To say I was surprised when I first heard about President Obama winning the Nobel Peace Prize would be an understatement. As has been pointed out by numerous pundits, he has not mediated any conflicts and his strong emphasis on dialogue has shown little or no results. Increasing the debt by several trillion dollars is about the only thing he has accomplished and he is not done spending yet.
Initially, I thought to write an article opposing the Nobel Committee’s choice. Even if he did win the award for his “vision,” shouldn’t there be some tangible example of his vision actually making a difference? And being more popular than George W. Bush does not count. Being hated less than someone else is hardly equivalent to making a truly beneficial difference in the world.
As I readied myself to enter the fray and began to write, I realized I faced a major issue. I had nothing to write about. The most ludicrous aspect of Obama as Nobel Laureate for peace is not that he won it but that it has garnered as much attention as it has.
Does it really matter that President Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize? All it really means is that a panel of Norwegian judges support many of his policies. Sure, the prize comes with roughly $1.4 million but that is a drop in the bucket when compared to America’s massive budget and even bigger debt. Though the judges hope this honorary award will make Obama’s policies more successful, such an outcome is about as unlikely as the Cleveland Browns’ reaching the Super Bowl this year. And let’s face it, does the Nobel Peace Prize really carry with it any prestige? Frankly, it has been awarded to undeserving individuals on more than one occasion.
The first and most recent example of such an occurrence was when Al Gore won the prize. Apparently, making a movie full of factual errors and giving speeches about it qualifies for winning the Nobel Peace Prize. In any case, how speaking about global warming benefits “fraternity between nations” or “promotes peace” is beyond me. He neither discovered the phenomenon nor has made any real contributions to current scientific research. I, for one, remember learning about global warming in elementary school — long before I ever knew about Al Gore.
Another example occurred in 1973 when the prize was jointly awarded to Henry Kissinger and Le Duc Tho for negotiating the 1973 peace accord between North Vietnam and the United States. To those of you who have forgotten their U.S. history, the war did not end until 1975. In fact, Le Duc Tho, the head of the North Vietnamese delegation, refused the award because, in his words, “The war has not yet ended.” The war only ended when North Vietnamese forces captured Saigon after two more years of fighting. So much for the award’s prestige and influence.
Though there are numerous examples of Nobel recipients who truly benefited humanity and prevented bloodshed, winning the prize is not what gave their actions weight. After all, no one has ever spoken less highly of Mahatma Gandhi because he never won the Nobel Peace Prize. Moreover, the winner is more often chosen to make a political statement than to actually recognize a leading humanitarian. At the end of the day, the prize carries no moral, ethical or political weight. The award’s only weighty aspect is the prize money, and $1.4 million does not count for much.
Just as this supposedly notable award has been over-hyped, so too has Mr. Obama. Thus far, he has little to show except a failed Olympic bid and a still weak economy. Of course, he has been president for less than a year and only time will tell if he deserves the affection he is so willingly given. In the mean time, it would benefit all parties to remember he is only a politician.
Jim Napier is a senior. He can be contacted at jnapier @nd.edu
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.