Obama’s Peace Prize: Danish Reaction

Let’s take a quick look at what they’re saying in the Danish press about the awarding today to President Barack Obama of the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize – “Danish” because that is as close as I can come linguistically to the Swedish deliberations behind its awarding (and the Norwegian arrangements for the conferring ceremony on December 10).

– From the Danish Christian newspaper, Kristeligt Dagblad (Obama gives Nobel money to a good cause): Nobel Peace Prize winner Barack Obama intends to give the 10 million Swedish kroner prize-money to a good cause, which he has not yet had time to specifically identify, according to a White House spokesman. He will also travel to Oslo on December 10 to accept the award there; Norwegian prime minister Jens Stoltenberg has already discussed this with him. Ah, but you may also be asking: How will this sudden new Scandinavian appointment affect the US president’s involvement at the UN’s climate-change conference in Copenhagen which will be going on at the same time? According to this report, it does not necessarily increase the chances that Obama will actually decide to attend that climate change conference.

(Note: This is a report from the Ritzau news agency, so the identical text appears in several other Danish newspapers as well. But in one of those we get the added detail that the “expert” behind the above calculation that Obama’s appointment in Oslo in December won’t necessary mean he shows up for the climate conference in Copenhagen – which, by the way, I don’t believe for a second – is namely Aarhus University Professor of Contemporary History Thorsten Borring Olesen.)

– The daily Berlingske Tidende offers some commentary in one article (Obama: Both a certain and a controversial choice), but doesn’t bother to credit the journalist(s) involved. Anyway: Awarding the prize to Obama was certain (sikkert): he is popular everywhere on this Earth, the nearest thing to every man’s friend. Awarding the prize to Obama was, however, controversial: Obama has been all about promises so far, not results. Maybe the Nobel committee was impressed with the resolution calling for the elimination of nuclear weapons that he managed to have the UN Security Council pass a few weeks ago while he functioned as its Chairman – on the other hand, in reality none of the nuclear powers, including the US, has done anything to fulfill the promise they made to the rest of the world at the time of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, back in 1968, that they would work to reduce and then eliminiate their nuclear arsenals, in exchange for that rest of the world giving up any idea of developing nuclear weapons of their own. Or perhaps it’s about his efforts to counteract climate change, or to shut Guantánamo – except, again, there actually hasn’t been tangible progress in these areas, either. No, the purposes the Nobel committee had in giving this prize to the President was both to give him “a tremendous moral pat on the shoulder” and to pointedly remind other countries (the exact Danish phrase is “hint with a wagon-pole”) that the American president is going to need some help from them if what he has promised is going to come true – so that that Nobel committee doesn’t find itself embarrassed a few years down the road at what it did today.

– The preeminent Danish opinion weekly, Information hasn’t yet gotten around to providing its own judgment or study of the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to Obama. For now, it presents an analysis (again from Ritzau) from Prof. Peter Viggo Jacobsen, of the Copenhagen University Social Sciences Faculty (Obama is a highly surprising choice). Along with about a billion other people around the world, he interprets the prize as being awarded in anticipation of future achievements, not of past accomplishments since “he has not been able yet to carry out anything at all.” Further Jacobsen:

Normally there should be more then words [behind the award]. There should also be some action. And action is what we haven’t seen much of yet. This has to be in anticipation of something later, that the [Nobel] committee believes that he is capable of realizing some of the good intentions he has.

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