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Nobel Committee
Rolls the Dice on Award's Future

October 9, 2009

Often I weigh my opinions carefully, and do extensive research before I write a musing. But this morning, I'm admittedly shooting from the hip. I sometimes do that when I'm in shock.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee, in awarding the Peace Prize to Barack Obama, has made a bald-faced gamble with the credibility of the award.

As I've made clear in other musings, I'm a life-long progressive liberal, and proud of it. In 2008, I enthusiastically voted for Barack Obama, declaring that I supported him more in hope than belief. In fact, 2008 was the first time in my forty year voting career that I've actually voted for any Presidential candidate—I've always had to vote against the worst of two poor offerings.

While I've been disappointed in the President's accomplishments, I still hold the high hopes of a year ago, and anticipate great things from this capable, brilliant, genuinely decent man—both in his Presidency, and I hope during a long and productive later life.

But, were I a Norwegian politician, sitting on the prestigious Nobel panel—which notion is admittedly a fanciful flight beyond rational bounds—I can't imagine myself voting to award the Peace Prize to this shining hope. Alfred Nobel's instructions specify that the award be given "to the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses." Has the President achieved those things—even in their beginnings? Not yet.

I've done a fair amount of stock trading. The conventional wisdom in markets is: buy low; sell high. I've learned that it is appallingly easy to do just the opposite. By the time a stock has convinced me that it is rising, it may have spent its momentum, and be ready to fall. I'm not predicting a fall from grace for Barack Obama, but I've been disappointed in political leadership far too often in my life to predict that he will not be just another disappointment.

Perhaps the Committee's speculation will be profitable. Perhaps Obama will do some profound work for fraternity between nations. Perhaps he will move us toward the abolition or reduction of standing armies, particularly our own. Perhaps he will engage in the holding and promotion of peace congresses. If he does, the Nobel award will seem prescient, and may even appear to have abetted his accomplishments. But even if all of that happens to the excess of our expectations, I suspect this will be remembered as the year the Committee gambled with the value and prestige of the Nobel Peace Prize.

And if Barack Obama fails us—if he is yet another disappointment—another bright light that falls dim—then this awarding of the Peace Prize will appear foolish. Not only will the stature of the award be diminished, but the legitimacy of progressive ideals will be compromised. It is a gamble I sincerely wish the Norwegian Nobel Committee had not taken.


copyright © 2010, J. C. Adamson