Reactions to Obama winning the Nobel

I’m enjoying the vast amount of commentaries/protests on the web re: Obama’s win of the Nobel Peace Prize. The win was quite controversial that 69% of people over at Twitter expressed disbelief.  Here’s the breakdown, courtesy of Mashable:


Now, here are some of the reactions:

From Time:

Even in the peace prize’s home country, there was widespread disapproval of the choice — so much so that some critics suggested it was high time for Sweden, which manages all the other Nobel prizes, to take back the peace prize. “Obama said today that he was surprised and humble, and even that he did not honestly feel he deserves the prize,” Jan Gunnar Furuly, writer for Norway’s biggest newspaper Aftenbladet, said in an Email to TIME.” I think most Norwegians do not understand the decision to give Obama the prize, and a lot of us are really embarrassed over the fact that the committee could give it to the president after so short time. For a long time the Swedes have argued that they should take over the responsibility for the prize. Now they have really good arguments for that.” Echoing that sentiment, Jan Arild Snoen, columnist for the conservative Norwegian website Minerva, said, “To award the peace prize to a sitting president during a war which he not only supports but actually wants to increase troops for, is very peculiar. I think there is a danger that it will make Norway look silly.”

Then there’s one from naked capitalism:

I was certain I was either reading an Onion headline or had woken up in an alternative reality when I learned that Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Huh? Even Obama had the good sense to say he didn’t deserve it.

And after quoting Obama’s speech which says the Nobel has also been used “as a means to give momentum to a set of causes“, Yves Smith reacts:

This is all nice phrasemaking, which is Obama’s long suit. But since we are seeing that “Change you can believe is” is really “no change”, I remain skeptical that this supposed call to action will lead to any action, or at least of the sort that the award committee intended.

New York Times also has something interesting on its write-up (particularly the part I emphasized):

The five-member Norwegian Nobel committee spent seven months winnowing the dossiers on dissident monks, human rights advocates, field surgeons and other nominees — 205 names in all, most of them obscure — before deciding to give the Nobel Peace Prize to perhaps the most famous man on the planet, Barack Obama.

Let me briefly say, why do I think the decision was so easy, despite the 205 names? Anyway, to continue:

“It’s important for the committee to recognize people who are struggling and idealistic,” Mr. Jagland said in an interview after the prize was announced, “but we cannot do that every year. We must from time to time go into the realm of realpolitik. It is always a mix of idealism and realpolitik that can change the world.”

Any member of a national legislature, any professor of the social sciences and several other categories of people are free to submit nominations, and someone usually puts forward the name of the American president. That was true this year, even though Mr. Obama had been in office less than two weeks when the deadline hit.

Two weeks… Well, back then, everyone was still raving about Obama’s oratorical prowess. Must have stuck with them till they decided last week. Business site BusinessInsider is brave to stand on the other side with those who didn’t mind Obama winning:

But the real reason it’s a brilliant choice is that when it comes to making world Peace, putting the cart before the horse is exactly the right way to go. Now Obama can sit down at the negotiating table with Ahmedinijad or Benjamin Netanyahu, and slap his Nobel Prize on the table and say: “now deal.”

In other words, this Nobel Prize was an investment in future world peace — a bet that by lending some support to the leader of the free world, that leader would be able to achieve something.

Back to the negatives.  Here’s another bout of skepticism from Financial Times’ Gideon Rachman, who himself is an admirer of Obama:

I am a genuine admirer of Obama. And I am very pleased that George W Bush is no longer president. But I doubt that I am alone in wondering whether this award is slightly premature. It is hard to point to a single place where Obama’s efforts have actually brought about peace – Gaza, Iran, Sri Lanka? The peace prize committee say that he is being rewarded for his “extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy”. But while it is OK to give school children prizes for “effort” – my kids get them all the time – I think international statesmen should probably be held to a higher standard.

It is also very odd timing. In the next couple of weeks, Obama is likely to yield to the wishes of his generals and to send many thousands more troops to Afghanistan. That will mean he is a wartime president, just as much as Bush or Lyndon Johnson. If Afghanistan ends up being Obama’s Vietnam, giving him the Nobel Peace Prize will look even sillier in a few years time.

And of course, how can we miss the part of Obama’s speech wherein he himself expressed his surprise and doubt he deserved the award:

To be honest, I do not feel that I deserve to be in the company of so many of the transformative figures who’ve been honored by this prize, men and women who’ve inspired me and inspired the entire world through their courageous pursuit of peace.

And to cap this off, a quote from Rush Limbaugh, from Salon which was nice enough to put other reactions together:

“This fully exposes, folks, the illusion that is Obama,” Limbaugh said. “This a greater embarrassment than losing the Olympics bid was.” He wasn’t done there, either.

“You are destroying your country as a superpower — keep it up, bud,” he said to Obama.”These are the accomplishments they’re looking for. He’s basically emasculating this country and they love it … It really is insidious. The intent of the committee is to neuter the United States of America. They’ve done it by rewarding a pacifist.” At one point, Limbaugh even quipped, “I think Obama’s the second Kenyan to win.”

Source: MashableTime, naked capitalism, NYT, BusinessInsider, FT, Salon

Also read Washington Post’s view, or Time’s sort of account of events that morning Obama found out he won.


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