President Obama's Nobel Peace Prize is arguably not the most controversial choice to come out of Norway, and certainly not the worst. Consider these choices and non-choices:
1 Picking Teddy Roosevelt in 1906: When you think of President Theodore "Carry a Big Stick" Roosevelt, "peace" usually isn't the first word that jumps to mind. After riding up San Juan Hill with the Rough Riders in the Spanish-American War, he was a hawkish president who greatly expanded the U.S. Navy, fomented a revolution in Panama to clear the way for the American-owned canal there, and, after leaving the White House, was the leading proponent for an early U.S. entry to World War I.
The act that Roosevelt won the Nobel for - brokering a peace deal between Japan and Russia in 1905 - is thought by some historians to have encouraged Japanese expansionism that led ultimately to Pearl Harbor.
2 Not picking Mohandas Gandhi: What the . . . ? When you list peacemakers of the 20th Century, the leader of the Indian independence movement, who invented the notion of nonviolent protest, is usually No. 1. Gandhi was assassinated in 1948, the year after India and neighboring Pakistan were freed from British rule. So why didn't he win? The list of reasons is long and complicated, but the Euro-and-America-centrism of the early 20th-century judges almost certainly played a role.
3 Picking Henry Kissinger and Le Duc Tho, 1973: The American and North Vietnamese diplomats negotiated an end to the long U.S. involvement in the war, but not the actual conflict, which concluded with the fall of Saigon two years later.
Kissinger's other actions as foreign policy adviser to President Richard Nixon and later U.S. Secretary of State - including the secret bombing of Cambodia and American complicity in a bloody coup in Chile - have led some to go as far as to call him a war criminal. Le Duc Tho refused to accept the prize, probably a good thing considering the brutal re-education camps imposed by North Vietnam after Saigon's collapse. Two Nobel committee members quit in protest over the 1973 selections.
4 Picking Yasser Arafat in 1994: The Nobel committee recognized the Palestinian liberation leader, along with Israel's Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres, for their roles in brokering the Oslo accords that allowed for greater self-determination for Arafat's people, but the deal still did not end generations of unrest in the Middle East. For many people, Arafat's role in the Oslo deal could never erase the horrors of his earlier support for terrorism, including his alleged ties to the massacre of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics.