Obama Nobel Peace Prize Smackdown Wrap

I was certain I was either reading an Onion headline or had woken up in an alternative reality when I learned that Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Huh? Even Obama had the good sense to say he didn’t deserve it:

This morning, Michelle and I awoke to some surprising and humbling news. At 6 a.m., we received word that I’d been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 2009.

To be honest, I do not feel that I deserve to be in the company of so many of the transformative figures who’ve been honored by this prize — men and women who’ve inspired me and inspired the entire world through their courageous pursuit of peace.

But I also know that throughout history the Nobel Peace Prize has not just been used to honor specific achievement; it’s also been used as a means to give momentum to a set of causes.

This is all nice phrasemaking, which is Obama’s long suit. But since we are seeing that “Change you can believe is” is really “no change”, I remain skeptical that this supposed call to action will lead to any action, or at least of the sort that the award committee intended.

What is telling is the skepticism this award elicited, not the to-be-expected sort from the right, but from those of the center to left persuasion. For instance, Matt Yglesias admitted to being close to tongue-tied. Raw Story took note of the discomfort in “Not just conservatives mocking Obama’s Nobel win.” Clusterstock gave us, “Twitter Explodes With Obama Peace Prize Mockery.” I have never seen so many articles on Huffington Post on a single subject, and they were largely dubious, although some went to great lengths to be judicious about it.

Given the extensive coverage, a few samples illustrate the range of reactions. From Gideon Rachman of the Financial Times:

I am a genuine admirer of Obama. And I am very pleased that George W Bush is no longer president. But I doubt that I am alone in wondering whether this award is slightly premature. It is hard to point to a single place where Obama’s efforts have actually brought about peace – Gaza, Iran, Sri Lanka? The peace prize committee say that he is being rewarded for his “extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy”. But while it is OK to give school children prizes for “effort” – my kids get them all the time – I think international statesmen should probably be held to a higher standard.

It is also very odd timing. In the next couple of weeks, Obama is likely to yield to the wishes of his generals and to send many thousands more troops to Afghanistan. That will mean he is a wartime president, just as much as Bush or Lyndon Johnson. If Afghanistan ends up being Obama’s Vietnam, giving him the Nobel Peace Prize will look even sillier in a few years time.

Joe Mathews of the New America Foundation, quoted at Politico, saw it as a clever political move by the Nobel Committee (which he incorrectly called Swedes, this one happened to be Norwegian):

Sure, he doesn’t have much of a record yet as a peacemaker (outside of Cambridge, Mass. and getting the pro-Hillary deadenders to fall in line). But this is a very, very clever move by the Nobel committee.

How’s that? First off, the choice of Obama has the whole world talking about the Nobel Prize. If they’d pick some Cambodian rice farmer/anti-war activist, no one would have noticed. The Nobel is relevant again. Second — and I suspect this was the committee’s real motivation — this choice, precisely because it’s controversial, gets common people all the over world talking, debating and thinking about peace and diplomacy. That’s important, especially in America, where citizens are much more focused on the economy and health care than on these kinds of issues.

If you doubt the wisdom of this choice, just look at the huge worldwide media coverage of this choice in the first few hours after it happened. Nice work, Swedes.

And then we have the Mencius Moldbug theory (extracted from longer-form musings):

The problem is that Americans, even progressives, are the people in the world who adore Obama the least. Normally it is advantageous, for continuity purposes, that Europeans love Obama. But it is not advantageous that they love him so much. It is weird, distracting and confusing. In short: off message.

This strange European affection is easily explained. You see, there was once an agency named the Office of War Information, which was more or less the pro-Roosevelt press organized as a government agency. OWI no longer exists, but not because it fell from favor; some of its people went to CIA, some went to State, some went back to pretending to be ordinary citizens. OWI is essentially the bureaucratic ancestor of the “mainstream media” as we know it today.

After the unfortunate events of 1941-45, the surviving Continental friends of these gentlemen were organized into a new industry, the official media of Europe. Even in Britain, those loyal to the new military configuration of the planet were praised and petted, and reproduced intellectually; those who were not so sure grew old, had no students, declined and died. Europe is a Darwinian paradise of information, all adapted to military events. You can be sure that had things gone otherwise, the grandchildren of Celine, Brasillach and Drieu la Rochelle would constitute “European public opinion.”

