Obama deserves Nobel


POSTED: Saturday, October 10, 2009

Critics of the Nobel Committee's choice as recipient of its Peace Prize complain that President Barack Obama has yet to achieve any accomplishments in his brief presence in the White House. They overlook the fact that the third sitting president and first son of Hawaii to be bestowed with the honor has changed the climate of world relations, in itself a huge achievement.

Obama is not the first person to be chosen on that basis, although most have been honored for having reached tangible goals they had sought. “;Aspirational”; choices sometimes have turned out wrong, as in 1994, when Palestinian President Yasser Arafat and Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Rabin were cited for achieving Oslo peace accords that later crashed in violence in which Arafat had a role.

Others have been followed by positive results. Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev was chosen for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1990 for promoting perestroika as the Soviet empire was falling apart.

Thorbjorn Jagland, the committee's chairman, also pointed to the 1971 selection of Willy Brandt, the West German chancellor, for his “;Ostpolitik”; policy of reconciliation with Communist Eastern Europe. “;Brandt hadn't achieved much when he got the prize,”; Jagland said, “;but a process had started that ended with the fall of the Berlin Wall.”;

In a speech yesterday at the White House, Obama accurately interpreted the reason he was selected: “;I do not view it as a recognition of my accomplishment but rather as an affirmation of American leadership on behalf of aspirations held by people of all nations.”;

However, any expectations emanating from the prize may become a burden for the president. Measures to extend U.S. security could be construed as a betrayal of the Nobel Committee, while those seeking peaceful resolutions are certain to be regarded as kowtowing to pressure created by his selection.

The announcement of the prize came the same day as Obama was to meet with his military advisers on whether to send as many as 40,000 more troops to Afghanistan to face the Taliban and hunt down al-Qaida. In other arenas, Obama can be assured to rely on the spirit of ho'oponopono that he learned growing up in Hawaii and which has gained him popularity throughout the world.