by AndrewMc | 10/09/2009 06:02:00 AM

Barack Obama becomes the third sitting U.S. president, after Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson, to win the Nobel Prize for Peace:

President Obama was awarded the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize Friday for his work to improve international diplomacy and rid the world of nuclear weapons -- a stunning decision to celebrate a figure virtually unknown in the world before he launched his presidential campaign nearly three years ago.

I must admit, my first reaction is to be baffled.


An update. I love the DNC reaction:

"The Republican Party has thrown in its lot with the terrorists - the Taliban and Hamas this morning - in criticizing the President for receiving the Nobel Peace prize," DNC communications director Brad Woodhouse told POLITICO. "Republicans cheered when America failed to land the Olympics and now they are criticizing the President of the United States for receiving the Nobel Peace prize - an award he did not seek but that is nonetheless an honor in which every American can take great pride - unless of course you are the Republican Party.

From the Washington Post story:

The announcement, which drew gasps of surprise from the audience in the Norwegian capital of Oslo, praised Obama for his "extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples" during his nine months in office.

The committee singled out for special recognition Obama's call for a world free of nuclear weapons, which he first made in an April speech in Prague.

I bet there were gasps. The mandarin workings of the Nobel Prize committee are, well, opaque at best. The committee gives out the the Nobel for Peace for its own reasons. Sometimes it's for the recognition of a long life of striving for peace--think Mother Theresa. Sometimes it's a recognition that the individual's contribution to the process of peace merits special note. Nelson Mandela and others fall into this category.

Sometimes the committee makes the award to someone they hope will further a specific peace process--Yasser Arafat.

I think this prize was awarded as much on the hope of what he'll accomplish as anything else. It's an amazing recognition of potential, I believe. And, I think, that he's not George Bush.

Some reactions from around the world follow.

The New York Times:

In a stunning surprise, the Nobel Committee announced Friday that it had awarded its annual peace prize to President Obama “for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples” less than nine months after he took office.

The London Times Online:

Barack Obama sensationally won the Nobel Peace Prize today after just nine months in office for returning America to a multilateralist foreign policy after eight years of going it alone under George W Bush.

The London Telegraph:

President Barack Obama proclaimed himself "humbled" when he won the Nobel Peace Prize for his "extraordinary" efforts to reduce the world's stockpile of nuclear weapons and working for world peace.

Le Monde (Paris):

Le prix Nobel de la paix 2009 a été attribué, vendredi 9 octobre au président américain, Barack Obama, "pour ses efforts extraordinaires en faveur du renforcement de la diplomatie et de la coopération internationales entre les peuples", a annoncé le jury du prix à Oslo. Le premier Afro-Américain élu à la Maison Blanche a lancé des appels en faveur d'un monde sans armes nucléaires et s'emploie à relancer le processus de paix israélo-palestinien, depuis son investiture en janvier dernier.

El País (Madrid):

El presidente de Estados Unidos, Barack Obama, ha ganado el Premio Nobel de la Paz 2009 "por estimular el desarme nuclear, por sus extraordinarios esfuerzos por reforzar la diplomacia internacional y la cooperación entre los pueblos", según ha anunciado el Instituto Nobel de Noruega. Obama se ha impuesto a otros favoritos como la senadora colombiana Piedad Córdoba, activistas chinos y rusos o la Coalición contra las Bombas de Racimo (CMC), entre más de 200 candidaturas.

(El País also has a nice little picture bio.)

The Los Angeles Times:

OSLO — President Obama won the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize today for "his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples," the Norwegian Nobel Committee said, citing his outreach to the Muslim world and attempts to curb nuclear proliferation.

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Blogger Ahistoricality on 10/09/2009 8:23 AM:

What's to be baffled? This is one case where my first reaction is almost certainly identical to the reaction from the right side of the US political spectrum: it's not about Obama, but about Bush. He's not Bush, and they are very, very happy about that.

Don't get me wrong: he's saying some great things, and has made some moves in the right direction. Some. But, as the NYtimes pointed out, the nominations for this year's prize closed just a few weeks after his inauguration.

Granted, pickings were slim this year -- though there's all kinds of humanitarian and civil rights organizations they could still pick from -- but I'm unpleasantly surprised by the shallowness of this choice. Not that Obama couldn't become that kind of President, but he hasn't yet.


Blogger AndrewMc on 10/09/2009 10:00 AM:

Yep, "not Bush" is the key.

And I think this is kind of a "let's push him in this direction" hope.


Blogger Gordon Taylor on 10/10/2009 12:48 AM:

Rachel Maddow, in tonight's show, did as well as anyone could in citing past laureates and the similarity of their accomplishments to those of Obama. Still, the "Huh?" reaction remains. Obama, I thought, struck exactly the right note in his statement. He too, obviously, was baffled by the prize. But he said he was accepting it on behalf of a lot of others, lesser-known but still more deserving. That at least is what I took away from his statement.

In an earlier post, speaking about Al Gore's peace prize, I said that you could put me down in Istanbul and within a few hours I could find half a dozen people more courageous and deserving than Al Gore. I can say the same about this award. I'm sure the same thing could be said about a multitude of towns and cities all over the world.


Blogger Gordon Taylor on 10/10/2009 12:58 AM:

I completely forgot to mention the meeting in Zurich for tomorrow, 10 October. The Foreign Ministers of Turkey and Armenia, with the FMs of many prominent EU nations, plus Hillary Clinton, looking on, will sign two protocols re-establishing full diplomatic ties and a re-opening of borders. This is a big deal for the region as a whole, as well as for the two countries. This is the kind of thing the Nobel committee should be looking at if it wants to recognize international peace-making.