About a month ago, President Barack Obama became the latest Columbian to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. This event shocked many and even managed to offend a few. Obama himself was surprised at his victory, claiming in a press conference that it was his daughter who first told him the news. In the days that followed, media pundits had the same question for their guests: did Obama deserve the Nobel Peace Prize? The resounding answer is no. Many believe that Obama did not deserve this honor. They claim that Obama has not "done" anything. When compared to previous recipients like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mother Teresa, Obama does fall short by a considerable margin, but there have also been controversial and "less qualified" previous recipients like Yasser Arafat and Henry Kissinger. It is possible that the motivation behind choosing Obama as the recipient is less than honorable. The Nobel Committee could have awarded the prize to Obama to bring more attention to itself and Norway, where the Committee is based. What better way to generate publicity than to give the prize to a controversial candidate who happens to lead one of the most influential nations, if not the most influential nation, in the world? It should be noted, however, that sometimes, the prize is not offered to commend past behavior but to entice new behavior. The major reason the Nobel Committee cites for giving our president the award is, "for his [Obama's] extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples." People heatedly disagree with this rationale. They contend that actions, not "efforts," warrant a peace prize. However, that may just be the genius behind the decision. Awarding Obama the Nobel Peace Prize compels him to implement peaceful policies. He now has to live up to the standards of a Nobel laureate. He has the ever-present reminder of the actions of past leaders and is therefore inclined to act accordingly. At the outset of his presidency, Obama made his intentions clear—he was going to maintain a considerable American military presence in Iraq, and recently he has sent more U.S. troops to Afghanistan. Increasing the number of American soldiers abroad is not a step towards peace. Simply stated, war begets more war and killing begets more killing. The Nobel Committee may have realized this and decided to use the Peace Prize as a way to influence his behavior. To his credit, Obama has taken several successful strides towards change how the world views the United States. He has spoken countless times on crafting a new image of America and opening up diplomatic relations with foreign countries. The award, taken in addition with his words on diplomacy, might make the world more inclined to view America as a peaceful nation and not as an aggressive, warlike one. Obama has publicly stated that he does not deserve to win the prize but that he will work towards deserving it. Obama is one of the most powerful world leaders, and it can't hurt to give him another incentive to act peacefully. Whereas he previously had no benchmark by which to orient himself, he now has to live up to a prestigious prize. However, many now question whether or not the Nobel Committee should use the prize as an incentive for change. Does this undermine what the prize has previously represented? It is widely seen as recognition of a major accomplishment in fostering peace around the globe. However, while some people disagree with Obama's qualifications to become a Nobel laureate, no one can disagree with the fact that it will help improve the nation's—and, perhaps, in turn, Columbia's—image. The author is a Columbia College first-year.
Columbia Spectator Staff