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Obama Nobel Peace Prize Fosters Controversy in 2009

Many analysts say Mr. Obama's selection came as a complete surprise, since he has been in office less than a year. They also say it seems contradictory to give the coveted peace prize to a U.S. president who is sending an additional 30,000 troops to Afghanistan and is fighting a second war in Iraq.

U.S. President Barack Obama delivers a speech after receiving the Nobel Peace Prize during a ceremony at the Oslo City Hall in Oslo, 10 Dec 2009
U.S. President Barack Obama delivers a speech after receiving the Nobel Peace Prize during a ceremony at the Oslo City Hall in Oslo, 10 Dec 2009

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The awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to President Barack Obama fostered some controversy this year.

The Nobel Committee cited President Obama "for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples."  It went on to say: "Only very rarely has a person to the same degree as Obama captured the world's attention and given its people hope for a better future."

Many analysts say Mr. Obama's selection came as a complete surprise, since he has been in office less than a year. They also say it seems contradictory to give the coveted peace prize to a U.S. president who is sending an additional 30,000 troops to Afghanistan and is fighting a second war in Iraq.

In his Oslo acceptance speech on 10 December, President Obama referred to the Nobel Committee's action.

"I receive this honor with deep gratitude and great humility. It is an award that speaks to our highest aspirations. And yet, I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the considerable controversy that your generous decision has generated. In part, this is because I am at the beginning, and not the end, of my labors on the world stage. Compared to some of the giants of history who have received this prize - [Albert] Schweitzer and [Martin Luther] King; [George C.] Marshall and [Nelson] Mandela - my accomplishments are slight," he said.

Former Secretary of Defense [1973-75] James Schlesinger describes the Nobel Committee's decision this way.

"It is based upon hope rather than accomplishment," he said.

For his part, former National Security Adviser [1974-77; 1989-93) retired Air Force General Brent Scowcroft agrees with the selection.

"It's perfectly all right to base a peace prize on aspirations rather than on fulfillment. That's up to the Nobel Committee - but I think it's just fine," he said.

But former Secretary of State [1992] Lawrence Eagleburger says President Obama should not have been awarded the prize.

"He hasn't done anything that would make it appropriate to get that award," he said. "And I am not trying to attack him personally, other than to say he is getting an award for something he didn't do. And I don't think that's a sensible way to proceed. And I think, in the end, it so denigrates the importance of that award that it simply cheapens it - and it will be less and less important as an indication of true attempts to further the cause of peace and much more of a propaganda message."

Eagleburger believes President Obama received the peace prize because his world view coincides with that of the Nobel Committee.
 

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