The World from Berlin: 'Obama Must Prove Himself'

As US President Barack Obama prepares to accept the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, critics wonder what exactly he did to deserve the honor. But he's already succeeded in changing the tenor of America's relationship with the world -- German commentators hope he will still earn the prize in the years to come.

Norway is annoyed. US President Barack Obama, in the Scandinavian country on Thursday to accept the Nobel Peace Prize, has cast official protocol aside in his hurry to get back to the business of being president.

Instead of staying for three days to take part in the full schedule of events surrounding the awarding of the prize, Obama will spend a scant 24 hours in the Norwegian capital. Indeed, while he will meet with Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, the US president has elected to skip the Nobel concert, a children's event and a press conference.

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Photo Gallery: Obama's Big Day in Oslo
Even more scandalous for the Norwegians, Obama has turned down an invitation to have lunch with King Harald. Fully 44 percent of those surveyed found Obama's decision "rude" with just a third saying they thought snubbing the king was acceptable.

Obama, though, has larger worries. When he steps on stage to receive his prize, he will be facing a world that doesn't quite believe that he deserves it. Never mind that he himself said as much upon being told that he was awarded the Peace Prize. His speech, just days after radically upping the number of US troops in Afghanistan, will surely not be the easiest of his presidency. German papers on Thursday take a closer look at the skepticism and hope that surrounds Obama's Peace Prize honor.

Left-wing Die Tageszeitung writes,

"Did Obama earn the Nobel Peace Prize he will be awarded today in Oslo? The simple, and widely agreed-upon answer is no. After all, the new US president is still conducting a war in Afghanistan and just announced he would escalate the conflict with the addition of 30,000 troops. Many of those in Berlin and other world capitals who once greeted the presidential candidate from the US with jubilation as a new messiah find themselves disappointed with him today."

"But even during his presidential campaign and all his appearances in Europe, Obama made his Afghanistan strategy clear, and made it clear that he wanted help and additional soldiers from Germany…"

"Obama is acting in Afghanistan exactly the way he said he would during the campaign. Why three of the five members of the Nobel Prize committee chose him in October for this year's prize is unclear. Did they consider the war in Afghanistan "just" and "necessary"? Did they hope that the prize would move Obama towards a speedier end to the conflict? Or did they want to encourage the US president in other aspects of his foreign policy agenda?"

"On that last count, they may have had good reason. Apart from his Afghanistan policy, which another US president played a larger role in shaping, President Obama is still the best thing that could have happened to the US and the rest of the world. That's keeping in mind the alternatives who were running for office in 2008, and keeping in mind the massive challenges that stand before the US and the world today."

The business daily Financial Times Deutschland writes:

"The man hasn't earned a Nobel. So say two-thirds of Americans as do commentators all over the world, and it seems that the prize winner himself agrees: When the award was announced in October, he expressed his discomfort and surprise at the recognition. Barack Obama didn't even have a year in office under his belt to justify the unusual honor that he will be presented with today in Oslo."

"But it would be wrong to say Obama hasn't accomplished anything. He's worked hard to change directions. And he hasn't relied on short-term special effects and pathos, but rather high-minded goals that acknowledge what's realistic in a world where America no longer has the only say and where everyone is connected to everyone and everything is connected to everything. Whether he will live up to the honor he is receiving, we don't know -- yet. Politics is the art of the possible, and in this art Obama must prove himself."

"Obama is an unusual politician, because he combines patience with persistence. In China, he chose to take the long view rather than score quick PR victories -- he may be able to speak his mind more openly when the relationship is on more solid ground. Before he made his decision on Afghanistan, he weighed all the options, and now must stick with the one he chose. He doesn't know if Congress will ratify a climate treaty, but with his participation in the Copenhagen summit he's made it clear he won't give up easily."

"Whether his strategy will succeed we won't know until next year at the earliest. But so far Obama has taken up the banner without responding to outside pressures."

The left-wing Berliner Zeitung sets the bar high in its Thursday editorial:

"What politician hasn't dreamed of winning a Nobel Peace Prize? Of doing something so worthy in life that you're rewarded with the most honored prize of all? Of following in the footsteps of men like Willy Brandt, Nelson Mandela or Jimmy Carter?"

"At first glance, it's just such a dream that's being realized today, as US president Barack Obama receives the Nobel Prize. The celebrations, the TV cameras, the prize money -- it's all the same as with his predecessors. But Obama isn't being honored for anything he's done. He's being recognized for what mankind hopes he'll do. The expectations that the Nobel Prize committee is putting on him cannot be met. What a burden for a man who is responsible for governing a superpower."

"There area good three years left before the next US election. To achieve his goals in that time, he'll need not only more luck than ever, but also more intelligence, decisiveness, and consistency. His life's work could be the reconciliation of the world's cultures. If he can achieve that -- if! -- then he will have truly earned his Nobel Prize."

-- Andrew Curry

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