At 6 a.m. Friday, President Barack Obama woke up to the news that he had won this year’s Nobel Peace Prize.
According to the Nobel Committee, he got it for his “vision of and work for a world without nuclear weapons.”
The atmosphere Obama has brought since his presidency is undeniable when it compares to the failures under former President George W. Bush. However, it doesn’t justify a president whose country is in two wars winning such an award.
The timing is very awkward for Obama. He received the Nobel Peace Prize while he is considering sending more troops to Afghanistan.
To his credit, though, Obama has made significant efforts to merit the award.
In January, Obama ordered the rightful closure of the Guantanamo Bay detention facility, which has been a symbol of American injustice for a long time. So far, though, the camp remains open.
Obama also decided to cancel plans for an expensive and useless missile shield in Eastern Europe. The shield, which was designed to protect the U.S. from Iranian missiles on their way through Europe, was a major affront to the Russians, who saw it as an attempt to upset the balance of power in their former satellite states.
Canceling the planned bases was a shrewd political move that improved relations with Russia. Plus, the plan would have cost $5 billion, according to the Pentagon.
Perhaps the clearest departure from the Bush era was Obama’s deft handling of the upheaval following Iran’s presidential election in June.
Many conservatives called for Obama to denounce Iran’s regime or otherwise assist the protesters. However, he wisely avoided the issue, knowing that Iran’s leaders would have claimed America was behind the opposition.
Obama’s rejection of Bush’s diplomacy has endeared him to the world, which shows as a factor in the Nobel Peace Prize. Obama had only been president for 12 days when the Nobel nominations were due.
Predictably, conservatives have used this win to revitalize their attacks on Obama’s “celebrity status.” Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele said Obama got the prize because his “star power” outshined others who actually deserved it, according to the Washington Post.
While it’s a bit of a low blow to attack a man for receiving an award he didn’t request, Steele has a point. Obama hasn’t done many things of substance before the deadline to deserve the award.
Obama got in front of any controversy in a Friday morning press conference by admitting as much.
“Let me be clear, I do not view it as a recognition of my own accomplishments, but rather as an affirmation of American leadership on behalf of aspirations held by people in all nations,” Obama said.
The fact is Obama’s status as a celebrity figure did contribute to his recognition. The horrible timing and lack of justification make the honor hard to understand. The committee should have waited at least another year to see the ramifications of Obama’s actions before giving him such an award.
Vincent DeFrancesco is a sophomore majoring in mass communications.