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Obama could live up to peace prize

Like many Americans, I thought it was a little strange that Barack Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize after less than a year in office. Like many people, I was of the opinion that Obama hadn't yet earned my vote in 2012, let alone one of the most famous and prestigious prizes in the world.


But after three days of hearing people pretend it's a major scandal, I'm ready to throw up my hands. Enough already.

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Considering its track record, the amount of attention paid to the Nobel Peace Prize is absurd. Yes, the award occasionally goes to a deserving person — Martin Luther King in 1964, Mikhail Gorbachev in 1990, Jimmy Carter in 2002. But the list of recipients reads like a roster of randomly plucked statesmen from the last century; for every name that elicits a nod of approval, there's one that prompts a raised eyebrow.


The single most egregious example may be Henry Kissinger, who shared it with Vietnamese diplomat Le Duc Tho in 1973. If nothing else, we can thank the Nobel Committee for giving Kissinger — a garrulous publicity hound whose most notable ""achievement"" was his role in the illegal 1973 terror bombing of Cambodia — the most undeservedly high reputation of any statesman of the last century.


Then there's Al Gore, the former vice president who shared the prize with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 2007. Gore is certainly a good man who deserves to be lauded for his work to raise world awareness of climate change. But what had he done to promote ""fraternity between nations,"" as Alfred Nobel wanted the award to recognize individuals for?


Let's not even bother with the 1994 award, which went to Palestinian President Yasser Arafat, Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin ""for their efforts to create peace"" between Israel and Palestine. Yeah, that went pretty well, didn't it?


Why are we so concerned that five Norwegians pick the ""right"" person to recognize, anyway? The Nobel Committee never bothered to recognize, say, Mahatma Gandhi, Eleanor Roosevelt or Václav Havel — to name only three people who surely deserved it more than Kissinger or Gore.


Why not, then, recognize a president whose diplomatic, non-aggressive approach to international relations may well prove revolutionary? No, right-wingers aren't happy that he won. They weren't happy when Carter, Gorbachev or King won, either. They're generally not happy when people who aren't right-wingers win prestigious awards. (Who in their ranks deserved it more than Obama, by the way? Sarah Palin?)


There are undoubtedly other people who deserve to be recognized for their contributions to world peace more than President Obama. But let's not pretend this prize is anything more than an arbitrary decision by a small group of people. In 10 years, this award might look as foolish and short-sighted as the one shared by Arafat, Peres and Rabin. Or the Nobel committee might turn out to have been prescient in recognizing in a young American president qualities that could, given time, develop into something great.


If the Nobel Committee wants to be taken seriously again, they might try giving the prize to obscure, deserving souls for a few years. Until then, complaining about Obama's prize amounts to partisan nit-picking.



— Justyn Dillingham is the arts editor of the Daily Wildcat. He can be reached at arts@wildcat.arizona.edu.


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