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Was Obama right to accept the Nobel Peace Prize?

October 9, 2009 | 10:29 am

With my mother's side of the family hailing from Kongeriket Norge, I've gathered from personal experience that Norwegians (the ones I know, anyway) have a super-squishy soft spot for President Obama. This morning, the Norwegian Nobel Committee made its country's infatuation practically official:

President Obama, who has pledged to place diplomacy ahead of confrontation and reached out to a skeptical world with offers of mutual understanding, was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace today for what the Nobel committee called "his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples."

"I will accept this award as a call to action, a call to all nations to confront the challenges of the 21st century," Obama said in a White House Rose Garden appearance. "This award must be shared with everyone who strives for justice and dignity."

Professing humility and surprise in the awarding of the prize, the president said, "I do not view it as a recognition of my own accomplishments, but rather as a recognition of American leadership. . . .

"To be honest, I do not feel that I deserve to be in the company of so many of the transformative figures who have been honored by this prize," Obama said, suggesting that the prize has not always "been awarded just to honor specific achievements," but also to lend some momentum to the cause of peace.

I'm surprised, but not completely thrown for a loop. Norway, not being much larger than the city of Los Angeles in population, is deeply involved in world affairs to level that would suit a country the size of, say, France. Its diplomats have actively sought out peaceful resolutions to bloody conflicts in which Norway seemed to have had no practical national interest (the landmark 1993 peace agreement between Palestinians and Israelis is called the Oslo Accords for a reason -- and yes, for their efforts the Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded Yasser Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin the Nobel Peace Prize). So when the leader of a nuclear-armed superpower, whose previous presidential administration disregarded parts of the Geneva Convention as "quaint" and was known for starting expensive wars it couldn't finish, reassures the United Nations General Assembly that the U.S. should not seek to dominate weaker nations, you can bet the Norwegian Nobel Committee took notice. So yes, chalk this up as a nakedly political statement, wishful thinking that the president's actions will align with words or some other kind of naïveté, but the Norwegian Nobel Committee had its reasons.

Enough Norse talk; click here for more reaction.

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