So the problem is: Europe is gaga for Obama not because the wise Europeans, with their centuries of history, raw-milk cheeses and infinitely subtle wines, have deliberated long on the subject, gazed into their crystal balls and detected the promise and meaning of Obama. Europe is gaga for Obama because Europe, as we now know it, is a propaganda colony of Washington. The pre-1940 Europe is of historical interest only, like the Aztecs.

But this is not the Warsaw Pact. Nothing in this relationship is coordinated or hierarchical; Europe is gaga for Obama not because Washington sends it instructions to go gaga for Obama; Europe is gaga for Obama because it truly loves Obama. It wants to love Obama.

In fact, we can see this perfectly in the Nobel episode, because no White House flack in his right mind would have ever asked for this. No State Department would have lobbied for it. If, as some believe, Obama is just a front for the Jews – the Jews are horrified. This ridiculous thing will be a millstone around the administration’s neck for the next three years. Whoever did it cannot have been acting under any sort of instructions.

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  1. Mogden

    Congratulations to the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of the most aggressive, warlike nation on Earth, and its last remaining imperial power.

  2. Hugh

    Who knew that the Norwegians were so snarky? That was snark, right?

    Rachmann’s take is standard judicious blather. Mathews’ reaction falls more in the dumb category. An overweight Brittney Spears dancing badly onstage also evokes a lot of talk. Getting people to talk about something is not always a good thing if all they have to say about it is how stupid it is. Moldbug’s is the usual tinfoil hoohaw.

  3. john c. halasz

    Whaa? Yves, why you citing “Mencius Moldbug”? He’s a reactionary idiot, who, pedanticism aside. can only come up with a pretentiously ignorant form of conspiracy theory.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Yes, I know, he used to comment here regularly until everyone ganged up on him and he decamped. But he writes well. I will grant him that even if I do not agree with the substance. But even on HuffPo, there were quite a few post of the “Obama won the Nobel for his being not Bush and making Europe happy” sort. So he is riffing out a non-uncommon view in an extreme manner.

    2. kevin de bruxelles

      He is not at all that far off the mark, although he exaggerates a bit about the European media. I live in Europe and people here really are obsessively pro-Obama in the same way little children are pro-Santa Claus. I just rue the day their illusions are shattered and Europe discovers that Obama is just another American politician who serves the interests of the same elites Bush and Clinton served.

  4. Richard Kline

    Re: Mencius, even the tide is right twice a cycle. This could be his moment, and indeed the award is so off-message that the positing of a conspiracy bank-shot seems, by way of the barber of Occam, to be all but warranted. Just happy for him to take the shot at it. And one grain of truth in his remarks is that Obama is, indeed, more popular in Europe even than here, all but irrationally so.

    To me, semi-parallel to MenMold that’s because Bo Prez represents the neoliberal, neo-Cold War, feed the rich, tamp down the Other Ranks consensus which the power elite in Europe and the US of the last two generations has flourished on, more or less. King George the Bushleaguer defaulted on that relationship trying to grab all the marbles for radical rightists of the right confession, and now that he’s in the ashcan of history Europe’s top types hope to get back to demi-empire as usual, with Obama as just the man. Who has just the plan. I don’t know whether the Peace Prize to him is a white flag by the pacifist left (brothers!) or a scented handkerchief signalling an extended courtship is offered. But it’s certainly unwarranted by anything in his history, agenda, performance, or may I say his capacity. . . . But then they gave one to Teddy Roosevelt, too. And [wait for it] Henry Kissinger, never a recipient _less_ deserving. So there’s precedent ample for this gauche gesture. *hor-hor-hor*

  5. Diego

    The idea that 5 Norwegians can be representative for the whole of Europe is as stupid as it seems.

    Of course we Europeans are pro-Obama. But this Nobel Prize is just ridiculous; I can tell you people’s reaction in Europe (not so that from the press, which, as Mencius says, is a colony of Washington) has been even more cynical and skeptical than the US one.

    Obama just didn’t deserve the Nobel Prize. Guantánamo is still open, torturers are still free, Irak and Afghanistan are still at war, war is being threatened on many other countries, etc. etc. and all this is a direct consequence of Obama’s policies.

