Was anyone not surprised by the selection of United States President Obama as this year's Nobel Peace Prize recipient. While many, I am sure, saw him as a potential future winner, most saw the newly elected President as not having been in office long enough to have the accomplishments necessary to win the prize.
The Nobel Committee obviously saw it differently and I think that speaks to a number of things.
The Norwegian Nobel committee said the president was selected "for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and co-operation between people."The committee seems to have put a lot of emphasis on the hope created by Obama's election. In a way they have given him the prize, not for specific accomplishments, but for setting the stage for future accomplishments.
The committee attached special importance to Obama's vision and work for a world without nuclear weapons in the prize citation, which was read in Oslo on Friday.
"The vision of a world free from nuclear arms has powerfully stimulated disarmament and arms control negotiations," the citation said.
Norwegian Nobel committee chair Thorbjorn Jagland told CNN that the five-member committee had unanimously voted to select Obama as the Nobel laureate.
Jagland told CBC News the committee expected criticism about the selection. But the prize is meant to help "strengthen his role and his policy," he said.
Though Obama has been president for less than a year it has been "enough time to inspire the world," Jagland said.
The Nobel committee said Obama has created a new climate in international politics that has focused on multilateral diplomacy and an emphasis on the role of the United Nations and other international institutions.
"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 citation said.
This says a lot about the role and power of the United States as the world's only superpower. Simply indicating that a change in United States foreign policy is coming becomes a force for peace. It also says a lot about just how dangerous and damaging to international peace the policies of the former administration were.
But still one wonders why the committee did not wait for a future year to award Obama the prize in recognition of anticipated future accomplishments.
This may be where a possible darker side for the decision comes into play. The Nobel Prizes are only awarded to living recipients and the Nobel Prize Committee may have found it prudent to award him the prize while it was able to.