Unlike some, I don’t think the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to President Obama during his first year in office is all that shocking. For many years the Nobel Peace Prize has been given as much if not more for what the committee hopes recipients will accomplish as for what they’ve already done. Just look at the list of past laureates, and note the years in which particular folks won. The idea is that the prize will enhance the profile and prestige of the recipient, thereby boosting their efforts. So it only makes sense that the Committee would award the prize to a President who has adopted a more conciliatory foreign policy, is seeking to reduce nuclear weapons stockpiles, is pursuing more aggressive action on climate change, etc. These are policies the committee supports, and awarding the prize to Obama could, in their view, help ensure these policies are adopted and eventually succeed.
UPDATE: See also “Peace, dude,” by Maria Farrell at Crooked Timber.