  6. Vinny G.

    Just a few clarifications:

    1. Most Europeans are too racist and xenophobic to truly like Obama. This is simply a reflection of what 5 Nordic people like. When you use the word “European” please note that the Italians, the Greeks, the Spaniards, the Austrians, the British, and the French are also Europeans, and they generally are also the biggest racist bastards you will ever meet.

    2. Obama received this Nobel Peace Prize for the peace he brought to the south side of this wonderful city of Chicago, where yesterday there was only one innocent child that was murdered in otherwise very peaceful gang-related activity…

    Vinny G.

    1. gnk

      Racist bastards? I have family in Greece – and overwhelmingly they and everyone else they knew supported Obama. When Obama won, I reveived emails from friends in Britain and Greece congratulating our presidential selection – I have never seen that before. And by the way, George Bush was hated thru-out Europe and he was white.

      1. Vinny G

        I have family in Greece too. Maybe your friends and family are not racist, but the Greeks are generally racist, possibly the worst offenders in the EU. Just look at how they treat the Albanians, the Turks, and the Gypsies.
        Don’t get me wrong, I love Greece, just that I have a tough time dealing with their 18th century mentality.

        Vinny G.

      2. Vinny G

        Oh, you also mentioned Britain. I lived in England, and don’t forget I am a doctor trained to understand the psychology of people who cannot understand themselves. The British, behind their otherwise logical mind and friendly facade hide a very deeply rooted attitude of superiority that is built on logical constructs rather than emotions, as is the case with The Southern Europeans. Generally, once a Southern European gets to know you all prejudices fall, however the British mindset is so well rooted into intellectual constructs, a Greek, Pole, Italian, Gypsy, or just about any “foreigner” will never be good enough to invite to tea. Btw, one must pronounce the word “foreigner” with that obnoxious central London accent while twisting their face into a long horse-like resemblance… :)

        I know many Americans who lived and worked in England who went through similar experiences. But one must live there for a while to understand the British mind.

        However, your friends may be different, I don’t know.

        Vinny G.

  7. Diego

    If there’s a racist trolling around this forum, that’s you. Yves should ban you permanently for your continuous racist attacks on Europeans.

    If you want to measure racism appropiately, look at stats on healthcare access for minorities (including illegal immigrants), interracial relationships, police attacks against minorities, etc. in Europe and the US.

    While you are at it, you could also collect data on racial separation / ghettoisation in the US vs. Europe. And please include miscegenation laws and non-black minorities (like non-Christians’ and homosexual people’s rights) in your analysis.

    1. Vinny G


      I won’t argue with you that America has a lot of problems, and as you must have noticed, I often point that out. Yet, I think the difference between the US and Europe is that the US is constantly doing soul search, washing its dirty loundry in public, which often attracts ridicule from abroad. On the other hand, this is rare in Europe, where national image is above all and must be protected, often for economic reasons since Europe is so dependent on tourism.

      Once again, I am perhaps uniquely qualified to make such statements since I am both a US as well as EU citizen, and I have shared my time living on both continents for much of my adult life. I have lived in several European nations as well as several US states (including some Southern ones). Trust me, I would rather be black or Hispanic or foreigner in Nashville, TN, than in Barcelona, Pamplona, London, or Athens.

      Personally I think this entire love of Europeans for Obama can be explained psychologically as “introjection”, which, when I see in my patients is a sign that somebody is in serious denial and has built his or her own ego from components of others because their own are too troublesome to even acknowledge. For example, there is far, far, more discrimination against women in the workforce in “enlightened” EU nations like France of the UK than there is in the US. Believe me, There are studies that show that clearly. However, you won’t hear that from the BBC or France 24.

      As far as Yves banning me is concerned, I am not attacking anybody personally here, rather expressing my views about different topics, including Europe. Unlike you, who have called me a racist, I won’t do that to you, nor will I suggest banning you simply because I may not like your views. Quite the oposite, I am very much looking forward to reading your passionate comments… :)

      Vinny G.

      1. Diego

        You have already said most Europeans are “racist bastards”, plus a long list of insults over your past comments. Don’t give me the “I won’t call you a racist” line, since you’ve already insulted me as a Spaniard (and many others) more than enough.

        Let me put this clear: you are both a racist and a whiner, and you don’t belong in here. Yves should ban you.

