Why Obama Should Not Have Received the Peace Prize — Yet

barack_obamaPresident Obama’s only real diplomatic accomplishment so far has been to change the direction and tone of American foreign policy from unilateral bullying to multilateral listening and cooperating. That’s important, to be sure, but not nearly enough. The Prize is really more of a Booby Prize for Obama’s predecessor. Had the world not suffered eight years of George W. Bush, Obama would not be receiving the Prize. He’s prizeworthy and praiseworthy only by comparison.

I’d rather Obama had won it after Congress agreed to substantial cuts in greenhouse gases comparable to what Europe is proposing, after he brought Palestinians and Israelis together to accept a two-state solution, after he got the United States out of Afghanistan and reduced the nuclear arm’s threat between Pakistan and India, or after he was well on the way to eliminating the world’s stockpile of nuclear weapons. Any one of these would have been worthy of global praise. Perhaps the Nobel committee can give him half the prize now and withhold the other half until he accomplishes one or more of these crucial missions.

robert_reich.jpgGiving the Peace Prize to the President before any of these goals has been attained only underscores the paradox of Obama at this early stage of his presidency. He has demonstrated mastery in both delivering powerful rhetoric and providing the nation and the world with fresh and important ways of understanding current challenges. But he has not yet delivered. To the contrary, he often seems to hold back from the fight — temporizing, delaying, or compromising so much that the rhetoric and insight he offers seem strangely disconnected from what he actually does. Yet there’s time. He may yet prove to be one of the best presidents this nation has ever had — worthy not only of the Peace Prize but of every global accolade he could possibly summon. Just not yet.

by Robert Reich

This article first appeared on Robert Reich’s Blog. Republished with permission

Published by the LA Progressive on October 9, 2009
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About Robert Reich

Robert B. Reich is Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley. He has served in three national administrations, most recently as secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton. He has written eleven books, including The Work of Nations, which has been translated into 22 languages; the best-sellers The Future of Success and Locked in the Cabinet, and his most recent book, Supercapitalism. His articles have appeared in the New Yorker, Atlantic Monthly, New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal. Mr. Reich is co-founding editor of The American Prospect magazine.

Reich has been a member of the faculties of Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and of Brandeis University. He received his B.A. from Dartmouth College, his M.A. from Oxford University, where he was a Rhodes Scholar, and his J.D. from Yale Law School.


  1. What a great drawing of Obama!!! I never thought he should have won the award or ever win the award.

  2. Yep. Charley got it right. Too many people get it mixed up and think its only for achievements.

  3. There’s more reason to be outraged than just not yet having fulfilled any potential. This is the man who threatens to bomb Iran, won’t aid Zelaya, suppressed the Goldstone report on Gaza, refused to meet with the Dalai Lama so as not to offend China, sent an additional 20,000 troops to Afghanistan, and is pondering an additional 40,000.

  4. flygyrl72 says:

    I agree with Charley. You should go to their site & read about the criteria that is used to select nominees/winners for this award.

    Obama fits all requirements & then some. Whether or not he’s already “done” something definititively, as you put it, has no bearings on how they make their decision.

  5. Dr. Reich, I disagree. The Nobel Prize has a long history of being awarded more for the committee’s aspirations than for others’ accomplishments. The prize is awarded to encourage those who receive it to see the effort through, sometimes at critical moments. The Nobel committee has the audacity to hope that he’ll produce a record worthy of its prize.

    Charley James

  6. The funny thing about hope is there is no “there” there. It exists only in the expectations held inside your own head. Hope and fear are also two sides of the same coin.

    Obama has turned out, for me, to be the embodiment of fill in the blank politics. His lack of specificity allow you to continue to believe in a set of hopeful ideals you hold in your head – but that have not yet come to fruition in the outside world for anyone who considers themselves progressive.

    We HOPE Obama will promote world peace, yet the reality is he has yet to close Guantanamo, he has expanded executive privileges that allow for the torture and illegal detainment of political prisoners, and he’s expanding war in Afghanistan.

    How is this peace?

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