Alex Massie

The Nobel Peace Prize Jumps the Shark

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I mean, really, how absurd. We are accustomed to being baffled by the Nobel committee, but the decision to award the Nobel Peace Prize to Barack Obama is entirely preposterous. Apparently:

"Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world's attention and given its people hope for a better future," the Norwegian committee said in a statement.

"His diplomacy is founded in the concept that those who are to lead the world must do so on the basis of values and attitudes that are shared by the majority of the world's population."

Asked why the prize had been awarded to Mr Obama less than a year after he took office, Nobel committee head Thorbjoern Jagland said: "It was because we would like to support what he is trying to achieve".

"It is a clear signal that we want to advocate the same as he has done," he said.

In one sense, however, one can understand the Nobel Committee's decision. It's like a Guardian editorial conference on steroids. What is mystifying, however, is Obama's decision to accept* the award. Better by far to have quietly told the Nobel organisation that, while generous, their award was presumptious and, by any reasonable standard, premature.

Accepting a prize of such magnitude in return for little in the way of real achievement makes Obama look foolish. He's not a latterday political messiah and, despite what some people, including some in the White House, seem to think it's not all about him all the time. That being so, it would have been wiser to decline awards that reinforce the notion that it is.

Expecting politicians to be embarrassed by adulation is, in many ways, a mug's game. And no-one has ever accused Obama of being without ego. Nevertheless, while the Nobel Committee are free to behave like King Canute's courtiers**, it would have been better for all concerned if Obama had shown the wisdom of Canute and refused this preoposterous bauble.

*Perhaps he still can turn it down. He certainly should.

**That is, they believed Canute omnipotent; he ordered the tide to recede to demonstrate the limits of his authority. Obama, of course, may be the anti-Canute at least in terms of global warming. But that's a matter for another day...

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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