        1. Vinny G.

          Oh, so much passion! :) By all means, let us keep our cool, shall we :)

          Spaniard, huh? Now, that’s a nation I know all too well. When I lived in Pamplona and then in San Sebastian I was constantly being reminded by my neighbors not to ever take photographs of any Guardia Civil buildings or cars or to get into any disagreements with their officers, as that could easily result in beatings and torture of me at the hand of that El Generalisimo-style oppression agency. I was also told that overwhelmingly happens to foreigners, blacks, and gypsies. And, by the way, that was a mere 3 yeas ago. Is that still true? Now, please explain to me, how is that not racist, and how is that any different from what the US has done at Gitmo?

          Now, as far as being “Spaniard”, would you kindly please explain to me what exactly is that? I can’t figure out whether that also includes the Catalans, the Basques, and those in the far south … :)

          And, by the way, you may wish to check the other thread here (the one about the democratization of credit) where I do some major bashing on the US educational system (despite it still being academically by far the best in the world). In the recent past I did the same against the American healthcare and justice systems, both of which I am intimately familiar with. And even here, just a few comments above I am ridiculing the high crime rate in Chicago, my city of residence. I really hate to quote that infamous American news-entertainment channel, but I believe I am being “fair and balanced”. And, most importantly, I am not getting all bent out of shape when a European bashes this country, so why in the world would you take criticism of Europe, and even an occasional use of the word “basterd” (misspelling intended) is posted here? Okay, okay, I won’t psychoanalyze that…LOL

          Vinny G.

          1. Diego

            Vinny G.,

            Guardia Civil policemen don’t like people to take photographs at their buildings for a simple reason… after being photographed, they usually are bombed, and those Guardia Civil policemen are killed. Oh, your neighbours didn’t tell you? I can see what kind of Basque neighbours you had…

            But all Spanish policemen will do is asking you what you want your photographs for and verifying your passport. They won’t do anything different from that, and absolutely not torturing you. Please don’t compare to Guantánamo.

            And on discrimination against women… have you seen wifebeating stats in the US vs. Europe? Pay-gap stats? How many women sit in the US Congress (excluding dead politicians’ wives) or the US Government, and how many in e.g. Spain?

            My point is: there’s discrimination everywhere, but you can’t call us racist bastards (or macho bastards) just because your Greek relatives happen to talk shit about Turkish people (those invading them from time to time, a reason why every Greek has to serve 2 whole years in the Army) and Albanians, whose massive immigration in welcoming Serbia ended up with immigrants’ grandchildren declaring their independence (heard about Kosovo?).

        2. Vinny G.

          Diego, I just remembered something that may interest you, as a European. When my wife and I were working in the UK, there were also a lot of Spanish doctors working there as well. They too were being treated very badly, and clearly discriminated by the British-born personnel. In fact, the Spanish doctors were being treated about as badly as the Polish, Romanian, and Greek doctors. Because my wife and I also have American citizenship (in addition to EU citizenship), they were treating us a little better, yet not fairly at all.

          In fact, one day I heard a Spanish doctor from Madrid say: “these racist British bastards!”…LOL

          Vinny G.

          1. Diego

            Yes, the British (and the Spanish) are so racist that both our healthcare systems accept doctors from all over the world with no fuss. Wow, that must be racism!

            How many foreign-graduated doctors have you seen in the US? Now that everyone’s talking about exploding healthcare costs, what about saying an obvious, logical solution out loud?

            Vinny G., you’ve mentioned the US, unlike Europe, washes its dirt in the open. You are absolutely wrong. Americans, unlike Europeans, receive no criticism of their own system from the media.

            When the US was ranked last in the developed world on 15-year-old kids’ knowledge on science, maths and reading, there was no real debate on the US. They kept on thinking their high-school system is the best in the world. Compare to reactions in Europe, and specifically Germany.

            US men make a 9/11 attack on their (former) wives or girlfriends every single year. US men kill 3.000 (former) wives or girlfriends every single year. This stat has never appeared on mainstream US media and no policy debate has ever been held on this yearly 9/11 attack, despite the US having by far the largest wifekilling rate in the developed world. Compare to Nordic countries or Spain, where wifekillings are reported every week, policy debates are held, and even specific laws and budgets are approved to try and fight the problem.

