Obama gains nothing from the prize. No domestic constituency will become more favorably disposed to him because five Norwegians think he’s already changed the world — and the Republicans were just handed the punch line for an easy recession-era attack ad. (To quote the Democratic strategist Joe Trippi, anticipating the 30-second spots to come: “He got a Nobel Prize. What did you get? A pink slip.”)
Overseas, there was nobody, from Paris to Peshawar, who woke up Friday more disposed to work with the United States because of the Nobel committee’s decision — and plenty of more seasoned statesman who woke up laughing. (Vladimir Putin probably hasn’t snickered this much since John McCain tried to persuade Americans that “we are all Georgians” during last year’s weeklong war.)
Meanwhile, the prize makes every foreign-policy problem Obama faces seem ever so slightly more burdensome. Now he’s the Nobel laureate who has to choose between escalating a counterinsurgency in Afghanistan or ceding ground to a theocratic mafia. He’s the Nobel laureate who’ll either have to authorize military strikes against Iran or construct an effective, cold-war-style deterrence system for the Middle East. He’s the Nobel laureate who’ll probably fail, like every U.S. president before him, to prod Israelis and Palestinians toward a comprehensive settlement.