When President Barack Obama was announced as the latest winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in October, some expressed hope (or fear) that it would steer the president, who hasn’t really done anything remotely peace related yet, to step up to the plate and be an advocate for peace.
When he accepts the prize tomorrow, it will have come just nine days after he announced a massive escalation of the Afghan War. The irony of this was not lost on anybody, even the decidedly hawkish president.
“The president understands and again will also recognize that he doesn’t belong in the same discussion as Mandela and Mother Teresa,” noted his spokesman Robert Gibbs. He will also talk about his 30,000-man escalation and its incongruous nature with a supposed Nobel laureate.
But he will talk about it quietly. The president’s participation in the ceremony will be decidedly limited. He will fly into Oslo overnight, attend the award ceremony and the banquet afterwards, but that is it. Traditionally recipients give a news conference after receiving the award and give a high profile interview. President Obama, according to the White House, will do neither.
Perhaps it is something of a victory, albeit a small one. Champion of the endless escalation of the Afghan War and opponent of the ban on land mines, surely, and one of the least deserving recipients of what was supposed to be a prize for radical peace activists who oppose standing armies. But at least he’s ashamed enough of his behavior that he isn’t going to stand there before the world and make a big deal of winning the award.
This sudden self-awareness is a welcome change, though it would surely be far more welcome if it actually prompted him to tone down his unabashedly pro-war policies. It has also irked Norway, which has had to cancel an awful lot of the festivities.
But in the end, a Nobel Prize cannot change the nature of a man, and a Peace Prize will no more turn a hawk into a dove than a Nobel Prize in Mathematics would turn an uneducated man with no mathematics background into an insightful genius. It may perhaps serve as a lesson to the selection committee, that these awards are best left to people who have actually accomplished something in their field instead of trendy faces that they hope to co-opt to their own agenda.