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Obama…A Down Payment Prize - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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When I was at primary school, my maternal grandfather would give us a small amount of money as a gift on the first day of our exams. My grandfather, may God rest his soul, used to say to us, “Whoever fails must give me back the money”.

This came to mind immediately after the announcement was made that US President Barack Obama had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Obama himself should be most uncomfortable and embarrassed about this not because he doesn’t deserve the prize as a person but because he has not yet done anything that makes him worthy of such a prize during the first nine months as US president.

It is true that Obama delivered an important speech to the Muslims from Cairo, congratulated the Iranians on the occasion of Nowruz and initiated dialogue with them, and has shown real concern for the Arab-Israeli conflict. But all of that has not affected the difficult issues; in fact we are yet to see any real results. Of course, here we are not comparing Obama to former president George W. Bush, who, despite all the disasters he brought about, visited a mosque to show good intention and is considered the first American president to put forward the principle of two states, one Palestinian and one Israeli, and even though he did launch two wars, Obama has yet to stop either one of them!

America is still in Iraq and is still fighting in Afghanistan; in fact Obama emphasized his determination to continue fighting this war even if the number of [American] troops in Kabul is reduced. Moreover, Guantanamo Bay detention camp is yet to be shut down and there is nothing to suggest that it will close anytime soon. For those who are angered at the thought of George W. Bush they must remember what former president Bill Clinton achieved not only during his tenure as president but only a few months ago when he secured the release of the two female American journalists held in North Korea.

With regards to President Obama on the economic level, the world economy, and the US economy before it, is yet to get over this stage of suspicion and enter a stage of trust in its recovery. We also must remember that unprecedented international efforts are being exerted to save the global economy from an economic disaster.

All of this does not mean that we are questioning Obama’s intentions; this is not the case at all, as his presidential victory as a black president in the White House alone was a historical moment and an important point that will be remembered forever. What we mean here is that the fact that the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to President Obama, who is yet to sign a peace agreement, is puzzling. It is true that he talks about peace and cooperation, but he does not do so from a position of strength but rather as part of a crucial moment for his country, internally and externally, especially as he inherited a difficult legacy from his predecessor Bush.

Therefore, it is apparent that Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize came as a “down payment” and as a way of [expressing] encouragement and goodwill, especially as Obama himself said that he considered the prize a “call to action.” If Obama achieves [something] then he will have deserved the prize, no doubt, but if he doesn’t then who knows whether he should return it just as we had to return our grandfather’s money if we failed [our exams] when we were young!

The upcoming days hold the answer, particularly as today the chances for peace or war in our region are equal.