They listened to an administration that has pledged to close down Guantanamo and leave Iraq. They noticed that for the first time since Jimmy Carter, American political discourse has focused on accountability of governments and human rights—Hillary Clinton’s recent condemnation of the murder and rape of opposition demonstrators in Guinea being but an example. For the first time in more than eight years, we have an administration that is willing to listen to the Middle East and willing to tackle the challenges associated with that elusive peace process.
These struggles are complicated and frustrating and nowhere near from being over. Any number of Obama efforts could go badly at anytime. But in issuing the prize to Obama, the committee decided to take the chance to do something relevant. It decided to give the prize as a call to action—in short, as a gesture of hope.
Should Obama be humbled? He’d better be! He’s no Martin Luther King Jr., and he’s no Nelson Mandela. Anybody with any common sense would argue that much more needs to be done. Darfur, Burma, Sri Lanka and Yemen are on the back burner when they shouldn’t be. The health care debate in America keeps us exasperated. And we all feel that the critical issue of American joblessness deserves more attention. To be sure, hope is both what defines the Obama presidency and what leaves us so cynical about its shortcomings.
But as we count up the reasons for pessimism, let’s also take the time to celebrate what has been achieved. Regardless of the troubles ahead, the message of this administration is being heard. The committee understood that America under Obama is again a part of the community of nations—willing to listen and willing to lead.
Gregory Beals is a political analyst based out of the Middle East. He has worked for the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and for the U.N. Security Council Somalia Monitoring Group. You contact him here.