The announcement came from out of the blue like a stroke of lightening on a clear, summer day. President Obama has been awarded the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize! Jaws went slack the world over as people absorbed the news in a state of shock, confusion and, in many cases, more than a little incredulity. There had been no public indication prior to the announcement that he was even in consideration for the prize. It was reported that President Obama was "most surprised and deeply humbled" when he received the news.
Looking at the time-line for Nobel Prize consideration, it is obvious that Obama must have been nominated no later than the February 1st deadline for submission, shortly after his January 20th inauguration. At the time he was nominated, therefore, he had no Presidential experience and less than a full term as a U.S. Senator under his belt. Conservatives on the Right wasted no time in (loudly) pointing out these facts and asking what Obama has accomplished which would justify placing him before others who can rightfully claim credit for significant deeds, not just words, in the arena of International Peace Efforts. In fact, many on the Right displayed an irrational anger at Obama, himself, for the award, knowing full well that the award was a surprise to him as well. Such is the irrationality and hatred that is part of the territory of hyper-partisan politics.
Whether or not one agrees with the decision of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, one can intelligently ask if the stated rationale for awarding the prize to Obama is the only reason, or even the primary reason. Could it be that more is going on here than meets the eye? Consider the recent history of the United States with regards to its officially stated doctrine of preemption and its aggressive, often belligerent, attitude towards much of the rest of the world.
No one likes to feel powerless to affect the actions of others or powerless to determine his or her own destiny free of interference from outside forces. This is as true of nations as it is of individuals. It is no secret that much of the world strongly opposed the actions taken against Iraq by President George W. Bush. The world is tired of war. People and nations will use whatever influence they wield in order to have a say in the direction which the world is to take. They do this in the full light of knowledge that they can not escape the consequences of the actions of others. This is especially true now that we all live in a global environment where the actions of any single significant player can, and likely will, affect all others, often in unforeseen and potentially harmful ways.
When millions of people around the world cried out against the impending U.S. invasion of Iraq and yet were unable to stop it, they felt robbed of the sense of control over their own destinies and of the belief that their voices mattered. They reacted with anger and resentment toward the U.S. government. The evaporation of the anti-war movement after the Iraq invasion is evidence that, when people feel powerless, they spin down into a state of apathy. With the inauguration of President Obama, some of that gloomy apathy lifted as people regained a sense of hope. They reengaged.
Could it possibly be that the Norwegian Nobel Committee was doing no less than simply using its own particular version of influence in awarding Obama the Nobel Peace Prize for 2009? Is it possible that the Nobel Committee's true, or at least primary, motivation for awarding Obama the prize was not to honor him for the things he's already accomplished in the name of peace, which is the stated reason, but to compel him to do what they wish for him to do, which is to bring the U.S. wars to a conclusion? Granted, Obama's efforts toward furthering nuclear nonproliferation and stockpile reduction with the goal of a nuclear-weapon-free world are admirable, worthwhile goals. Could the award, however, actually have been made as a sort of incentive to make it much more difficult for the President to escalate, or even continue, the current wars in which the U.S. is engaged? After all, it does create a dilemma for President Obama. What does it say of a Nobel Peace Laureate in a position to change U.S. policy who doesn't find a way to bring what have now become his wars to an end and wage an all out effort at Peace? At least, that may be the question that the Nobel Committee wishes the President to ask himself every morning as he looks in the mirror. The prize may have been their way of making sure he does.