In completely surprising news, President Barack Obama has won the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize. Part of the shock comes from the fact that the President has only been in office for nine months, and he had only been in the White House for two weeks when the Feb. 1 nomination deadline passed.
Though the President has made several efforts with relation to international relations -- setting a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq, delivering a speech to the Islamic world in Egypt, trying to hold diplomatic talks with Iran in spite of glaring opposition, chairing the U.N. Security Council while trying to dismantle the world's nuclear powers -- concrete results have, admittedly, not yet come to fruition.
The award could also be politically complicated, since President Obama still presides over wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and has ordered counter-terror strikes in Pakistan and Somalia. The President also faces an important decision in the coming weeks with regards to the war in Afghanistan; does he increase the troop level, decrease the troop level or try to change the war's focus now that it's in its ninth year?
A Nobel Peace Prize, and the perception that comes with it, could complicate such a decision. It could also prove complicating if President Obama decides to take on Iran militarily at some point.
The Norweigan Nobel Committee defended the move, saying that by awarding President Obama with the award, it was trying "to promote what he stands for and the positive processes that have started now."
Committee chairman Thorbjoern Jagland added, "He got the prize because he has been able to change the international climate ... some people say, and I understand it, isn't it premature? Too early? Well, I'd say then that it could be too late to respond three years from now. It is now that we have the opportunity to respond – all of us."
Obama is the third sitting President to win the Nobel Peace Prize; Theodore Roosevelt won the award in 1906, and Woodrow Wilson took home the prize in 1919.
The Committee's rationale cannot be ignored, given the processes Obama has begun in his short tenure in the White House -- not to mention his personal popularity worldwide and the fact that he often leaves people around the world with undeniable feelings of hope for the future.
It's not unpatriotic or ill-willed to simply question whether that's enough to award the Nobel Peace Prize to President Obama at this point; it's perfectly legitimate to question the timing of this, since nothing concrete has come of Obama's foreign policies yet.
Three years from now? Things might be different.
That's not to say Obama shouldn't accept the award, even with the potential political complications. What is disheartening, though, is the right wing's continued insistence that anything good for President Obama is inherently bad. Rooting against Chicago in its 2016 Olympic bid was bad enough; now the GOP is growling bitterly at this award ... which has prompted the Democratic National Committee to release the following hard-hitting statement:
"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. 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. The 2009 version of the Republican Party has no boundaries, has no shame and has proved that they will put politics above patriotism at every turn. It's no wonder only 20 percent of Americans admit to being Republicans anymore - it's an embarrassing label to claim."
By all means, congratulations to President Obama; winning the Nobel Peace Prize is a remarkable and worldy achievement, regardless of the reasons behind the award. I merely worry about the timing of it, and the political ramifications in the future as Obama's administration faces important decision abroad.