Obama and the Nobel Peace Prize  

Posted by Denis Haack in , , ,

There has been an enormous amount of discussion about whether President Obama deserved to win the Nobel Peace Prize, and what his winning implies about the Prize itself. Some of the discussion has been thoughtful, but most, sadly but not surprisingly, has been shrill, cynical, and partisan.

It is always difficult to see with a perspective that is wider than one’s own interests. It’s hard, for example, to try to see myself as my wife, friends, and neighbors see me, since my perspective seems so natural, so obvious that I can’t believe everyone doesn’t share it. The same goes for how we see our nation. We assume everyone should see the U.S. and President Obama as we see them, and are surprised to discover they don’t necessarily share our perspective.

This is part of the issue that has arisen over President Obama’s receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, as historian David Kaiser explains in a superb essay, “Why Obama Won the Prize,” which you can read here.

(I am grateful to my good friend Dr Paul Waibel, professor of history at Belhaven College, Jackson, MS for alerting me to Kaiser’s essay.)

This entry was posted at Friday, October 16, 2009 and is filed under , , , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .


My thanks to Denis and to Professor Waibel for the essay "Why Obama Won the Prize." It helps me understand how American foreign policy has drifted away from solid ground into the quicksand of the last two decades. However, I'm afraid it doesn't convince me that President Obama actually deserves the prize. Even in Waibel's analysis the president's chief qualifications seem to be that he is neither George Bush nor Osama bin Laden and that he gives good speeches.

October 18, 2009 at 5:15 PM

The Kaiser article was sent to me by a friend who recently retired from the History Department at JSU. Personally, I wish Obama had refused to accept the prize. He would have gained a lot more by doing so than by accepting it. Honestly, he has not done anything to ... Read Morewarrant receiving it, not yet, that is. And his failure to pull out of Afghanistan should be enough to deny him the prize, in my opinion, that is. I think what the Europeans are wanting to say warrants giving him the peace prize is the extent to which he has opened up the possibility for peace by reversing the foreign policy of the Bush administration. Europeans and others in the world community are aware of something Americans refuse to acknowledge. That is, that the USA is not in the position that Britain was in the 19th century, the age of Pax Britania. Nor is the USA in the position of the world's super power, that it enjoyed during the Cold War. Reality is that the world has changed, and the USA is but one of a community of nations. We must accept the fact that we can no longer act unilaterally. The USA is, in fact, like it or not, a great power in decline. Our influence in the future must be primarily moral. We must work with other nations, even those who stand for a vision of a new world that we do not want to see, in order to preserve a world in which human beings can continue to live. Remember, we are not an island unto ourselves. We need not send to know for whom the bell tolls. We know.

October 21, 2009 at 7:02 PM

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