HURRIYET DAILY NEWS
U.S. President Barack Obama's unexpected Nobel Peace Prize victory sparked a wide range of debates around the world. Less than three years ago, Obama was almost completely unknown, even in America; now, after reaching the helm of the world’s superpower and winning the peace prize, he has probably become the most recognizable man in the world. With the latest trophy, Obama continues his life journey that has inspired admiration and faith in him around the world, even though he is still relatively young. It remains to be seen what other events he will write into the history books.
Since the candidate list for the Nobel Peace Prize has not been revealed for the last 50 years, nobody was even sure Obama would be one of the possible candidates for the prize, given that the deadline for the prize was only a few days after his inauguration. And since he has been president for only almost 9 months, and none of his peace initiatives have been realized, there was not even any speculation that his victory could be possible. Because of this, none of his die-hard supporters could have even seen the victory coming.
Just one week after the bitter disappointment he experienced in Copenhagen when his hometown Chicago failed to win the rights to host the 2016 Olympics, he received a tremendous gift from another European city, Oslo, sparking joy in Washington. It was evident how shocking the news was, particularly due to how unprepared the American newspapers were early on Friday. For a few hours that morning, there was no meaningful explanation as to how Obama could have received the prize.
This time, apparently, a person was to receive the enormous prize not because of what he did, but because of what he might be able to do. In past years, the peace prize was received mostly by people who had devoted their lifetime to stopping conflicts through years of painstaking hardships, living in exile, being tortured in jails or staying in isolation. Obama's seemingly sudden victory has puzzled the majority, including Obama himself, who humbly confessed that he thought he didn’t deserve it. All in all, Obama is now tagged with a historic mark elevating him to the level of Mother Theresa, Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King, Jr.
Obama, certainly, with his reaching-out mode and free-spoken fashion, addressing to the Muslim world, or the African continent, from Russians to Turks, Catholics to gays, lesbians and bisexuals, has indeed changed the climate substantially. Obama's difference has been especially felt around the globe, with becoming a world leader after a figure who was one of the most detested figures in the world. The timing of the prize was also perfect for Obama, as he has been hurdling to make a decision over the fundamental assumptions for the Afghanistan war under enormous pressure. Obama, in the top priority foreign agenda, the Arab/Israel front, has not been able to make a breakthrough and in parallel, in his top domestic policy, health care reform, has hit a bumpy road, even though the latest developments show sign of success. Overall, after almost 10 months into the presidency, Obama's prophecy, amid not having tangible success at any front, started to hit rough times, and like every other prophecy in the past, subsequently has started to come under tough questioning to test his vision's reality and authenticity.
One of the best analyses I heard regarding the victory was from Dr. Cornel West. Dr. West, a Princeton professor and an African-American scholar, pointed out that this prize would put enormous pressure on Obama – who has now been elevated to the level of Mandela – in addition to having to make radical decisions to intervene in different disputes and quarrels. According to his current political guru David Axelrod's account from the election campaign Obama already tends to identify too much with the sides in a given conflict and will now have extra pressure with the peace prize victory hanging over him as he tries to make difficult decisions.
Critics of the prize have many sound arguments. Obama presides over a country that is ensconced in two wars, and threatens to open a third one. As one of history’s most notable Nobel Peace Prize winners, Obama steers a country that possesses over a thousand military installations around the globe and also acts as the commander in chief of the mightiest army the world has ever seen. Therefore, the biggest question remains: How might this prize affect the rest (three or seven years) of his presidency?
Most of the conservatives in America are not happy with the news of the Nobel success. This time, the opposition's arguments do not come merely from the political differences, but are based on more solid claims. Many see this prize as a tool that might restrict Obama's future decisions in respect to America's own interests. Consequently, critics say, the peace prize pressure might undermine the spirit of American exceptionalism; many of the policies derive from this spirit that tend to come across as American arrogance to many other countries in the world. With the peace prize, however, these conservative critics feel Obama might feel even more pressure to base foreign policy decisions even more so on consensus policies, meaning that America might lose some of the tools that has made it successful until now.
The five-member Nobel Peace Prize committee, all of whom are appointed by a purely political body of the Norwegian Parliament, had an evidently political motive in giving the victory to Obama – that is, they wish to see more of a person that they have so far come to appreciate. Having finally met a president they have yearned to see for years, Europeans wanted to show their belligerence against the new opposition against Obama that has started to emerge around the world. Thus Europe, having finally found its president, did not want him alone to veer into the wilderness in the months ahead of him.
The peace prize has become openly political and more debatable with its latest recipient. The result is a reflection of a worldwide clash of ideologies. On the one hand, Obama's supporters want to believe in their oracle's vision, while, on the other, there are those who accuse him of being unrealistic, naive or a fake. The war has not finished. However, it surely will pressure its oracle even more while steering world affairs from this point forward. In short, this prize has made Obama's life harder, and probably will drive his opposition even wilder.