World wide reaction to the Nobel Peace Prize awarded Barack Obama was mixed at best. Most, including the President himself were surprised. Many felt it premature, while others felt he’d done nothing to deserve it at all. After all, he’s only been President of the United States for a very short time. He really hasn’t had time to do anything according to critics.
The major irony behind the award was that it was given in the name of peace to a President directing no less than two wars and had recently ordered drone attacks on Afghanistan leading to thousands of civilian injuries and deaths. In addition, Obama’s record on human rights issues was woeful at the time of the award. The Nobel Committee however, deflected the criticism stating the award is sometimes given to reward potential for action rather than past actions or accomplishments. Obama’s initial diplomatic moves at the start of his presidency indicate that he is headed in the right direction.
The overwhelming negative reaction to the award was primarily based on the fact that his nomination for the prize was submitted just two weeks after he took office. But from the time he was nominated and then named as the winner, Obama brought many changes to the international political climate. Obama arrived at the White House intent on transforming the world negative opinions about America. He stated his intentions to do away with the unilateral and belligerent foreign policy of his predecessor George W. Bush. Obama not being George was a huge plus in his favor in the eyes of the rest of the world. Obama replaced threats with dialogue and opened communication with old adversaries like Russia.
Although it hasn’t been accepted yet, Obama has extended his hand in friendship to the Muslim world seeking a peaceful end to Mid East hostilities. The Nobel Prize is also an indication that the world expects a great deal from Barack Obama. He is not the first one to receive the award based on anticipation of future moves. In 1976, the Nobel Peace Prize was given to the Peace Women of Northern Ireland in order to signal the battling communities that the violence must stop. Aung San Suu Kyi was in jail when she won in 1991. Her award was viewed as support for the emerging democracy in Burma.
1994 the Nobel committee awarded the Prize to Yasser Arafat, Shimon Peres, and Yitzhak Rabin to build momentum for peace between Israelis and Palestinians. Alfred Noble said the Prize should go to the “person who shall have done the most, or the best, work for fraternity between the nations and the abolition or reduction of standing armies and the formation and spreading of peace congresses.”
By this definition President Barack Obama was a shoe-in among the 205 nominees for the award.