At 5:01 a.m. (EDT) I was awoken by a text alert from the Associated Press (AP) informing me that President Barack Obama had won this year's Nobel Peace Prize. Half asleep, I laughed at the AP for making such a gross reporting error. Obama wins the Nobel? Pleassseee!
But within moments, as the story broke on CNN, the BBC, the New York Times, and the Huffington Post, the laugh was on me.
All morning I have been wondering, how can it be? Why did Obama win this prestigious prize? What has he accomplished that rises to the level of a Nobel?
In media interviews, one member of the five-person selection committee indicated that the primary reason for the selection was President Obama's commitment to nuclear disarmament.
Nuclear disarmament? Hellooooooooo! The President has only been in office for 37 weeks. And in that time, the only measure toward disarmament was a United Nations resolution passed a couple of weeks ago embracing it in theory - a purely rhetorical act. In practice, since coming to office, South Asia has further de-stabilized, making steps toward nuclear reductions on the sub-continent less, not more, likely. And let's not forget that North Korea and Iran have not made any significant (and verifiable) commitments toward abandoning their nuclear programs.
Maybe the committee member misspoke? Maybe it was some other accomplishment that motivated the award?
But as I scanned the gamut of global issues, one by one I found each lacking. We're still at war in Iraq and Afghanistan (and let's not forget conducting military operations in Pakistan). We're still ignoring Darfur (and Congo and Guinea and insert any African country in crisis you wish here). We've done little to jump start the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. The Guantanamo Bay detention center is still open. We still haven't joined the International Criminal Court. And let's not forget that polar ice caps are still melting because states, including the United States, have not made a serious effort to arrest climate change.
It couldn't be for accomplishments in fighting piracy in Somalia, could it?
No matter how you look at it, President Obama did not receive this award because he brought peace to some place in the world (the way previous recipients like Jimmy Carter and Nelson Mandela did).
President Obama is this year's Nobel laureate not because of peace but because of promise.
As the Nobel Committee expressed: "His diplomacy is founded in the concept that those who are to lead the world must do so on the basis of values and attitudes that are shared by the majority of the world's population."
For the first time in a long time, a large part of the world feels hope and optimism that great things can be accomplished in the near future. The objectives cited above no longer seem idealistic - but instead realistic. And one man has been particularly instrumental in lifting our spirits and inspiring our endeavors of late: Barack Obama.
As a best-selling author, President Obama should see this award for exactly what it is: a book advance. Now we wait in anticipation and hope that the President delivers one hell of a history - preferably on deadline.