At first I thought it might be a joke of some kind. I waited for a “just kidding” qualification from the radio news announcer. Then the news item finished. The Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Barack Obama.
Now, I’m generally a supporter of the President. I voted for him, and unlike (apparently) most Mormons, I think he has great, but largely unrealized as yet, potential. At best, the peace prize seems premature.
I’m hardly alone. The editor of the Wall Street Journal Europe has already blogged, “For What?” And the London Times’ Michael Binyon called the decision “absurd,” saying “Rarely has an award had such an obvious political and partisan intent.”
In the text of its announcement, the Nobel committee cited, “his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples” and attached “special importance to Obama’s vision of and work for a world without nuclear weapons.” Really? When? What efforts?
It went on to say:
“Multilateral diplomacy has regained a central position, with emphasis on the role that the United Nations and other international institutions can play. Dialogue and negotiations are preferred as instruments for resolving even the most difficult international conflicts. The vision of a world free from nuclear arms has powerfully stimulated disarmament and arms control negotiations.
“Thanks to Obama’s initiative, the USA is now playing a more constructive role in meeting the great climatic challenges the world is confronting. Democracy and human rights are to be strengthened.”
It is true that Obama’s huge International popularity has changed the environment in ways that may make a difference. And the attitude of U.S. foreign policy does seem like it is more willing to work with others. But so far this hasn’t yielded much.
Most politicians cite high, almost unattainable, goals. We want and expect them to give us a vision of how the world can be better. And it is true that Obama can communicate a vision of the future better than any U.S. President since at least Ronald Reagan. But even Obama supporters should, I think, prefer that he be given the opportunity to actually accomplish something toward these goals.
From a Mormon point of view, its as if the Nobel committee has turned into born-again Christians. Apparently all that is needed is to say that you believe, that you have faith. Actually doing something can come later. We, Mormons, believe works matter; and that the works must precede the reward.
All I can do now is hope that Obama can actually fulfill the promise this reward is meant to recognize.