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From Europe with Love? Nobel Surprise on Both Sides of the Atlantic

In this week's Global Pulse episode, Obama's Nobel War and Peace Prize, host Erin Coker asks whether the Norwegian Nobel Committee made the right choice in awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to Barack Obama. Watch the episode and share your thoughts below!

Following the unexpected announcement in Oslo last week, much of the domestic press attributed Obama's Nobel win to his international appeal, particularly in Europe.  The Christian Science Monitor notes the award indicated "a particularly European appreciation" of the U.S. president, while an AOL News headline reads "Obama's Nobel Reflects Europe's Approval."

"The puzzled and heated domestic reaction…is only the latest instance of a gulf in perception between the two sides of the Atlantic," writes James Graff. "The Nobel Committee's decision is a European vote of confidence on the way this particular American president is setting the global agenda."

There is little doubt that Obama is popular among Europeans. A recent Pew Research Center Global Attitudes Survey reported that 93 percent of Germans and 86 percent of Britons said they had confidence in Obama to do the right thing in world affairs. Similarly, 91 percent in France rated Obama favorably -- a dramatic shift from 2008 when only 13 percent of French expressed confidence in George W. Bush.

However, even the U.S. president’s transatlantic supporters were baffled and perplexed by the win, calling the award premature and, like their U.S. counterparts, questioning what Obama had actually done to warrant such an honor.  
"It used to be the rule that the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to politicians if they could point to tangible political successes," writes Claus Christian Malzahn in a Der Spiegel editorial. "Awarding him the Nobel Prize now is like giving a medal to a marathon runner who has just managed the first few kilometers."

The U.K.'s Times Online took the criticism even further, calling the decision to award the prize to Obama "absurd," and accusing the committee of making a "mockery" of the award.

So if not an endorsement from Europe, what was behind the Nobel shakeup?

Some international media outlets point to former Norwegian Prime Minister Thorbjorn Jagland, appointed earlier this year to head the Nobel committee, as the driving force behind Obama's win. The Christian Science Monitor's global news blog notes that Jagland "has an activist vision for the Nobel as a prize that can spur peace, rather than simply reward its achievement."

France's Le Monde was even more blunt: "The former Nobel Committee president would have never nominated Obama."

Regardless of the politics behind the award, the reaction to Obama's Nobel is a reminder that action, not vision, will be most crucial in the president's long-term success at home and abroad.


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From Europe with Love? Nobel Surprise on Both Sides of the...