How much can a world leader accomplish in creating world peace in less than two weeks? A great deal, the Nobel Peace Prize committee seems to think.

President Obama was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize a mere 12 days after he took the oath of office. After deliberations, the Peace Prize committee – consisting of five movers and shakers in Norwegian politics – chose Obama over the other 205 individuals, groups and organizations nominated for the 2009 prize.

Alfred Nobel’s mission was clear when he established the Peace Prize: The honoree should have contributed most to the development of peace in the preceding year. Obama has worked tirelessly toward international peace since his inauguration, and he has handled his honor gracefully and diplomatically, but he was not most worthy of this award. The fissures between the Middle East and the West remain, even after his landmark speech in Cairo. The Obama administration altered the missile-defense shield framework for strategic purposes – to defend against Iran, for example, not primarily to create world peace. And nuclear weapons are still a dominant force in the international security debate; Obama’s efforts to eliminate them do not change this reality.

The peace prize committee’s approach this year was certainly unconventional. Since Obama’s influence has stemmed more from his admirable intentions than from any tangible results, it seems that the committee sought to motivate its honoree. By bestowing the honor upon Obama, the committee has ostensibly given him an incentive to continue his work toward making a more peaceful world.

ore accomplished candidates should have been given a second look. What about Zimbabwe Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, who defied the odds and formed a coalition government with his political opponent, President Robert Mugabe, after two rounds of disastrous elections and attempts by the Mugabe government to restrict his efforts toward free and fair elections? Ghazi bin Muhammad, founder of the successful A Common Word conference, has established a global initiative promoting interreligious dialogue between Christians and Muslims. Hu Jia, the imprisoned dissident who has fought for democracy in China, is another worthy candidate. These figures’ efforts, plus those of over 200 individuals and organizations that were in the running, went unrecognized.

Obama’s overarching goals are noteworthy, perhaps groundbreaking, and the Nobel Peace Prize will surely hold the president to a higher standard. But by honoring the president before any of his proposals have come to fruition, the committee has undermined the value of the prize itself and the life work of past winners like Nelson Mandela, the Dalai Lama and Aung San Suu Kyi. Next year, the committee ought to look for results before it leaps to honoring a candidate.

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