As a supporter of President Obama, I knew that this day would come, I just didn't think it would come so soon. I believe the President deserves an enormous amount of credit for changing the tone of American diplomacy in his first 8-9 months in office. This tone change is responsible for a dramatic improvement in the way Americans are perceived abroad. In a recent poll reported in Time Magazine (see http://swampland.blogs.time.com/2009/10/07/barack-obama-gasp-good-for-america/ ), America is now the most admired country in the world, up from seventh only a year ago.
For all of that, the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to Obama at this time was a bit surprising to me, to say the least. I read through some of the articles and reports to see if I could gain some insight into the thinking of the Nobel committee as to what brought this about. Sure, there are the jokesters and one liners about the President not being George Bush and all of that, but how did this all come about and why.
The eureka moment came to me after reading two separate AP reports. In the first, the AP reporters interviewed a member of the Nobel Committee who articulated the reason for the nomination. Conspicuously mentioned was the Presidents commitment to reduce the world stock of nuclear arms. http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/eu_nobel_peace :
The Norwegian Nobel Committee countered that it was trying "to promote what he stands for and the positive processes that have started now." It lauded the change in global mood wrought by Obama's calls for peace and cooperation, and praised his pledges to reduce the world stock of nuclear arms, ease American conflicts with Muslim nations and strengthen the U.S. role in combating climate change.
The peace prize was created partly to encourage ongoing peace efforts but Obama's efforts are at far earlier stages than past winners'. The Nobel committee acknowledged that they may not bear fruit at all.
"He got the prize because he has been able to change the international climate," Nobel Committee chairman Thorbjoern Jagland said. "Some people say, and I understand it, isn't it premature? Too early? Well, I'd say then that it could be too late to respond three years from now. It is now that we have the opportunity to respond -- all of us.".- Advertisement -
Next was an AP report that compiled a list of responses from prominent politicians and diplomats. Most of the responses carried the familiar cadence of a person caught by surprise by the news. One response, however, seemed anything but surprised. http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20091009/ap_on_re_eu/eu_nobel_world_reaction :
In Vienna, former Nobel Peace Prize winner Mohamed ElBaradei, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said Obama has already provided outstanding leadership in the effort to prevent nuclear proliferation.Not only did Mohamed ElBaradei's response not seem that of a surprised person, his statement seemed completely in concert with that coming from the person from the Nobel Committee in the previous article I cited.
"In less than a year in office, he has transformed the way we look at ourselves and the world we live in and rekindled hope for a world at peace with itself," ElBaradei said. "He has shown an unshakable commitment to diplomacy, mutual respect and dialogue as the best means of resolving conflicts. He has reached out across divides and made clear that he sees the world as one human family, regardless of religion, race or ethnicity."
I believe the IAEA's Mohamed ElBaradei played a prominent role in making this award happen and in many ways, it makes sense. ElBaradei and Hans Blix, in their positions as chief UN Weapons Inspectors, issued reports two weeks before the invasion of Iraq that made it clear that they did not think that the Iraqi's still possessed Weapons of Mass Destruction. History has since proved both men correct. It could not have been easy to watch the US ignore their reports and go to war anyway on a WMD justification. In direct contrast to this, ElBaradei has watched Obama work hand and hand with his agency to deal with questions of proliferation in Iran and other countries in a calm and responsible way.
It is clear to me that IAEA director Mohamed ElBaradei played a role in Obama's selection to win the peace prize. The role could have been as minor as responding favorably to questions from the committee, or it could have been full fledged lobbying based on his experiences with President Obama. Either way, it is completely appropriate that someone in director ElBaradei's position have input into the selection. It also is an important endorsement outside of the Nobel Prize considering how important it is to prevent proliferation of nuclear weapons.