Editorial: Nobel Peace Prize ... living up to the accolade

In January 2006, when he had been a U.S. senator barely 15 months, Barack Obama was invited to speak before Washington’s prestigious Gridiron Dinner. He was coming off a run of honors — keynote speaker at the Democratic convention, cover of Newsweek, Grammy award — but, short of actual accomplishments, he suggested he come back when he “could pass a law or something.”

And, in truth, the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to our freshman president is decidedly premature. It represents wishful thinking by the Nobel committee rather than any specific accomplishments by President Obama, and it is an implicit slap at the Bush administration.

Obama was suitably humble when he appeared in the White House Rose Garden to accept the honor, saying it was not recognition of him personally, but “affirmation of American leadership.” He will go to Oslo on Dec. 10 to accept the prize.

His implacable Republican and right-wing critics would have none of it. However, stripped of its personal animus and its powerful reek of sour grapes, their criticism does have some merit: He is, as yet, more a global celebrity than a global statesman.

The Nobel committee explained that it was honoring Obama for his “extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.” In well-received speeches at the United Nations and to the Muslim world in Cairo, he has gone a long way toward restoring the U.S. image. A recent poll of 20 countries showed the United States once again the world’s most-admired nation.

And the president does not lack for international initiatives. His administration, like his predecessor’s, is actively engaged in trying to dissuade Iran and North Korea from their nuclear ambitions. He is in talks with Russia about further reductions in nuclear arsenals. His administration is trying to broker an Israeli-Palestinian settlement. He is winding down the war in Iraq (even as he ramps up the war in Afghanistan).

The Nobel committee is frank in acknowledging that it bestows “aspirational” awards — in essence, optimistic bets that the award will spur positive outcomes.

The United States should feel honored by the award. As for the honoree: Mr. President, get out there and start earning your peace prize.

© 2009 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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