There is a bit of irony in that just 10 days after announcing the deployment of 30,000 more American troops to Afghanistan, President Obama will accept the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize Thursday in Oslo, Norway.
The award, which the Nobel committee said was for Obama's "extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples," comes as he presides over wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and faces an American public that is increasingly skeptical about the U.S.-led efforts there.
Aides said he will address Afghanistan and the decision to add troops there and present it in the overall context of the award he is accepting. Senior administration officials said that Obama will discuss what the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq mean in the context of peace and his role as president and the role of the United States.
The president is likely to note that while the United States will never be able to avoid war entirely, that fact redoubles the U.S. commitment to finding peace wherever it can.
"We'll address directly the notion, I think, that many have wondered, which is the juxtaposition of the timing for the Nobel Peace Prize and his commitment to add more troops into Afghanistan," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said. "That's obviously something that he will address."
The award was seen internationally, and at the White House, as a mixed blessing -- given for the promise of what an Obama presidency could do across the globe and an acknowledgement of what his election represented, but also carrying with it the added pressure to produce tangible results.
Obama is just the third sitting U.S. president to win the prestigious award, and the first to win it in his first year in office. The previous sitting U.S. presidents who won were Theodore Roosevelt in 1906 and Woodrow Wilson in 1919.
The peace prize sparked considerable debate over Obama's qualifications: Was his resume too thin? Was the committee actually rewarding the United States for its election of Obama? Was the award more for what Obama represents than what he has accomplished?
Obama provided a preview of the humble tone he is likely to strike in Oslo when he spoke at the White House the day the award was announced.
"To be honest, I do not feel that I deserve to be in the company of so many of the transformative figures who've been honored by this prize," Obama said in brief remarks Oct. 9. "I do not view it as a recognition of my own accomplishments, but rather as an affirmation of American leadership on behalf of aspirations held by people in all nations."
The president sees the award as less a recognition of what he has done in office than an affirmation of the desire for American leadership.
The White House views the prize as a boost of momentum for the key issues the president has outlined in his foreign policy agenda, including climate change, nuclear non-proliferation, strengthening international institutions and mechanisms to avoid war, closing the gulf in opportunity in countries where a lack of opportunity can breed conflict, human rights and building bridges of understanding with Muslim world.