The Nobel Peace Prize - Really?

Friday, October 9, 2009
Like most everyone (including the President, I think), I was quite surprised to learn this morning that President Obama had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

And my initial reaction was, Wow, the Nobel committee must have really hated George W. Bush and the Insane Clown Posse he called a cabinet. Let's face it - as much as I like President Obama and approve of his willingness to engage with the rest of the world, he really hasn't done anything yet to earn such an honor. I can only assume the committee wanted to poke W with a stick for reasons of their own.

This decision bothers me for a couple of reasons. First of all, the Nobel Peace Prize is nothing to sneeze at, and using it as a tool to shame someone who is no longer in power seems more than a bit childish. I mean, seriously - the committee might has well have stuck their tongue out and sneered "Nanny-nanny-boo-boo!"

And secondly, I wonder if this will somehow compromise the President's ability to be effective. I can't believe that the President doesn't see right through these shenanigans, and I'm interested to see how he will try and leverage the situation to his advantage.

Interesting times, children.

17 comments:

Fathergoose said...

Well Said!

John the Scientist said...

Oh, come on Janiece, the Nobel committee has given the prize to Al Gore. Whatever you think about climate change, it has little to no relevance to peace in the world, except in very, very unlikely doomsday scenarios. That, too was political.

And Kofi Anan? The man who presided over the UN outrages in Africa?

This prize has lost all its prestige.

Janiece said...

John, I'll point out that Mr. Gore shared the prize with those who actually, you know, did the work.

And of course it's political - "peace" has always been political. My issue is that this particular move is childish and mean-spirited in my view.

I do not agree that the prize has "lost all its prestige." If it had lost all its prestige, then no one would give a rat's ass who won - and we both know that's not true.

John the Scientist said...

Did the work or not, Janiece, the work was not related to peace in the current world. You can stretch them and bend them, but the criteria for that prize didn't include that kind of inquiry.

It's been obvious how political this prize is for a long time, and I think that it has lost at least most of its prestige (and this particular choice diminishes it even further), though, people still look at who wins out of a sort of social inertia. I'd submit that most people really don't give a rat's who wins anymore. Not in the way they did when Lech Walesa won, and even then that was a sign of the shift into politics, I'm not sure Lech was promoting peace per se - that was a political poke in the eye to the Soviets.

I watch the science prizes, but since even before Kofi Anan won, I'd given up on the peace prize as a political football.

Janiece said...

Obama himself has now said he doesn't deserve it, but will accept it as a "call to action."

Fair enough - it probably wouldn't be very diplomatic for him to refuse the prize.

John, I thought Elie Wiesel's comment was germane: "The Nobel Prize committee has its own rules and they may decide anything they want. They may decide that encouragement is part of the experiment."

And from the NPR coverage: "The committee has taken a wide interpretation of Nobel's guidelines, expanding the prize beyond peace mediation to include efforts to combat poverty, disease and climate change."

The shift you mention has certainly happened, and I also disagreed with Kofi Anan's win. Corrupt M-F needed to be shown the door.

However, I think the committee has picked enough "winners" (Doctors Without Borders comes to mind) that I think the prize still has value and prestige. So we'll have to disagree on that one.

Random Michelle K said...

That's pretty much the lunchtime discussion my friend and I just had.

In a way, it's insulting to Obama, to be given the prize simply as a reaction to W.

Jerry Critter said...

Actually climate change can have an effect on peace. When someone's land begins to disappear under seawater, and their crops dry up, they will begin to look at their neighbors land and crops for their own use---same as we interfere in the Mid-East because of our energy needs.

Eric said...

John, the Nobel Peace Prize lost its prestige in 1973. That having been said, I do have to give the Nobel committee dubious credit for knocking "Killer" Kissinger's award to second place for "Least Appropriate Award Of The Nobel Peace Prize"; as much as I like Obama, I'll at least concede that Kissinger and Le Duc Tho at least had spent some time jawing at a conference.

(And I agree with Jerry Critter about Gore's award: a little out-of-the-box maybe, but scarce resources--including water, food, arable land--are a foreseeable source of conflict that might be mitigated if we can slow or reverse climate change. In any case, I don't think Gore's award is on the same page as giving Kissinger and Le an award for cynically pretending to clean up a mess they'd gone to great lengths to make worse during the preceding years.)

