Pedestrians wait at a trolley stop in Oslo, Norway in front of a sign of Nobel Peace laureate Barack Obama Wednesday Dec. 9, 2009. Obama will receive the prize on Thursday in Oslo.
Two months ago, the Nobel committee surprised everyone, including Barack Obama, when it honored the first-year president with the Peace Prize -- leaving his detractors and even some supporters scratching their heads.
Just days before formally picking up the award in Oslo Thursday, Obama announced a troop surge in Afghanistan even as he continues the war in Iraq. Critics who wondered what he'd done to deserve the prestigious award in less than a year in office, now wonder how a wartime president can be seen as a peacemaker.
The New York Times' Jeff Zeleny eloquently captured the conundrum: "There is, of course, no escaping the paradox of this moment for Mr. Obama ... only nine days after announcing that he would escalate the war in Afghanistan by sending in 30,000 more American troops." Zeleny suggests Obama not ignore that fact and outline "why war is necessary to bring peace," while maintaining the same tone of humility he showed while commenting on winning the award on Oct. 9.
In World Politics Review, Michael A. Cohen speculates that prize was given to Obama as an expression of "the international community's desire for greater engagement from the new American president." Obama would be wise to note that "we are living in a multipolar world, where America's superpower status and influence can be more easily neutralized by global forces outside its control."
Linda Feldmann, writing in the Christian Science Monitor, said Obama was clearly aware of the paradox. "His quick in-and-out, low-key approach also reflects the awkward nature of his surprise award, announced in October as he was beginning his review of war policy in Afghanistan and now received on the heels of his decision to launch a surge in the U.S. military presence there."
Foreign Policy's Johan Bergenas said Americans, 66% of whom don't believe Obama deserved the award, should be proud. "Can you think of any other nation that would have responded in such a negative manner to the announcement that its leader had received the Nobel Peace Prize?" "Fortunately, it's not too late for Americans to accept Obama's Nobel Peace Prize as the national treasure it is," he writes.