I saw the news in a friend's facebook status, and I was more than a bit taken aback.
"surely," I thought to myself, "they haven't come up with another category..."
So I checked. And they haven't.
Koffi Annan said:
"In an increasingly challenging and volatile world, President Obama has given a sense of hope and optimism to millions around the world" and "has shown that the only way forward is through genuine cooperation with other nations."
Archbishop Desmond Tutu said:
"In a way, it's an award coming near the beginning of the first term of office of a relatively young president that anticipates an even greater contribution towards making our world a safer place for all," he said. "It is an award that speaks to the promise of President Obama's message of hope."
Gideon Rachman's blog probably says it best:
In an earlier version of this article, posted late last night (see post below this one), I expressed some scepticism about the Nobel Peace Prize, even suggesting that it might be pointless. Now that Barack Obama has been awarded the peace prize, I would like to withdraw this criticism. The prize is clearly an award of huge significance, awarded after only the deepest reflection, and won only by demi-Gods.
The peace prize committee say that he is being rewarded for his “extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy”. But while it is OK to give school children prizes for “effort” - my kids get them all the time - I think international statesmen should probably be held to a higher standard.
Now, maybe I'm being a bit harsh if I say that this is a joke.
In fairness, most awards of recognition are jokes.
What's sad about this is not that Obama was recognized. Obama is, from what I can see, a good man. Perhaps even a noble man. Certainly he has the potential to be a "Nobel man." I don't doubt Obama's vision or his optimism. (Well, okay, sometimes I'm a bit cynical about things like Gitmo, Afghanistan, corporate bail-outs... But I do like his optimism!)
What's sad is that the committee couldn't find anyone in a world of some six billion people who had actually accomplished something.
This is like the kid with a B+ average being selected as High-School valedictorian.
"He's a really good kid," the Math teacher says, "and he shows a lot of promise. He was the best student in my class. ... This new standardized curriculum is tough for the kids to work with, but Billy made the best of it." Said the principal: "William shows a great deal of vision in all of his work. His ideas for reforming student council show a lot of promise for the future. I know his marks weren't high enough to get into MIT like he wanted, but if he tries again next year, I bet he can do it. Go for it, Billy! Go for your dreams!"