In Oslo today, President Obama will accept the least-merited Nobel Peace Prize since former Vice President Al Gore picked up the award in 2007 for spreading alarmist propaganda about climate change. Bestowal of the prize, which purportedly recognizes substantial achievement of some kind, actually calls attention to the fact that Mr. Obama has done precious little for international peace. It’s ironic that this major international honor actually diminishes this president.
The decision to award Mr. Obama the peace prize was made during the period of irrational exuberance - the Obamamania - that attended his ascent to power. Nominations closed Feb. 1, when he had been in office less than two weeks. The lingering sense developed that the noteworthy achievement the committee wanted to recognize was either that Mr. Obama was not George W. Bush, or that he was black. Unless you are Barack Hussein Obama, you generally don’t get awards in life for just showing up.
Eleven months later, the hangover has set in. When running a superpower, it is not enough simply not to be Mr. Bush, or to be the historic first black president. Mr. Obama was expected to actually do something, and the public is no longer enthralled with his lackluster leadership. Mr. Obama currently has the lowest Gallup approval rating of any president at this stage of his presidency since the polling firm began keeping these records over 60 years ago. The magic faded fast. The clothes had no emperor.
When the award was announced, the White House struggled to make the best of a bad situation. “I do not feel that I deserve to be in the company of so many of the transformative figures who’ve been honored by this prize,” Mr. Obama said on Oct. 9. The American people agree. A Quinnipiac University poll released Tuesday showed that two-thirds of Americans believe he does not deserve the Nobel Peace Prize, with only 26 percent saying he does. Mr. Obama doesn’t even enjoy majority support from Democrats on this issue.
Mr. Obama can point to no achievements that have substantially advanced the cause of international peace. His Middle East peace plan is in tatters and will need to be revised substantially if it has any hope of success. His “open hand” approach to Iran has been met with disdain by the ayatollahs, and his failure to support Iranian protesters seeking freedom was roundly and justly criticized. His regional peace plan for Afghanistan, Pakistan and India was dead on arrival. He has made no progress dealing with North Korea. He has failed to confront China with any hard issues, particularly on the question of human rights. The United States played no active role in resolving the political crisis in Honduras, and actually undermined the cause of democratic self-government in that nation.
In short, Mr. Obama has not been a central factor anywhere in the world resolving a conflict, achieving a substantial peace agreement or concluding a multinational treaty.
Mr. Obama’s few significant actions on the global stage are not the stuff of peace. He accepts the award 10 days after announcing the deployment of 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan. Unmanned drone aircraft continue to rain death from the skies of Pakistan, a program that has been expanded and intensified on Mr. Obama’s watch. Some international observers consider the drone attacks to be illegal, and the International Criminal Court is investigating possible war crimes committed by U.S. forces in Afghanistan.
The Nobel Peace Prize should be given in recognition of great achievements, inspiring struggles or lifetimes in service to the cause of peace. Had the award come later in Mr. Obama’s presidency, it might have been a capstone event, the culmination of years of effort and maybe even after the realization of substantial objectives. Instead, the prestigious prize goes to a neophyte leader who has accomplished nothing. It officially marks the end of the period when Mr. Obama can get away with coasting through his presidency.
We are long past the point where the president’s supporters can hail him as a historic figure based solely on his ethnicity or excuse his failures by pointing to the previous administration. Mr. Obama is a Nobel laureate; maybe now he will feel obligated to try to earn it.