The Nobel Peace Prize: A Century of Half-Assing It

For those not in the know, the Nobel Peace Price was announced today. In reality, it’s about the only one of the Nobel Prizes that I can personally understand. All the science and economics ones go to people I’ve never heard of doing things I don’t understand and the literature one goes to someone I’ll most likely never read. But with the Peace Prize, the people who win this are often names I’ve heard of and they do things that I understand. On some level, I wish this wasn’t the case as in looking at the history of the prize, I’ve found the list of recipients to be a general load of crap.
Al Gore’s winning last year was a bit ridiculous as he has been working for the environment and not peace, but this year’s winner, Martti Ahtisaari was someone working in a peace capacity, albeit an extremely unfinished peace capacity. His more famous work has been in the Kosovo status process. To date, Kosovo has only been recognized as a country by 48 other countries, which is pretty bad considering that it declared independence 10 months ago. So, Ahtisaari is getting a prize for unfinished work that is still subject to massive questions of legality. But, okay, fine, let’s just roll with it. When you look at the entire list, his winning doesn’t seem so bad.
For instance, how in the hell can any American president be eligible for the peace prize? Even Jimmy Carter (2002 winner), who I think has done great work after his presidency should automatically be disqualified due to all the non-peace that the US promotes around the world. In fact, let’s just not allow anyone to win who appears in a suit in 90% of the photos taken of them.
But the thing that really, really rankles me is the United Nations winning. How the hell is the UN even qualified? It’s an organization of the countries of the world. It’s basically a non-entity. Giving any part of it a Nobel Prize is like saying, “Huh, well, we just couldn’t find anyone great this year, so we’re gonna give it to the world.” It’s a lot like Time Magazine’s 2006 You – Person of the Year. I mean, the UNHCR has won the award twice. Their first win in 1954 included such events as: the First Indochina War, the Viet Minh taking control of North Vietnam, the Algerian War of Independence, and Gamal Abdel Nasser deposing Mohammed Naguib. The agency’s second win in 1981 included such “wondrous” events as: Israel bombing Beirut, the El Mozote massacre, Wojciech Jaruzelski declaring martial law in Poland, and a Coup d’état in Ghana. Brilliant.
What I’m basically getting at is that I wish I had never looked at this list. There are few justifiable recipients such as: Mother Teresa and the Dalai Lama. Otherwise, it’s a reflection of how lazy Western organizations are when it comes to recognizing those of merit. If they are without a proper PR person or an agent, they’re most likely to get skipped.
The Nobel Peace Prize: A Century of Half-Assing It