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Shadow Government

The decline of the prize

By Thomas G. Mahnken The surprising selection of President Barack Obama for the Nobel Peace Prize says more about the decline of that venerable institution than it does Obama’s achievements as president. Gone are the days when one actually had to do something to be seen as worthy of the Nobel Prize; now it is ...

By Thomas G. Mahnken

The surprising selection of President Barack Obama for the Nobel Peace Prize says more about the decline of that venerable institution than it does Obama’s achievements as president. Gone are the days when one actually had to do something to be seen as worthy of the Nobel Prize; now it is sufficient merely to be (or, in this case, not be, as in George W. Bush).

The Nobel Committee, which once honored Theodore Roosevelt for brokering an end to the Russo-Japanese War and Woodrow Wilson for the Versailles Conference, has more recently used the Nobel Peace Prize as a platform for making political statements. Hence the decision, on the 500th anniversary of Columbus’ discovery of the New World, to award the Nobel Peace Prize to Rigoberta Menchu, a 33-year-old Guatemalan Maya Indian activist and author of the fraudulent eponymous autobiography, I, Rigoberta Menchu. In this case as well, the prize seems to be a condescending attempt to reward America for correcting its past "bad" behavior.

Barack Obama is an honorable man, who weeks ago emphasized the value of hard work in a speech televised throughout America’s schools. What does the act of accepting the Nobel Peace Prize for merely being say to America’s sons and daughters? In my view, there was an honorable way forward: The president should have turned down the Peace Prize. He should have thanked the committee for its flattering award, but declined to accept the prize on the ground that he has not (yet) earned it. Not in the week and a half between his inauguration and the closing of nominations for the prize. Not in his nine months in the White House. Not in his four years in the Senate.

Perhaps Barack Obama will achieve the stature of a TR, or a Woodrow Wilson; all Americans should hope so. That, however, is but a future possibility.

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