No, not really.

But in light of Obama’s recent troop increase, it doesn’t sound that implausible. Obama is sending 30,000 more troops to fight the war in Afghanistan. Forget what one thinks about the legitimacy of said war, just think instead what would have happened if Bush had done this. Everybody left of center would be up in arms (they were). Bush is hated by all of the world, Obama wins the Peace Prize. Such a fact proves, I think, how most people judge politicians not on their actual policy actions but merely on their personality and party platform.

Don’t believe me? Take this fact: Bush gave more aid in terms of money to Africa than any other President in American history. Throughout his two terms, did Republicans criticize him for all of this superfluous spending that was essentially international welfare? No. Did Democrats praise him for his efforts? No. Why? The only reason I can think of is that both sides already had made up their minds about Bush, no matter what he did. Republicans decided they’d trumpet him as a fiscal conservative – which he wasn’t – and Democrats would paint him as an unsympathetic prick.

I always find myself in an awkward position when I am defending Bush in any context. I really dislike(d) the guy’s policies. But the inconsistency of most of the population regarding his actions is laughable. Bush was more liberal than a lot of Democrats in terms of immigration, he increased federal spending on education an absurd amount, spent more on the arts than any other President, and except for tax cuts, wasn’t really a fiscal conservative. But most progressives, when asked for a synopsis of the man’s Presidency, will probably give a formulaic regurgitation showing a southern oil man who cares about nobody but the rich. Then you tell them about how he’s relatively liberal on immigration. Or how that social security privatization idea that sounds good them was pushed by, uh, him.

Bush should not get the Noble Peace Prize. Ever. But sometimes it’s important to judge Obama with the same critical lens that we viewed Bush through for 8 years.

There’s a great exchange between W. Jerome and commenter Benjamin on W. Jerome’s recent post on the buildup of troops in Afghanistan that has coincided with Obama’s Nobel Prize (here is W. Jerome’s first post on the subject).  I voted for Obama, and although I haven’t been thrilled with lots of things he’s done as President, I’m still confident that he is better than the alternative.  He especially deserves praise for all that he has done to improve US international relations.  However, I agree with W. Jerome that it’s odd to award the Nobel Peace prize to a president who has recently doubled troop levels in Afghanistan (especially if the prize is supposed to be a repudiation of Bush’s warmongering) and who presided over two wars that have a combined death count of about 3500 in the last six months.  Sure, Obama might deserve the prize more than some previous winners like Yasser Arafat, but if the standards are that low then the prize has lost most of its meaning.

One of this year’s Nobel Laureates in economics is Elinor Ostrom, who before she won the prize was relatively unknown.  A cool result of her prize is the explosion of online discussion about her underappreciated but important work.  This is relatively uncommon for winners of the economics Nobel.  Academic economists tend to be a fairly tight and well-connected group, so if your work is important enough to win a Nobel then it’s likely that most economists are familiar with it (Ostrom is an exception largely because she’s a political scientist and not an economist).

There is no similarly well-connected group of people doing great work that promotes world peace.  Therefore, every time people like Obama, Al Gore, and Jimmy Carter win the Nobel Prize, it’s a missed opportunity to highlight incredible work that is not publicly understood or appreciated.  The Nobel Peace Prize can do a lot more good by raising public consciousness of people like Jody Williams and Muhammad Yunus (even if microcredit is overrated) than it can by making symbolic political gestures to honor people for whom peace is mostly just a talking point.