            There’s no real debate on the US political structure. The debates on electoral reform, devolution or territorial structural reform held on the UK, Germany, Italy or France, among many others, just don’t take place on the US, despite the US democracy having severe problems (only 2 parties, oversized role of party financing, the President may not be the candidate with most votes, oversized role of the Supreme Court, etc.).

            I just gave you 3 examples. I could give you dozens more. I’m not saying the US is any worse than Europe; I’m just refuting your point that the US washes its dirt in the open, while Europe doesn’t (and this because of tourism!! It can’t get more ridiculous).

    1. Vinny G.

      Diego said: “My point is: there’s discrimination everywhere”

      Okay, okay. Your point is well taken, and certainly it’s true. No reason to get too excited here… No reason to take things so seriously either… It’s just a blog, for crying out loud…

      However, I maintain that America, despite its problems, is a far more egalitarian society, and for women in particular it is far, far easier to rise higher on the corporate ladder here than it would be in France, Spain, the UK, and many other Western Europe. In fact, Eastern Europe is far, far more egalitarian than Western Europe, as 60 years of communism have broken the continuity extending back to feudalism. Much of Western Europe still maintains that connection to feudalism, and honestly I see no real desire to give it up as it serves the ruling classes so well. France and the UK in particular are extremely paternalistic societies. As far as Spain and Greece goes, these are largely peasant societies with a modernistic facelift. One need not drive too far away from Athens or Barcelona to see what I describe here.

      What I write here is from direct experience. Let me illustrate. My wife worked as a dentist for Britain’s NHS, and it was an absolutely dismal experience. In fact, we are right now suing them for money they still owe us, and I am in the process of contacting a number of EU agencies to file complaints and request investigation of their practices. And I know other doctors who are doing the same thing as we speak. Have you, by the way, ever wondered why there is such an acute shortage of doctors in the UK, and why they so actively recruit foreign doctors? I tell you why: because they treat them like crap so nobody hangs around for very long, that’s why. The British-born male NHS doctors get all the private patients, while the foreign-trained doctors get only NHS work, which is against most employment contracts where there are clear ratios specified. Their contracts specify a clear salary, only to actually be half of that, and believe me, I can read a contract, and I can read numbers, and clearly 100,000 pounds does not read like 50,000 pounds. As such, please don’t tell me and my wife that Britain is not a chauvinistic, male-dominated, racist, and backward-minded society. We had to put up with it personally.

      When I was in Barcelona I worked for a university that shall remain nameless (to protect the guilty :). When it became clear that I was never going to be allowed to do any meaningful research there, I found another way to make a lot of money in the short two years I was there: my Catalan colleagues deeply desired to have their research published in the US or at least in an English-speaking journal because that meant a lot more than having things published in Spanish-peaking journals than few read. But their research methods and statistical approaches were so antiquated, they would never have cut the mustard here or even in the UK. Additionally, some of the things that they were doing were bordering on the unethical, often without them even knowing this. Also, their English-language writing skills were weak, often showing little more than an automatic word-for-word translation from Spanish or Catalan into English, which, of course, would be incomprehensible to most native English-speaking readers. I ended up making a lot of money by simply rewriting their papers, and pointing out errors in their research methods or statistics, which any journal would have picked up on anyway. And this was a well-known university, btw.

      I have close “Spaniard” friends born in Spain who went to medical school in Spain, and after graduation jumped through hoops to do their residency in the United States so they can work here. When I now ask them whether they would ever return to work in Spain they laugh. Not only is 30,000 Euros a year not very appealing to them, but also the extremely nepotistical and territorial work environment that is so common in Spain is a major turn off to them.

      And yes, most of these “Spanish” doctors I am referring to above are actually of Basque or Catalan origin, which I know that are being treated as second-class citizens in Spain. My friends have endured a great deal of discrimination in their own country, Spain. I observed very strong reactions from them when asked how they were being treated in Spain. I would say these individuals were discriminated so badly in their own country, they were almost traumatized by that discrimination, this in ways similar to the ways the African-Americans have been traumatized by discrimination in the United States. Now my friends work for places like Harvard and University of Chicago, doing exciting research work that is being appreciated by their colleagues, nobody makes fun of their accent, and nobody passes them up for promotions simply because they have not worked for the place for 30 years, as is the case in Spain.

