Leading article: It is enough that Obama has given us hope for the future

To think the US President is an undeserving Nobel winner misses the point

Related Topics

No one seemed to be expecting Barack Obama to win the Nobel Peace Prize, despite the fact that the bookies were giving odds of seven to one, the same as they had on Morgan Tsvangirai, who was widely touted as the favourite. But perhaps more surprising is the degree of disapproval with which many have greeted the news.

Critics have said that the award is premature and complained that the new US President has so far done nothing more than make a few inspirational speeches. The prize, they say, should not be for effort but for results. Some have even said that he has merely got the award just for not being George W Bush. The Nobel decision-makers will look pretty foolish, they complain, if before he picks up the prize in December, Obama decides to send another 40,000 US troops to Afghanistan.

Such a response is misguided. His nomination for the prize may have been submitted less than two weeks after he took office in February. But in the time between then and the announcement yesterday Barack Obama has wrought a sea change in the international political climate. Not being George Bush was a good start. For Bush represented an arrogant, belligerent, unilateralist style of American foreign policy which served the world ill. Obama arrived with a heart for peace and an openness of mind to other nations which was in itself a huge transformation. He may see no alternative to fighting the war against al-Qa'ida in Afghanistan but everywhere else he has reasserted the importance of the United Nations and of multilateral diplomacy. He replaced military threats with dialogue with Iran and North Korea. He has begun talks with Russia over nuclear disarmament.

He has prioritised peace in the Middle East. He has reached out a hand of friendship to the Muslim world. He has thrown Washington's recalcitrant attitude to global warming into reverse. All change begins with a change of mind by one individual and Obama has been that person.

The world now expects an awful lot more from him. The Nobel award is a recognition of that too. It is just not true that in the past the prize was awarded only where work for peace had reaped concrete proofs. Many times it has been given as an encouragement to see the effort through. In 1976, the award to the Peace Women was intended to send a signal to the two battling communities in Northern Ireland. In 1991, Aung San Suu Kyi was already in jail when she won the prize in a well thought-out gesture of support for democracy in Burma. In 1994 the Nobel committee hoped to maintain the momentum to peace in the Middle East by handing the prize to Yasser Arafat, Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Rabin. The prize tries to enhance the future as well as celebrate past achievements.

In his will, the founder Alfred Nobel said that the prize should go "to the person who shall have done the most, or the best, work for fraternity between the nations and the abolition or reduction of standing armies and the formation and spreading of peace congresses". It is hard to think of anyone of whom that is truer last year than Barack Obama.

The prize may make life difficult for him domestically, giving his right-wing critics another stick with which to beat him over healthcare. But to the rest of the world the US President is an inspiration. The Audacity of Hope, he called one of his books. Rarely has a single individual in recent times given so much of the world cause to dare to anticipate that a better world can yet be made.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: 3rd Line Virtualisation, Windows & Server Engineer

£40000 - £47000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A 3rd Line Virtualisation / Sto...

Recruitment Genius: Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Service Engineer

£26000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A successful national service f...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive / Sales - OTE £25,000

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Fixed Term Contract

£17500 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We currently require an experie...

Day In a Page

Read Next

Not only is Liz Kendall a shy Tory, but her words are also likely to appeal to racists

Charlie Brinkhurst Cuff
Andy Coulson  

Andy Coulson: With former News of the World editor cleared of perjury charges, what will he do next?

James Cusick James Cusick
Syria civil war: Meet the military commander who says his soldiers will not rest until every inch of their war torn country is free of Islamist 'terrorists'

‘We won’t stop until Syria is back to normal’

Near the front lines with Islamist-controlled towns where Assad’s troops were besieged just last month, Robert Fisk meets a commander confidently preparing his soldiers for battle
Fifa corruption: Strip Qatar of the World Cup? Not likely

Strip Qatar of the World Cup? Not likely

But if a real smoking gun is found, that might change things, says Tom Peck
Twenty two years later Jurassic Park series faces questions over accuracy of the fictional dinosaurs in it

Tyrannosaurus wrecked?

Twenty two years on, Jurassic Park faces questions over accuracy
The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation may undermine Hillary's chances

The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation...

... and how it may undermine Hillary's chances in 2016
Genes greatly influence when and how many babies a woman will have, study finds

Mother’s genes play key role in decision to start a family

Study's findings suggest that human fertility is still evolving
12 best olive oils

Extra-virgin, cold-press, early-harvest, ultra-premium: 12 best olive oils

Choosing an olive oil is a surprising minefield. Save yourself the hassle with our handy guide
Rafa Benitez Real Madrid unveiling: New manager full of emotion at Bernabeu homecoming

Benitez full of emotion at Bernabeu homecoming

There were tears in the former Liverpool manager’s eyes as he was unveiled as Real Madrid coach. But the Spaniard knows he must make tough decisions if he is to succeed
England can win the Ashes – and Elvis Presley will present the urn

England can win the Ashes – and Elvis will present the urn

In their last five Test, they have lost two and drawn two and defeated an India side last summer who thought that turning up was competing, says Stephen Brenkley
Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)