One of President Obama’s first acts on entering the White House was to announce a worldwide diplomatic re-engagement, relaunching the Middle East peace process, and swiftly moving to accelerate nuclear disarmament.
While it is early days on all these issues, the shock award of the Nobel Peace prize is recognition of the sea change compared to the Bush years, and encouragement to continue. “I will accept this award as a call to action, a call for all nations to confront the common challenges of the 21st century. These challenges can’t be met by any one leader or any one nation. And that’s why my administration has worked to establish a new era of engagement in which all nations must take responsibility for the world we seek,” said Obama. He added he would be donating the cash prize to charity. Some have said it is too early as Obama has done nothing yet, and it certainly ups the pressure on him to now produce the goods, as many people, particularly in the Middle East, have called for following the Nobel. “The expectations in the world are already enormous for President Obama. In a way this prize is a reflection of just how high those expectations are. In some ways it’s almost like a down payment on what the world is hoping he is going to accomplish,” says one analyst. Hamas’s Ismail Haniyeh in Gaza for one immediately called for concrete results to follow the Nobel, as have Taliban leaders in Afghanistan. Yet Obama is still enagaged in two theatres of war, and is getting nowhere for the moment bringing Israel and the Palestinians closer together.