Nobel prize spurs surprise, debate

You wouldn’t think winning a Nobel Peace Prize is controversial, but President Obama’s receipt of the award last week caused more debate than congratulations.

        Certainly, this is one of the world’s signature awards, and it is an honor that the president received it.

        And yet, something rings hollow.     

        The choice of Obama was a complete surprise _— not only because he has been in office for only nine months, but because he has so little to show for his efforts abroad. Our nation continues to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the president has achieved nothing substantive on the world stage. Indeed, his efforts in Iran and Russia fell flat.

        So why an award? And why now?

        The Peace Prize, unlike Nobel honors for literature or science, is overtly political — never more so than with this choice. Apparently the Nobel committee is praising the president’s diplomatic overtures and his willingness to speak to any dictator or tyrant, even without results.

        It is a clear message the Nobel Committee likes Obama’s style better than that of his predecessor, George W. Bush.

        And yet, popularity does not necessarily produce foreign policy successes. President Obama may be restoring some of the luster that America lost abroad during the Bush presidency, yet the search for world approval should not shape American foreign policy.

        For all of the president’s emphasis on diplomacy, there are occasions where the United States must also show muscle. The situations in Iraq and Afghanistan likely will not improve without a continuing military presence, and diplomacy will play no part in the effort to obliterate al-Qaida and other terrorists.

        There is no downside to this accolade, as long as it does not compromise a foreign policy that must be built on both diplomacy and military might.