Obama has as President created a new climate in international politics. Multilateral diplomacy has regained a central position, with emphasis on the role that the United Nations and other international institutions can play. Dialogue and negotiations are preferred as instruments for resolving even the most difficult international conflicts. The vision of a world free from nuclear arms has powerfully stimulated disarmament and arms control negotiations. Thanks to Obama's initiative, the USA is now playing a more constructive role in meeting the great climatic challenges the world is confronting. Democracy and human rights are to be strengthened.
What exactly does this mean for the brand new Nobel Laureate?
While there has been international criticism, such as Cuba, who believe Obama was rewarded for his "lip service", or Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki, who was on the record saying Obama's selection "was clearly made in haste," adding "we will support and welcome the move if it helps promote peace and harmony in war-wary countries." Mottaki believed that a more appropriate time to receive the Nobel Peace Prize would have been the full withdrawal of troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as the recognition and respect for Palestinian rights.
Domestically, there has also been criticism, mostly coming from conservatives, who believe this is just another instance of Obama pandering to the international community and being rewarded for his apologetic stance with the world. While conservatives previously attacked Obama's personal involvement in Chicago's Olympic bid, cheered when America lost their bid, and then changed to accusatory mode, blaming Obama for the loss that they one loved, Obama faces the same conservative spin cycle, and must act fast in translating his Nobel win into political capital before this unexpected gain is framed by the right.
What are the options?
Internationally, Obama faces the option of increasing troop levels in Afghanistan, which has turned into a quagmire reminiscent of the Soviet invasion in the 80s. He also has the issues of Guantánamo Bay, Iran's nuclear future and Middle East peace in general, the Iraq war, and the occasional North Korean problem. In each of these areas, I do not see much changing. The prison camp will still be open. Israel and Palestine will continue to be on their political fulcrum, teetering back and forth. Iran will have it's bipolar foreign policy and will keep the Middle East on their toes. Iraq currently seems to be stagnant, with no real news-making progress, and North Korea is like playing roulette. While Obama may be able to make some gains in any kind of talks, I foresee them as being short lived.
Using the Nobel Peace prize at home may seem more difficult. The right has already attacked the win, drawing comparisons to Yasser Arafat, founder of the PLO and shared winner of the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize, or claiming that Obama is spending too much time gallivanting around the world and is too busy playing politics, allowing Americans to die by ignoring the calls for more troops from General McChrystal. If supporters of Obama fail to be more vocal, they risk allowing Obama's Nobel to offer little or no gain politically. Conservatives will define the prize win as nothing more then international politics try to influence American politics, with some commentators, such as Dick Morris already claiming that it is Europe's way of "re-colonizing" America. Conservatives have already whittled away the respect and prestige of the presidency and the Olympics (at least for their followers), but those who believe in the Nobel Peace Prize, and all it stands for, risk losing it all to a bunch of people unhappy they did not win in the previous election, and have been relegated to a minority status. If Obama wants to capitalize on his win, he better act fast before his prize becomes a boon for his detractors.