I regret that the Nobel Committee decided to make a political statement this year, and while I have great hopes for Obama's administration and feel he's done a better job restoring our nation abroad than Bush belatedly did during his last two years in office after the damage was done, I wouldn't say Obama is deserving of the award. I rather suspect that Mr. Obama would agree with me, actually: the White House seems to have been surprised by the news this morning. But oh well.

Rachael said...

Yeah, that's basically how I felt about it too. I was like, well, that's nice. Obama's cool. But it seems just a little ridiculous to give the Peace Prize to a man who hasn't even been in office for a year. He's taken some steps in the right direction, sure, but you'd think we'd need a bit more time and effort to see if we get anything that promotes peace out of what's going on.

Honestly, when I first saw the headline, I thought it was an Onion article. For real.

Ted Remington said...

On the Gore award, scarce resources, especially food and water, are the all-time champion sources of conflict throughout human history, so I have no problem with his award.

On Obama, I think the Nobel folks are actually more forward thinking than we might give them credit for being. I doubt they'd give the prize out merely to "snub" Bush, if for no other reason than I don't think Bush or his supporters would see it as such.

My hunch is that they understand that Obama is beginning to move on his agenda, and the prize is a way of shaping that agenda. It puts pressure on him to follow through on issues like ending the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, nuclear proliferation, etc.

If the Nobel Prize exists as a way of fostering and encouraging work toward peace, then giving it to Obama now might be far more useful than it would be down the road.

Just a thought.

Eric said...

Barack Obama on Barack Obama's Nobel Peace Prize:

I am both surprised and deeply humbled by the decision of the Nobel Committee. Let me be clear: 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.

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 -- men and women who've inspired me and inspired the entire world through their courageous pursuit of peace.

But I also know that this prize reflects the kind of world that those men and women, and all Americans, want to build -- a world that gives life to the promise of our founding documents. And I know that throughout history, the Nobel Peace Prize has not just been used to honor specific achievement; it's also been used as a means to give momentum to a set of causes. And that is why I will accept this award as a call to action -- a call for all nations to confront the common challenges of the 21st century.


The full text of the President's remarks can be found here.

The White House has also announced that the money portion of the Prize will be donated to charity, although at this time they haven't announced which ones.

He may not deserve a Nobel Peace Prize (yet), but once again the man gets credit for being a class act.

Janiece said...

Welcome, Ted. You make a good point. I don't consider the Nobel Committee to be so one-dimensional that they awarded the President the prize purely as a snub to Bush. That was certainly my initial reaction, but I think there's probably a large dose of preemptive positive reinforcement there as well.

He may not deserve a Nobel Peace Prize (yet), but once again the man gets credit for being a class act.

You said it, brother. I'm so glad we elected him.

mom in northern said...

I have always felt that the prize should go to organizations and not individuals...There are many good ones out there.

Nathan said...

You may be able to convince me otherwise, but I think he should have said how honored he was and then respectfully declined. Saying something along the lines of hoping to be worthy of it at some future date might have gone a long way.

Ultimately, I think it comes off as slightly silly to supporters and fodder for the opposition.

And regarding the whole question of it being a slap at "W"...if you see it that way, I think you also have to take it as a foreign body trying to influence American politics. I'm not one of those who fears some "new world order" breathing down our necks, but I'll admit that giving foreign organizations any kind of say here grates on me.

Mummy Grabill said...

I never saw it as a stick-it-up-the-a** to W, but rather a very silly "We support you!" vote from the Nobel committee. Which is superbly annoying. Obama doesn't need the Nobel committee telling everyone "we've got his back"! He's perfectly capable of getting around the international political landscape on his own. I believe he will eventually earn the prize, but when he does, what are you gonna do for him then? You've got nNothing.

Janiece said...

Interesting idea, Aileen.

I can't imagine why the Nobel Committee thought the President needed an international cheering section, though.

Anne C. said...

I have to say, I read it the same way MG did. The Europeans were *overjoyed* when we elected Obama and have probably been planning this surprise "We think you're awesome! [insert goofball thumbs up]" party ever since.

Can't say whether I agree or disagree with the accept/decline choice, but I do think that he dealt with it in a classy way.