The Nobel Peace Prize keeps missing

Juan Manuel Santos, the president of Columbia, negotiated a peace deal with the left-wing rebels known as FARC, which has been conducting a guerilla war for 52 years.  But on October 2, the people of Columbia voted down the agreement.  Five days later, Santos won the Nobel Peace Prize.

I suspect the votes had already come in before the election.  The committee never dreamed that Columbians would refuse to approve a peace deal.  (Reportedly, voters thought the agreement was too lenient with the guerillas.)  Nevertheless, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to someone for making peace, even though he didn’t actually make peace.

But as Jay Nordlinger shows, this isn’t the first time the Nobel Peace Prize has missed its mark. [Read more…]

The youngest Nobel Peace Prize winner

Seventeen-year-old Malala Yousafzai of Pakistan won the Nobel Peace Prize.  When she was 15, she was shot in the head by the Taliban for saying that girls should be allowed to go to school.   She recovered and responded by launching a world-wide movement to promote educational rights for girls in Islamic countries.  She shares the price with Kailash Satyarthi, an activist from India, who also battles for the rights of children, particularly victims of sex trafficking. [Read more…]

The winner of the Nobel Peace Prize

I would like to congratulate the 500 million citizens of the European Union for winning this year’s Nobel Peace Prize.  The same people who awarded one of the world’s greatest honors to Barack Obama upon entering office–before his Afghanistan escalation and his drone assassinations–this time gave the prize to a whole country.  Or, perhaps better, to a whole alliance of different countries.  Even though the union isn’t doing so well right now, what with the economic crisis and the common currency in jeopardy.

If the Norwegian committee that made this decision wanted to honor the European Union as a major achievement in world peace, why wouldn’t it instead honor the people who first had the idea or who implemented the alliance?  I dislike collective entities winning prizes like this, including when Time Magazine gives its “Person of the Year” award to abstractions and non-persons.  But if Norway (which is not even a member of the European Union) wants to award the $1.5 million prize in this way, that’s fine.   But that means the public could offer new kinds of nominees.   For next year, I nominate the following:

(1)  The world’s beaches (for making possible so many peaceful vacations)

(2)  The pharmaceutical industry (for inventing tranquilizers)

(3)  The United States of America (for its role in World Wars I, II, & the Cold War)

Any other nominees?  How about for the other prizes–economics, medicine, literature, etc.–which have arguably gone to individuals for far too long?


Nobel Peace Prize Awarded to European Union –

Peace through strength

Congratulations to President Barack Obama for receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, Norway. By awarding the prize to a wartime president who is presiding over two wars and has just ordered an escalation in one of them, the Nobel Prize Committee may be setting a precedent that recognizes that peace often comes from force of arms. President Obama delivered a speech to this effect:

Just nine days after ordering 30,000 more U.S. troops into battle in Afghanistan, Obama delivered a Nobel acceptance speech that he saw as a treatise on war's use and prevention. He crafted much of the address himself and the scholarly remarks – at about 4,000 words – were nearly twice as long as his inaugural address.

In them, Obama refused to renounce war for his nation or under his leadership, saying defiantly that "I face the world as it is" and that he is obliged to protect and defend the United States.

"A nonviolent movement could not have halted Hitler's armies. Negotiations cannot convince al-Qaida's leaders to lay down their arms," Obama said. "To say that force is sometimes necessary is not a call to cynicism, it is a recognition of history."

The president laid out the circumstances where war is justified – in self-defense, to come to the aid of an invaded nation and on humanitarian grounds, such as when civilians are slaughtered by their own government or a civil war threatens to engulf an entire region.

"The belief that peace is desirable is rarely enough to achieve it," he said.

He also spoke bluntly of the cost of war, saying of the Afghanistan buildup he just ordered that "some will kill, some will be killed."

"No matter how justified, war promises human tragedy," he said.

But he also stressed the need to fight war according to "rules of conduct" that reject torture and other methods. And he emphasized the need to exhaust alternatives to violence, using diplomatic outreach and sanctions with teeth to confront nations such as Iran or North Korea that defy international demands to halt their nuclear programs or those such as Sudan, Congo or Burma that brutalize their citizens.

"Let us reach for the world that ought to be," Obama said. "We can understand that there will be war, and still strive for peace."

Maybe next year the prize will be given to George W. Bush.

UPDATE: Seriously, it’s a good speech, and, as Kathleen Parker points out, it is distinctly Christian in its worldview and theological tradition. Consider this passage:

“For make no mistake: Evil does exist in the world. A non-violent movement could not have halted Hitler’s armies. Negotiations cannot convince al-Qaeda’s leaders to lay down their arms. To say that force may sometimes be necessary is not a call to cynicism — it is a recognition of history, the imperfections of man and the limits of reason.”

Here we have acknowledgement of the reality of evil, implying the existence of objective moral truths; the imperfections of man; the limits of reason; just war theory. All proclaimed to a hostile crowd that has probably forgotten these elements of their Christian heritage.