      Look, Diego, I do give Spain credit for the incredible progress it has made since it joined the EU,and for the wise ways it invested EU funds. Let’s face it, 20 years ago Spain was a Third World nation. You guys and gals have done a wonderful job fixing up Barcelona and selling it to tourists from across the world, and I give you an A+ at how skillfully you sold the sun to those sun-starved Brits and Germans. However, Spain is not the United States, and it shall never be. America is a large country with a lot of problems but also a tremendous amount of advantages. The problems here are caused by the current ruling plutocracy, but beyond that things are not so bad. There is nothing here that a nice little revolution won’t fix. :)

      Well, I’m not really sure how all this ties in with Obama’s Nobel prize, but heck, I’m sure it’s the fault of “those racist Europeans”…LOL (Diego: that was a joke, please don’t jump on me for this too :)

      Vinny G.

      1. Diego

        Spain has its fair share of problems, including nepotistic university appointments and the lack of English proficiency. (By the way, those problems are shared by many other European countries, including France, Germany and Italy). So what? Does that make us racists, chauvinistic or bastards in any meaningful way?

        Basques and Catalans are not second-class citizens in Spain. The reverse sentence is true. There’s no Spanish despective word for Basques or Catalans; if you’ve been living in the Basque country or Catalonia, you’ve probably heard or read threatening graffiti against “maketos” or “xarnegos”, equivalent to the n-word for Spaniards of non-Basque, non-Catalan origin.

        A doctor or a university professor from Madrid, even if (s)he speaks Catalan or is willing to learn Catalan, can’t work in Barcelona if he hasn’t seated a philology-level Catalan proficiency exam (so difficult that not even the Catalan president could pass it). The resulting skilled diaspora since Catalan-language laws were approved helps explain why Catalonia has such lousy university professors.

        In more civilized regions, like Madrid, primary education and university courses are taught in English (only to willing students). In more parochial ones, like Catalonia, they are erasing an international language and their own majority mother tongue (Spanish) to make every kid compulsorily be taught in Catalan, and Catalan only. It’s pretty easy to understand why Catalonia is losing human capital so fast and why they’re becoming poorer vs. the rest of Spain. Most Catalans think they are somehow superior, that this development is Madrid’s fault, and that they are subsidizing Madrid, when stats show otherwise.

        And on the Spanish-ness of Catalonia and the Basque country (this is going so off-topic we’ll have to invent a new word for it), well, Spaniards don’t make anybody feel compulsorily Spanish. There’s no pledge of alliance at schools. We’ve probably shown too much tolerance towards intolerant racists (like ETA and their supporters), whose salaries were being paid for by the Spanish state til recently. But the fact is there are regional elections every 4 years, and no pro-independence party has ever won a regional election on a pro-independence basis: most Basques and Catalans (the silent majority) do feel Spanish.

        1. Skippy

          OK its #2 pencil’s at dawn for you two. I will provide the roll of best man for both, so remember the rules. No resharpening of implement, no lead just graphite, no ink jet back packs, first to draw a pi or infinity symbol upon the other wins.

          Skippy…I find both have valid point of contention and could find middle ground which could lead to much enlightenment for all of us.

      2. Diego

        By the way, Spanish doctors don’t get 30,000 euros, but up to twice as much. In 2006, Spanish doctors working for public healthcare earned between 50,000 and 60,000 euros (i.e. between $75,000 and $90,000) on average, depending on the region. Good doctors can earn even more in private healthcare.

        But Catalonia, one of the wealthiest regions, is the one where doctors earn less (salaries are fixed by the regional government). Source: http://www.elperiodico.com/default.asp?idpublicacio_PK=46&idioma=CAS&idnoticia_PK=424580&idseccio_PK=1021 (left-side image)

        Those salaries seem pretty good if you factor in the huge influx of doctors from Eastern Europe and South America, which helped get medical expenses in rein (unlike in the US).

  8. Dikaios Logos

    The real story has been missed. The Nobel Prizes are, and have always been, ridiculous jokes. Yes, 5 members of the Norwegian Parliament thought he was worthy of an award. That is all. It is at best a relic of a certain 19th Century European view that achievements are best awarded with a lump of gold and dinner with royalty.

