2009 October 10 Saturday
Obama Won Nobel Prize For Winning Election

There were only 12 days from the time Barack Obama took office until nominations for the Nobel Peace Prize closed. So he didn't even win the prize for things he did in office. That relieves us from the problem of searching his record to find some accomplishment worthy of such a prize.

Editor's Note: Although President Obama had only been in office for 12 days before the nominations for this year's Nobel Peace prize closed the entire process actually takes a full year. According to the official Nobel Prize Web site invitation letters are sent out in September. Every year, the Norwegian Nobel Committee sends out thousands of letters inviting a qualified and select number of people to submit their nominations for the Nobel Peace Prize. The deadline to submit nominations is February 1.

So Obama didn't need to negotiate peace treaties to win a peace prize. He didn't need to solve ancient disputes. But this means he's rising so rapidly that he's running out of potential for advancement. I see this as a serious problem that needs addressing. We can't have a glass ceiling for Barack Obama. Oh no. Obama's rise is so rapid that it begs the question of what's next. Steve Sailer reports on Obama's future big prize win.

I am both surprised and deeply humbled by the decision of the Directorate of the Milky Way to honor me by naming me Galactic Overlord

I think this highlights Obama's big Prize Problem at this point: What can he possibly do for an encore? Another Nobel committee has already snubbed him for a Nobel in Literature. Perhaps a campaign of global outrage for this slight could win him that prize. But then what?

Sure, once Obama's out of office (assuming the US constitution isn't amended to make him President For Life, or better yet, Emperor Of America) then he could go to Hollywood and direct and produce movies. He could even star in one. Then he would of course win Oscars in directing, producing, and acting. Heck, he could write a script (Bill Ayers could help) and win a screenplay Oscar too. But he's much bigger than Hollywood. So then what?

Steve's floating this idea of Obama for the Galactic Overlord position therefore makes a lot of sense. But I think a program of stepping stones up to Galactic Overlordship needs to be developed or else Obama will run out of room for advancement. Maybe there's a Vulcan Prize For Logic And Peace? Can anyone think of some useful steps up from the Nobel Peace Prize? (or, rather, the renamed Obama Peace Prize)

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2009 October 10 12:32 PM  Cultural Wars Western

adam said at October 10, 2009 1:31 PM:

While I agree that Obama getting a peace prize is patently absurd, he has taken some reasonable steps to make tho world more peaceful. Namely, shifting our missile defense program from eastern Europe towards the Persian Gulf. The missile shield was a serious roadblock to nuclear arms reduction with Russia.

I like the "speak softly and carry a big stick" sort of foreign policy. So far he's shown he can speak softly with Iran and North Korea with little to show for it. Now's the time for crippling punishment. It makes me wonder if he won this prize simply for pacifying those who are impressed that America has a black president with a Muslim sounding name.

Mthson said at October 10, 2009 3:53 PM:

The prize is ultimately awarded based on events at the time of the awarding, rather than at the time of submitting. So the operative time period is probably not 12 days, but rather 9 months since he came into office, and around 20 months since he started being a major figure in the global marketplace of ideas.

The intent in switching the operative time period to 12 days is probably to strengthen our argument or to make a humorous analogy ('wouldn't it be funny if it really was 12 days'), but IMHO, it's sleight of hand that people actually believe, and it undermines what should be an objectively strong argument. Some folks love the spin element of politics, though, so to each his own.

Randall Parker said at October 10, 2009 4:23 PM:


I rejected that line of argument when writing the post for a simple reason: I think it very unlikely that people were nominating other newly elected presidents after previous US elections.

The only 2 previous US presidents to get the Nobel Peace Prize were Teddy Roosevelt for his role in ending the Japan-Russia war and Wilson over the League of Nations. Now, these awards were over achievements that didn't help in the long run. But they were real achievemetns.


Abandonment of missile defenses in Poland isn't a big bold move toward peace. Nuclear arms reduction with Russia matters not at all because the US and Russia aren't going to engage in a nuclear weapons exchange. The differences between the US and Russia probably aren't going to get much larger or smaller. Those differences have become unimportant in the bigger scheme of things. Russia should be more worried about Muslims and China and I expect in the long run its leaders will be regardless of whether we have defenses against nuclear weapons in Poland.

As for shifting toward a missile defense program against the Persian Gulf: What do you think the real purpose of ABM in Poland was? To block a massive Russian nuclear assault? Nope, far too small a plan for that. Iran's missiles were the threat it was meant to address.

Any US president carries a big stick. I do not think his rhetoric toward North Korea will matter any more than Bush's or Clinton's or those before them. As for Iran: They want nuclear weapons. Think Obama's going to prevent that?

Obama is just another US president carrying out foreign policy. So far he's showing no special talent for it. Might he? If he ever does then he can be compared to Nixon and Nixon didn't win a Peace Prize. Though Kissinger and Le Duc Tho did for reasons undeserved. All they arranged for was for the US to declare victory and leave so that the NVA could overrun ARVN.

Eric Johnson said at October 10, 2009 4:39 PM:

The nomination, and hence the situation as of February, is a necessary cause of his winning - but not a sufficient cause. So, one can't simply say he won because of the situation as of February. To make a reductio, that's a little like saying he won because he was born, or because he survived to adulthood.

Unless... you want to argue that he and anyone like him in some certain way (eg, any president) would inevitably win if nominated, but would be unlikely to be nominated.

