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Mr. President, turn down this prize

By Will Inboden I was sitting in a meeting in a conference room in Europe this morning when we heard the announcement about President Obama being selected for the Nobel Peace Prize. There were more than 20 people in the room from about 10 different nations, and the collective response was pure shock and disbelief. ...

By , the executive director of the Clements Center for National Security and the author of The Peacemaker: Ronald Reagan, the Cold War, and the World on the Brink.

By Will Inboden

I was sitting in a meeting in a conference room in Europe this morning when we heard the announcement about President Obama being selected for the Nobel Peace Prize. There were more than 20 people in the room from about 10 different nations, and the collective response was pure shock and disbelief. Several even asked, in all seriousness, if the news was a joke.

This response, which I suspect is playing out in many parts of the world, points to a conundrum now facing the White House. However honored President Obama and his staff might be feeling right now, there is also the inescapable fact (which they probably realize themselves) that the Peace Prize is supposed to be awarded for enduring achievements. In President Obama’s case, not yet even one year into his presidency, the most charitable interpretation is that the prize seems more about his aspirations than his accomplishments. For him and his staff, the question right now is: How can he actually accept the prize without further diminishing its (already tarnished) credibility and stretching the (already outsized) global expectations on him even further?

The short answer is he can’t. The best solution is to graciously turn down the prize, and instead recommend that it be given to another nominee. Two worthy candidates in this regard would be Afghan women’s rights activist Seema Samir or Chinese human rights activist Hu Jia. Recommending either of them for the prize would bring the added advantage of drawing world attention to the current crucible in Afghanistan, or the ongoing repression of freedom in China.

Mr. President, turn down this prize.

Will Inboden is the executive director of the Clements Center for National Security and an associate professor at the LBJ School of Public Affairs, both at the University of Texas at Austin, a distinguished scholar at the Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law, and the author of The Peacemaker: Ronald Reagan, the Cold War, and the World on the Brink.

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