    To those making noise about deservedness, I imagine that none of you have ever known a committee member or a laureate. It is more than an open secret among those that the prizes are hype: would you ever imagine the award ever representing something rigorous? Similarly, are the people up in arms about this close followers of the award? Would any of you be able to name the last 10 Peace Laureates? Or the last 10 in any other area? Come on people, even if think Obama is overrated, he is still a world historical figure. The Nobel Prizes, and the odd respect for them, have always been convention at its worst.

  9. Frank C.

    Agree the award is silly. But Obama has gotten more concessions from Iran recently than the last admin did in 8 years. And the admin has boxed Israel into agreeing that settlements are the key final status negotiating issue. Israel outfoxed the US for the last 8 years on that, with the supposed “confidence building” BS. Hopefully Israel will now have a chance to survive…because Obama is forcing the insane Israeli hawks off their script.

    So there is real international progress. We’ll see what happens with Afghanistan. But of course, the award is symbolic and political, and should be forgotten.

    The Obama is do-nothing narrative is ridiculous as well. The idea that he HAD to regulate finance in the first few months is silly. Incremental yet meaningful, important health care is on the way. It’s been 8 months and it’s not over yet. How hard is that to understand?

  10. eric

    It’s hard to argue that Obama has done that much as president to deserve the Nobel – I’m sure the Norweigians are aware of that. So then – why did he win? His election to the Presidency represented a symbolic and actual sea-change of possibilities that resonated far beyond the US (and perhaps even more outside the US). That a mixed race person with a non-Christian name could become president of the US suggests that it’s possible (even if it takes an economic meltdown) to overcome traditional divisions and limitations and do something different. There were celebrations around the world when he won and a sense of new possibilities. I”m not sure it’s such a bad or premature choice …..

  11. Desi Erasmus

    Scanning the list of previous winners, one finds an assortment that ranges from zany and fatuous to terribly ironic to a few plausibly deserving of some recognition for advancing the cause of peace.

    There seems to be a slight bias in favor of the certifiably delusional (e.g., the various instigators of the Kellogg-Briand pact “outlawing war”, and Woodrow Wilson, who plunged the USA into the “war to end all wars” and “a war to make the world safe for democracy”). Given what followed in history after some of the ‘clearly premature’ awards, one wonders if we are setting up for another “peace to end all peace”, in the words of a memorable book title about the post WWI Anglo-French “settlement” of the middle east.

    On balance, I come away with increased respect for Lê Ðức Thọ, who turned the award down.

  12. mundanomaniac

    to me the award has been given admittedly to Pres. Obama, but essentially to the people of the United States. So to me there is no question of “nothing accomplished”, 2008 11 4 was the sea change in terms of political culture, which gave the signal to the world, on how the majority feels and how it wants to be governed.
    In the first moment I thought, the prize was a symbolic attempt to saveguard Obama against the risk of ending like Kennedys and Martin Luther King.
    The enthusiasm of european people and of those on other continents for the first non white Präsident reminds me to the same enthusiasm 20 years ago for Gorbatschow.
    The soul of man is a child, and like children it likes to dream and sometimes these dreams come true as we remember in these days of the 20 aniversary of the miracel of Leipzig on 10/9 of 1989.

  13. dearieme

    Giving it to O for not being Bush would seem to be a categorical error. He’s just a smoother Bush, isn’t he? Thank God he’s not a Clinton, though.

  14. Lavrenti Beria

    Look, if anyone tell’s you that you’re next to be awarded the Nobel Prize, start swinging.

  15. Vinny G.

    Wow! I just got a collect call from a blonde-sounding lady to inform me I have just won the Nobel Prize in the category “Blogging Provocateur”. I am to report to Oslo immediately to collect my plastic medal that was guaranteed to have been “Designed in Norway, assembled in China” plus a 20 Euro bill, which I am told in two yeas is likely to be worth at least 1.4 million US dollars.

    I am very excited about this.

    Vinny G.

  16. Anton Ego

    Americans are in deep ignorance and denial about the way their county brutalized the rest of the world under Bush/Cheney. If they thought about that a bit more, this prize wouldn’t be such a shock.

    1. Dikaios Logos

      I largely agree with you. I also think almost no one has read Nobel’s will (or understood his guilt!) and therefore are imagining the appropriate criteria. Most importantly, the language mentions the previous year. Everyone assumes it is a lifetime achievement award, but it was never intended to be one. The will is here:

      As I implied before, the slavish respect for Nobels is a charade. This peace award has put that into sharp relief.

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