Man Without Qualities

Saturday, October 12, 2002

Gee, I Used To Think That The Nobel Prize Was For Something You Did

But I was wrong. The Nobel Prize is a way of the Nobel committee expressing its opinion on current events:

The chairman of the Nobel committee ... said the award [to Jimmy Carter of the Peace Prize] was a criticism of President George Bush's policy on Iraq ... [T]he award to Mr Carter "should be interpreted as a criticism of the line that the current administration has taken". ... "It's a kick in the leg to all that follow the same line as the United States."

Chairman Gunnar Berge's comments let Jimmy Carter know that his award is not about anything exceptional Mr. Carter has done. The bit in the committee announcement about the Camp David accord is clearly specious, since Mr. Carter did not receive the Prize when the Camp David Accord was effected - and two Peace Prizes were awarded based on the accord at that time. It is good of Mr. Berge to leave the world in no doubt whatsoever of how specious the committee's justification for this Prize really is. For the same reasons Mr. Berge's comments expose as disingenuous the Nobel committee's own statement that it had "honoured" Mr Carter for "decades of untiring effort to find peaceful solutions to international conflicts, to advance democracy and human rights, and to promote economic and social development."

His comments at the same time let the world know that the Prize itself is not awarded to exceptional people who have done exceptional things - but just to annoy whatever world leader is bugging the committee today. Surely this entire clown show in Oslo completes the trivialization of the Peace Prize.

Just to make sure that nobody thought Mr. Carter was getting the Prize for something he actualy did like the Camp David accord, the official committee's announcement (not just the chairman, whose comments are somewhat controversial) said: "In a situation currently marked by threats of the use of power, Carter has stood by the principles that conflicts must as far as possible be resolved through mediation and international co-operation."

In other words, we're only giving you this Prize to annoy and we hope impair your President in time of Congressionally-approved war.

Perhaps somebody can explain how Jimmy Carter can not turn down this Prize? For a long time after he was instructed by the voters to leave the White House, Mr. Carter was widely termed a man who was a bad President but made a good ex-President. From his apparent acceptance of the Prize and his comments, he seems to be trying to change that second part.

And, gee, why didn't the committee just go all the way and award the Prize to Saddam Hussein for his offer to let the United Nations weapons inspectors back into Iraq? Isn't that a bold move towards peace in the view of the United Nations and this Nobel Prize committee?

And wouldn't that have been more clearly a criticism of President George Bush's policy on Iraq - their stated goal. Perhaps there was some lingering concern over awarding the prize to a deranged, murderous dictator so the committee chose a fool for various deranged, murderous dictators around the world. Fools awarding a fool. But, then, hadn't Arafat's Prize cleared the way long ago for awarding the Peace Prize to deranged, murderous dictators? So why not Saddam now? Somebody didn't think this thing through.

UPDATE: The mystery of why the Nobel Peace Prize Committee did not award the Prize to Saddam Hussein this year continues to deepen as comparisions with Mr. Arafat's award become more apparent. Mr. Arafat was awarded the Prize for making modest concessions to a legitimate democracy (Israel, just as Mr. Hussein's ersatz "concessions" are now proffered to the United States) in a process that bought a brief period of relatively low level military engagement and allowed him to retain his hold on power. Even those concessions were eventually exposed as fraudulent, and the whole situation has now followed its inevitable arc into a full blown catastrophe even worse than that prevailing before the "Accord."

If this was good enough for the Prize Committee in Mr. Arafat's case, what was the big problem now? If Mr. Bush had taken the bait, military engagement would have been delayed - even if things inevitably blew up a little later. Surely the fact that Mr. Bush didn't accept Mr. Hussein's offer to readmit inspectors can't be held against Mr. Hussein!

Otherwise, what's the big difference that deprived Mr. Hussein of his Prize? Maybe when Gunnar Berge gets his fill of imagining that he is kicking Mr. Bush in the leg (on the other hand, I suppose that caterpillars do kick the leaves they are nibbling on from time to time), the Chairman can explain his thinking.

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