MaryJ said at October 10, 2009 5:02 PM:

Well they are obviously scraping the bottom of the barrel here by giving the prize to Obama. But think of it, there is not much in the way of war going on anywhere in the world, not the type of war I grew up hearing about. The Muslims are causing problems in various parts of the world and the African tribes are doing their usual thing. But it really is small potatoes compared with the Iran-Iraq war, the Cold War, Korea, Vietnam, the World Wars, the Bangladesh War of Indepedence, the Shining Path war in Peru, etc. No wars means no creditable candidate for a "peace" prize. That said, the prize has been so devalued it's more like something you find in a box of Crackerjacks than an "honor." It's laughable.

Randall Parker said at October 10, 2009 5:10 PM:


The decision couldn't possibly have been driven by what Obama did because he didn't do much.

Consider Reihan Salam's reaction:

One thing I find extraordinary about this decision is that the president was chosen ahead of two Chinese dissidents, a Congolese doctor who has dedicated his life to aiding victims of sexual assault, an Afghan activist who, like Ebadi, has fought to defend the rights of women, and many other worthy nominees. More remarkably still, the president recently decided against meeting the Dalai Lama in deference to Chinese sensibilities.

This is a high prestige international prize. People who win it usually have track records or accomplishments. The Oslo Accords that the Nobel committee thought (incorrectly) important enough to give Rabin and Arafat the prize were a big deal as a supposed solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict. Le Duc Tho and Kissinger won it (again undeservingly) for getting the US out of Vietnam. But while these cases were undeserved they came way way closer to being deserved than Obama winning it.

The Nobel committee have now made the Peace Prize an even bigger joke than it already was.

MaryJ said at October 10, 2009 7:31 PM:

"The only 2 previous US presidents to get the Nobel Peace Prize were Teddy Roosevelt for his role in ending the Japan-Russia war and Wilson over the League of Nations. Now, these awards were over achievements that didn't help in the long run. But they were real achievemetns." - No kidding. The Russo-Japanese war peace deal brokered by Roosevelt emboldened the Japanese empire and inspired it to redouble its military build up, ultimately leading to the invasion of China, much of the Far East, and WWII. The League of Nations failed to stop WWII and grew into the corrupt, totalitarian freakshow known as the UN.

Even worse was the Neutrality Act of Congress in the 30s which emboldened Hitler to attack England and encouraged the Japanese to attack Pearl Harbor.

I'm generally very leery of anything that smacks of a "peace deal" or any kind of "peace" rhetoric. They historically seem to lead to more war, not less.

Mthson said at October 10, 2009 8:01 PM:


Yes, it does seem like there's a strong argument against it. But I think there's also data that supports the other side.

Nobel's will stated the Peace Prize was to go "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." However most of the candidates for the Peace Prize are local or regional human rights campaigners (e.g. Zimbabwe, Columbia, China). These people are doing nice stuff, but they could be entirely removed from history and we wouldn't expect any significant change.

Obama, on the other hand, has changed the global dialogue, made the outbreak of war much less likely, and given people around the world more hope. As the person in the most powerful position in the world, even his actions that seem small have much larger effects than the actions of local, single-issue human rights campaigners.

I think whether we feel the data skews toward one side or the other on this issue is dependent on our other perspectives, so I'm not advocating either side. I'm just arguing it's a more complex set of data than how we're often regarding it.

(As always, thanks for the responses.)

Randall Parker said at October 10, 2009 10:38 PM:


The likelihood of an outbreak of war between the United States and another country or between any 2 of the major powers is extremely low and already was extremely low once Bush's Iraq adventure turned into a mess. Actually, the only real potential object of a US attack was Iran. Pakistan and India aren't going to get into another war. China isn't going to go at it against Japan or India. Europe is settled. There's no great need to dampen the flames of war.

The shift toward awarding prizes over small scale stuff is due to the fact that there's no large scale stuff.

Obama can't do anything special because there's very little in the way of special stuff to do. The awarding of the Peace Prize to Obama is really totally ridiculous. It is more ridiculous than awarding it to Kissinger and Le Duc Tho or Rabin and Arafat.

The only serious issue Obama has on his plate is Afghanistan. He's not going to bring peace to that place that has one of the top 3 fertility rates and Muslim tribes fighting each other as if the 20th century never happened. Afghanistan only matters because of Al Qaeda. We could protect ourselves from Al Qaeda far better by restrictive visa policies than by any foreign policy moves.

The only international issues that matter involve trade, finance, pollution, and resource depletion. They do not involve war. The only places that still are fighting wars are not part of the industrialized world.

not anon or anonymous said at October 11, 2009 4:53 AM:

"The only international issues that matter involve trade, finance, pollution, and resource depletion. They do not involve war. The only places that still are fighting wars are not part of the industrialized world. "

The Nobel Committee has already awarded prizes for important developments in trade, finance, pollution and even resource depletion. Think Muhammad Yunus (microcredit), Norman Borlaug (Green Revolution), El Baradei and the IAEA (nuke proliferation), heck, even Al Gore and the IPCC (climate change). In view of this, a prize to Barak Obama makes more sense than the 2008 prize to Martti Ahtisaari (Who's this guy? Had anyone ever heard of him before he won the prize?)

AMac said at October 11, 2009 10:16 AM:

Interesting thread, but I'm more concerned about what comes after the Galactic Overlordship.

Opening gates to alternate universes or timelines would help.

Perhaps we should coax Obama to aim for spiritual heights? In a joint statement, Tony Rezko and Bill Ayers could decree that Obama is the reincarnation of the Bhudda. Or, as a sop to Rev. Wright's Christian sensibilities, the President could be named as the fulfillment of Revelations' prophecies.

Would multiple awards of more-mundane Earthling prizes that have not yet become commemerations of Failing Upwards help, perhaps?

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