The decision to award Barack Obama the Nobel Prize rewards him for not being George W. Bush and for his aspirations rather than his achievements, his promise rather than his performance.
The committee was rewarding America's welcome change of tone under the eloquent young president and encouraging his commitment to abolish nuclear weapons, ease tensions with the world's Muslims, and elevate diplomacy and multilateralism over unilateralism. Indeed, President Obama, in his acceptance remarks, said he regarded the prize, which he said he felt he did not deserve, as a "call to action" for the causes he has embraced.
The good news is that he listed his determination to ensure that the world will not tolerate the "spread of nuclear weapons to all nations," and that "all nations have a responsibility to demonstrate" that the intention of their nuclear programs is peaceful. Is Iran, whose president praised the award to Obama, listening?
It is somewhat ironic that the award comes just as President Obama is deciding whether to redefine America's engagement in Afghanistan, his "war of necessity," and reduce or surge American forces there. The Nobel committe chairman readily acknowledged that he hoped the prize would encourage Obama's "emphasis on negotiations" in resolving that conflict, too. -- Tell that to Al Qaeda and its militant ally the Taliban, who instantly criticized the award decision.
Even Lech Walesa, Poland's candid former president and Nobel Prize winner, suggested the prize was premature: "Who? What? So Fast?" the shocked former leader replied when reporters told him about the newest member of his club.
Obama is the third sitting president to win -- President Theodore Roosevelt won in 1906 for his role in helping end the Russo-Japanese war and Woodrow Wilson in 1919 for helping create the League of Nations. Neither of those achievements lasted long.
But American presidents who wage war to make America or take other courageous decisions that make the world safer usually don't win that prize, especially conservatives. Ronald Reagan did not win for helping to end the Cold War. George H.W. Bush did not win for invading Iraq to force Saddam Hussein to withdraw from Kuwait. Even Bill Clinton didn't win, though he confronted Serbian president Slobodan Milošević and saved thousands of Muslim lives in his bombing campaign in the Balkans. -- We've come a long way since 2004 when George W. Bush and Tony Blair were nominated for invading Iraq and removing Saddam Hussein. Obviously, neither of them won either.