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President Obama's Nobel Peace Prize

President Obama's Nobel Peace Prize should be seen as an acknowledgment of the promise that his presidency holds for leading the world into a new era of cooperation. Critics who argue that he hasn't earned it miss the point. The Nobel committee clearly wanted to boost support for Obama's world view and, judging from the overwhelmingly positive international reaction, they succeeded at least for the moment.

But after the champagne bubbles dissipate Obama will still be left with the tough job of turning cheers from the international bleachers into tangible progress on some of the world's toughest problems – the war on Al Qaeda, Iranian and North Korean nuclear programs, Middle East peace, climate change, and poverty.

Winning over world opinion, which the Nobel prize award signifies, can help. It frees up governments to respond positively to Obama's call for them to assume their responsibilities. And that in turn puts pressure on rogue leaders to mend their ways and join the developing international consensus.

But if it turns out that George Will is right and Obama ends up being "adored but ignored" then the Nobel committee will have done him no favors.

  • Martin S. Indyk is executive vice president of the Brookings Institution in Washington D.C., and a former U.S. ambassador to Israel. He was the founding director of the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at Brookings. During the Clinton administration Indyk served as assistant secretary of state for Near East affairs, special assistant to the president, and senior director for Near East and South Asia in the U.S. National Security Council.

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