Friday, October 09, 2009


For What?

My thoughts exactly

I heard on the radio this morning, on my way to work, that President Obama had been named as this year's winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. Apparently even he was astonished.

You know, I remember when the Nobel Peace Prize was supposed to reward people who'd spent their lifetimes working for world peace... ideally, people who had actually accomplished something for all their efforts. I'm referring to people like Nelson Mandela (1993), the Dalai Lama (1989), Mother Teresa (1979), Norman Borlaug, the man who fed the world (1970), Martin Luther King Jr. (1964), and even Begin and Sadat (1978) -- who may not have advanced world peace much, but did sign a peace treaty that had long been believed to be all but impossible. All these people accomplished something very significant, and most needed to devote a lifetime of tireless effort to get there.

More recently, however, we've had Rabin, Peres, and Arafat (1994), "for their efforts to create peace in the Middle East". (Rabin's accomplishment was nothing more than to agree to negotiate with Arafat; Arafat's accomplishment was to smugly agree to stop killing Israelis for the duration of the awards ceremony; and Peres threatened to hold his breath and stomp his feet unless he got it, too. If this is worthy of a Nobel Peace Prize, then ten-year-olds should just get it automatically.)

Then there was Jimmy Carter (2002), which was touted as a "lifetime achievement award", but which Nobel committee members privately admitted was merely intended as a snub to then-President Bush. (Now that's a worthy goal -- a Nobel Peace Prize in the service of playground politics.)

Then there were the awards for attempting to do something noble, such as the 2005 award to the International Atomic Energy Agency and Mohammed el-Baradei for "their efforts to prevent nuclear energy from being used for military purposes". (I'm not aware that either of them actually accomplished anything towards that end, but hey, they tried.) In a similar vein was the 2007 award to Al Gore "for [his] efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change" (although the dangers of man-made climate change, and the degree to which it actually happens, seem less and less with each passing year); frankly, I wonder if this was intended as a consolation prize to Mr. Gore (for losing the Presidency to Bush in 2000).

And now we have President Barack Obama, awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for... well, for what? According to the Nobel Committee, it's for "his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples".

Is this in reference to his overseas speeches, in which he called on everyone but himself to change their lives in ways he'd be happy to dictate? Or is he being rewarded, by the lights of the committee, for his supreme accomplishment of not being President Bush?

Because let's face it -- as far as world peace is concerned, the man hasn't done anything. Peace in the Middle East is no closer because of his efforts; nor are we any closer to a resolution of the fighting in Iraq or Afghanistan. The dangers of a nuclear-armed North Korea and Iran are as scary as ever. Heck, by placating foes and alienating allies, by trying to subvert the democratic process in Honduras, it looks a lot as though the man has decreased the chances for world peace.

In short, President Obama was just awarded the Nobel Prize for a year or two worth of inspiring rhetoric, and nothing more. Unbelievable.

You know, a number of online commentators have noted that Obama recently suffered a humiliating defeat (in his failed efforts to get the 2016 Olympic Games to his hometown of Chicago)... and that this might be a good thing, because it might teach the President some much-needed humility at no cost to the security of the United States.

If so, I'm afraid that accomplishment just went out the window. It's possible that President Obama will respond to this award with humility, but I greatly doubt it.

And the Nobel Peace Prize slides ever further towards irrelevancy and self-parody.

(I have to love this comment, by the way, from Nobel Peace Prize laureate Lech Walesa (1983), on hearing about Obama's award: "Who? What? So fast?")

Instapundit is staying on top of the snarky comments, which is going to be a full-time job. (Like this, for example: "I like the comments section at the London Times on this one. The prevailing reaction seems to be along the lines of, 'OK, you've had your joke. Now tell us who *really* won.'"

UPDATE: As an article in The American Thinker points out, the deadline for submissions to the Nobel Committee is February 1st.

In other words, either the Nobel Committee thought that President Obama earned the prize from eleven days in office, or else they thought him so very, very important that it was worth waiving the rules just for him.

Or, to be fair, perhaps a starry-eyed Obamaite submitted the name before the deadline (no doubt also submitting Obama's name for the Pulitzer Prize, the Heismann Trophy, and so on) -- and the committee was sufficiently dazzled with Obama's accomplishments since then, such as they are, to give him the prize. That still doesn't speak well for the committee, but it's better than the other two choices.

UPDATE 2: Ouch. And ouch again.

UPDATE 3: Bret Stephens of the Wall Street Journal captures the mood perfectly:
The peace Nobel is a much misunderstood prize. With the exception of a few really grotesque picks (Le Duc Tho, Rigoberta MenchĂș, Yasser Arafat), a few inspired ones (Carl von Ossietzky, Norman Borlaug, Andrei Sakharov, Mother Teresa, Lech Walesa, Aung San Suu Kyi) and some worthy if obvious ones (Martin Luther King, Anwar Sadat and Menachem Begin, Mikhail Gorbachev, Nelson Mandela and F.W. de Klerk), most of the prize winners draw from the obscure ranks of the sorts of people the late Oriana Fallaci liked to call "the Goodists."

Who are the Goodists? They are the people who believe all conflict stems from avoidable misunderstanding. Who think that the world's evils spring from technologies, systems, complexes (as in "military-industrial") and everything else except from the hearts of men, where love abides. Who mistake wishes for possibilities. Who put a higher premium on their own moral intentions than on the efficacy of their actions. Who champion education as the solution, whatever the problem. Above all, the Goodists are the people who like to be seen to be good.
Indeed. (Along the way, Mr. Stephens lists some Peace Prize laureates who have faded into history, as have their accomplishments, and suggests that Mr. Obama is in very good company with them.)

As for me, I've written before on the people who, as Richard Fernandez says, believe that "the enemies of reason cannot be enemies of reason... even the unreasonable must be, in some fashion, reasonable".


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