United States' participation in the fight against global warming, and more. Certainly the change in U.S. policies has thawed the relations between the United States and many countries around the world, in contrast to the previous President's bellicose and "you're either for us or against us" attitude toward the rest of the world.
But is this worth the Nobel Peace Prize? I'm not sure. I feel it's a bit too early to say that good intentions are the same as accomplishments, or that this change in official U.S. attitude will actually bear fruit. Former President Jimmy Carter received the Nobel Peace Prize after decades of post-presidency work toward world peace, his support of Habitat for Humanity, and many other accomplishments. So far, Obama's lofty goals are still only goals.
Also, while Obama has been making an effort to bring the U.S. back into compliance with the Geneva Conventions and declared the U.S. will no longer waterboard prisoners, he has not yet been able to close Guantanomo Bay as he had promised, due to the various stumbling blocks that keep being raised. It seems as if the Prize might have been more appropriately awarded after the camp was actually closed and justice had been served to those who have been detained for so many years - either by conviction or freedom, but through a fair judicial process.
Beyond whether or not it was a good idea to give President Obama the Nobel Peace Prize, the fallout from this award will be a decidedly mixed blessing for the President.
On one hand, it's great that such a prestigious group as those who award Nobel Prizes believe President Obama has already made such a paradigm shift in world relations only 9 months after taking office. Certainly the contrast vs. Bush had to have something to do with that perception, and the President should rightly feel good about receiving the Prize.
But on the other hand, for Obama, this may do more harm than good in the short run. The GOP and right-wing talk show hosts will go totally nuts about this honor; Obama will get nothing but flack and distractions from the right as a result, when he is trying to keep the conversation on his plans for health care reform and other initiatives.
In another, more personal way for Obama, receiving the Nobel Peace Prize this early in his life may be a mixed blessing as well. Here he is, only in his late 40s, and he's become President and received the Nobel Peace Prize. After his presidency, what on earth more will he be able to aim for? The second half of his life may be a huge letdown for him!
But, be that as it may, it is certainly a great honor, and I congratulate the President on receiving it. Let's hope his accomplishments during the rest of his Presidency will continue to live up to that honor.