2009 Nobel Peace Prize to Obama reflects European appreciation for his cooperative, engaged approach to world politics.
A vision for approaching the world's major conflicts through dialogue and engagement rather than confrontation – one seen to contrast starkly with that of the previous American president – won US President Barack Obama this year's Nobel Peace Prize.
In announcing its surprise decision, the Norwegian Nobel Committee cited Mr. Obama's "extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples." The word "efforts" hints at the view from around the world – from laborers in Baghdad to world leaders – that awarding the prize to an American president in office just nine months was recognition more of Obama's aspirations than of any particular accomplishments.
The award, which caught the White House off guard, reflected a particularly European appreciation for Obama. After what Europeans widely called a dark period for America under President Bush, they see Obama as a leader who is returning the United States to a place of global leadership in challenges such as nuclear disarmament, the West's relations with the Islamic world, and climate change. "Thanks to" Obama, the committee said, "the USA is now playing a more constructive role" in international diplomacy.
That appreciation was captured in the words of French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who said the peace prize for Obama recognizes the "return of America into the hearts of the people of the world."
The Nobel Committee's award to Obama was unusual in that the annual peace prize has traditionally recognized accomplishments or a life's body of work. But as the committee recognized in announcing the award, its own agenda is one "for which Obama is now the world's leading spokesman."