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Obama: Nobel Prize for Peace, by Mark Silva

The Swamp (Blogue du Chicago Tribune)


President Barack Obama, who has pledged to place diplomacy ahead of confrontation and reached out to a skeptical world with offers of mutual understanding, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize today for what the committee called "his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples."

Obama is only the third sitting U.S. president to win the Nobel Peace Prize -- President Theodore Roosevelt won the award in 1906, President Woodrow Wilson in 1919. And Obama was nominated for this prize after just two weeks in office, with the award comng less than nine months into Obama’s term -- signs that the Nobel Committee is recognizing aspirations over achievements today.

In awarding the prize, the Nobel committee hailed the president’s creation of "a new climate in international politics.’’

Obama, who was awakened with the news this morning, plans to address the awarding of the prize in a Rose Garden appearance at 11 am EDT.

Ironically, the award arrives at a time when Obama is weighing the recommendation of the U.S. military commander in Afghanistan to deploy tens of thousands of additional troops in a war now eight years old. At the same time, the president, who campaigned with a promise to withdraw American forces from Iraq, is in the process of drawing down forces there, planning to withdraw combat forces by next year and all troops by 2011.

Yet it recognizes the voiced objectives of a president who campaigned with promises to reengage the U.S. in world affairs and has personally reached out to erstwhile adversaries.

"Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world’s attention and given its people hope for a better future," Thorbjoern Jagland, chairman of the Nobel Committee, said. "In the past year, Obama has been a key person for important initiatives in the U.N. for nuclear disarmament and to set a completely new agenda for the Muslim world and East-West relations."

The committee was endorsing the American president’s "appeal that ’Now is the time for all of us to take our share of responsibility for a global response to global challenges,’’’ he said.

Yet Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele was quick today to criticize the president’s prize.

"The real question Americans are asking is, ’What has President Obama actually accomplished?’ Steele said in a statement issued this morning. "It is unfortunate that the president’s star power has outshined tireless advocates who have made real achievements working towards peace and human rights.’’

Accolades flowed from the president’s allies today.

"I’m delighted at this recognition of President Obama’s work to strengthen international cooperation,’’ sad Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. "It validates the president’s approach to tough trans-national challenges such as global warming and the spread of nuclear arms. And it celebrates his steady efforts to improve America’s standing around the world’’

The Nobel Committee had criticized Obama’s predecessor former President George W. Bush, for engaging n largely unilateral military action in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks against the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. With the backing of Congress, Bush quickly invaded Afghanistan and ousted the Taliban, and in spring of 2003 launched a U.S.-led invasion of Iraq intent on removing Saddam Hussein from power.

After awarding the 2002 prize to former President Jimmy Carter, the committee chairman said it should be considered a "kick in the leg’’ to the Bush administration’s war policies.

More recently, former Vice President Al Gore - who had challenged Bush for election in 2000 -- won the prize for his work on climate change in 2007.

Since taking office, Obama has reached out to the Muslim world with a speech in Cairo in June appealing for understanding between the West and the rest of the world. He has traveled widely abroad delivering a similar message. And most recently he called on the General Assembly of the United Nations to commit all nations to eventual nuclear disarmament.

Calling for "a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world,’’ Obama said in his widely viewed Cairo address that "the cycle of suspicion and discord must end.’’

Last month, Obama told the U.N.:"Like all of you, my responsibility is to act in the interest of my nation and my people, and I will never apologize for defending those interests. But it is my deeply held belief that in the year 2009 - more than at any point in human history - the interests of nations and peoples are shared."

Obama also has committed his administration to renewed attempts to broker a lasting peace between the Israelis and Palestinians, with the president endorsing a "two-state’’ solution that his predecessor also had supported.

"The exciting and important thing about this prize is that it’s given to someone [...] who has the power to contribute to peace," Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg said.

The Nobel committee received a record 205 nominations for this year’s prize.

The Nelson Mandela Foundation welcomed the award on behalf of its founder, Nelson Mandela, who shared the 1993 Peace Prize with then-South African President F.W. DeKlerk for their efforts at ending years of apartheid and laying the groundwork for a democratic country. "We trust that this award will strengthen his commitment, as the leader of the most powerful nation in the world, to continue promoting peace and the eradication of poverty," the foundation said.

In his 1895 will, Alfred Nobel stipulated that the peace 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."

The prize is awared by a five-member member committee elected by the Norwegian Parliament. The committee has taken a wide interpretation of Nobel’s guidelines, expanding the prize beyond peace mediation to include efforts to combat poverty, disease and climate change.

Mark Silva

© The Swamp


Wire services contributed to this report.


Mis en ligne le 9 octobre 2009, par M. Macina, sur le site