I must admit that when I first saw the news last night that Obama had won the Nobel peace prize I though I was looking at a report from The Onion. It was a surprise. But when I started reading the commentary I thought more seriously about it.
The obvious issue was that the award was too early. There is plenty of mocking going on and that is the clear first impression. Behind that is the notion that Obama had not done enough to be deserving of it. After all, all he did was rise up our of a disadvantaged background to become the first African American president of the largest military power in the US all while driving a philosophy and agenda that gave the whole world real hope that the next 8 years will be far more peaceful than the last 8. Hmm. I know that being President kills the past CV but the vast majority of Peace prize winners have done less.
When it comes down to it, this award is a symbol rather than a prize rewarding effort (unlike its scientific counterparts). The Nobel Prize Committee have always been thinking about the message they are sending. And I think that this time it is clear, the US — the only superpower nation — has chosen a President that the rest of the world would have chosen themselves. Not only that, it is on the basis of rhetoric and an accompanying mandate for global engagement and cooperation that is unprecedented in modern times. Basically, the Nobel Prize Committee are awarding the US people for their choice and what it means. In terms of symbolic moves, that seems pretty appropriate even if it is not what we usually expect.