President Obama has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. The reaction has been nearly unanimous: The awarding of the Peace Prize to a man who has been president for nine months and could have been nominated after, at most, 12 days into his presidency (given the nomination deadlines), is unjustified. The news was met virtually across the board – including by Obama himself – with shock.

But as past experiences, if not this most recent one, have proven, shock manifests itself in several ways. Some were shocked because they believed the award to be premature, as if the policies of our new president were simply not given the time to produce the results they inevitably will. Others were shocked with anger over the decision to give another award, another honor, another accolade, to a president whose political demise they actively pursue.

Among the flurry of emotions that such an unexpected event is to bring, shock should not be one of them. That Obama would win this award, even now, is no surprise at all. Considering the award itself, the people who select the recipients and recent political developments, this was something a cautious observer could have predicted.

First of all, the Nobel Prize is often reserved for liberal world leaders. The failure of the selection committee to award President Reagan for his efforts toward nuclear disarmament and cooperation with the Soviet Union, despite his own rhetoric and the demands of his political base, summarily proves that point. Obama undoubtedly fits the committee’s criteria, ushering in a period in American foreign policy that marks a stark departure from the “peace through strength” approach of Reagan and other conservative world leaders.

Secondly, and most importantly, the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize has turned markedly political. What was once an award meant to recognize concrete achievement has become a symbolic endorsement of those individuals who have maintained agendas in line with the awarding committee and the general European elite intelligentsia. If these are the criteria, then Obama is a perfect fit for the Nobel Peace Prize. No other American president in recent history has done more to deride his own country and minimize the pursuit of its interests. Floating above the turmoil and deadlock that marks international politics, Obama has acted less as the representative of the United States than as a neutral arbiter between the United States and the rest of the world.

He represents not the American people, but the world community of which the American people are a part, and to whose overall consensus the United States must be subservient. There is nothing more that the European liberal elites could have hoped for than an American president willing to apologize for and consequently weaken his own country, denying the virtue of the American presence in the world. Above all, they eagerly welcome an American president whose quixotic naïveté would usher in the reign of an international order in which the United States does not lead but only plays a part.

It is clear, therefore, that the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to the president should come with little shock. The only surprise is our surprise that Obama has won the support of the spiteful European elites who have always loathed the idea of American strength, righteousness and exceptionalism. The award, expectedly, is nothing more than that. After all, what in Obama’s presidency has fostered peace? By abandoning plans to place defensive missile systems in central Europe, Obama has allowed the Russian government to exert renewed force over U.S. allies. Most had excused this as a strategic decision in order to garner Russian support for sanctions on Iran, but as recent comments by the Russians have made clear, they have no intention of even considering sanctions.

Obama’s administration refused to challenge the rigged Iranian elections, helping to legitimize a government that has recently revealed it is closer than anyone had thought to the creation of a nuclear weapon.

Of course, it must be remembered that Obama did not seek this prize. (He did, no doubt, seek the approval from the world community, at the expense of American interests, that has manifested itself in this award.) In many ways, in fact, he probably would have preferred not to have won. This leaves him in a precarious position, but with real opportunity. He will not refuse the award, and there is a fair argument to be made that his refusal would have looked as petty as the selection in the first place.

There is another option available to the president, however: He should use his acceptance speech to change his tone. Before the gathering of the liberal international intelligentsia, he should unabashedly and proudly defend the role of the United States, throughout world history and today, as the greatest force for peace in the history of man, as the world’s “last best hope.” He should make clear that U.S. interests are, for the most part, world interests, and to the extent that they are not, the United States will pursue them as ruthlessly as any other nation pursues its own.

The Nobel Prize has been tainted beyond repair or recovery. Obama’s performance as the representative of the United States may yet avoid this fate. But doing so will require that he recover a tone that places American interests on top, and Euro-centric transnationalism where it belongs.

Jeffrey Long is a junior in the College. He can be reached at Conscience of a Conservative appears every other Tuesday.

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