The most positive spin to put on this unexpected award is that the Committee is attempting to encourage our president in whatever peace efforts he is currently pursuing, or will pursue. Of course, awards to the likes of Jimmy Carter and Al Gore, which seemed to be based largely on how they might embarrass George W. Bush, have definitely lowered the credibility of this once prestigious award. As the Manchester Union-Leader noted, “With one or two exceptions, the bar has been set so low for this award that Pee Wee Herman could jump over it on his way to Oslo.”
Even a great admirer of Barack Obama must admit that prizes are normally awarded for accomplishment, rather than aspiration.
Alfred Nobel’s will provided for this award as follows:
“…and one part to the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.”
Given that framework, one is hard-pressed to explain such laureates as…
Wangari Muta Maathai (2004), an environmental activist famous for planting trees, having an ugly and highly publicized divorce, standing up to her native Kenya’s government, and for claiming that HIV/AIDS was deliberately created by Western scientists to decimate the African population (she denies saying this).
Rigoberta Menchú (1992), author of a discredited autobiography (she claimed her brother was killed by the military, but he was found alive and well by the New York Times; she claimed that the military seized her land, but the real problem was an inheritance feud with her relatives). Essentially, she was a convenient symbol of Euro oppression of native peoples, thus the award being given on the 500th anniversary of Columbus’ landing. Apparently, Ms. Menchú is not terribly popular in her native Guatemala, but does appeal to Eurotrash leftists.
Yasser Arafat (1994), noted terrorist and kleptocrat supreme.
Le Duc Tho (1973), North Vietnamese diplomat who refused the prize, saying that there was not peace in his country. He was right, of course, but who knew that he would grotesquely violate the so-called Paris peace accords by invading the South in 1975, or lead the foray into Cambodia in 1978? Clearly beloved by Eurotrash leftists, but I think even they regretted this one.
As it is, the ultra-political nature of this award probably started with the 1906 prize being given to Theodore Roosevelt, the highly overrated American president, loved and promoted mostly by those who know little about him. The award was given for his work in brokering a peace in the Russo-Japanese War, but Rough Rider TR could hardly be called a dove, by any stretch of the imagination. Those who do promote his cult, and do know his imperial presidency and socialistic tendencies, betray their prejudices. But like it or not, TR founded the modern American presidency, a model to be violated only by Calvin Coolidge.
Although the awards have definitely lost much of their luster, the money is still pretty good, and that will always command some respect. All things considered, though, Alfred Nobel just should have left all of his money to his heirs. Better that, than having his legacy perverted.