Editorial Comment

Nobel Peace Prize


There have been some pretty courageous, admiration-worthy recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize. Who can forget worthy Mother Theresa, the “Angel from Calcutta” receiving the award in 1975, or Nelson Mandela and F. W. De Klerk who negotiated the end of minority white rule in South Africa and were awarded the prize in 1983. 
Organizations that have made a difference and been recognized by the Nobel committee include the International Campaign to Ban Landmines awarded in 1997, Amnesty International which was recognized in 1977, and in 1988, the prize went to the members of the United Nations Peacekeeping Forces for their work in Lebanon, of which, my father had a share in. It is a point of pride for our entire family that that Dad would be associated with this prestigious honour, but now I fear, its luster is being dulled.
It seems the prize is struggling with finding worthwhile recipients, if their 2012 choice of The European Union is any indication.  Is this really the best example of a group striving for peace in that year? Sure the members of this group have been at each other’s throats since The Dawn of Time and that in the last 60-odd years they have managed not to declare war on one another. There is no doubt that is a good thing. 
It is seriously misguided, however, to suggest that the EU is a peace initiative. It is nothing of the sort. It was only a financial arrangement that recognized working together was more efficient than working against one another as had been the case in the past. One could postulate, however, that if co-existing in a peaceful manner is worthy of a Nobel, maybe it should have gone to Canada and the United States. We haven’t had a decent dustup for 200 years. When we have a war, it’s not with bullets, tanks and boots on the ground, it’s with softwood lumber disputes and surprise admission fees at the border. If that’s modern warfare, it’s frankly, pretty lame.
The members of the Peace Prize selection committee have been under fire for their choices for years. Some say it began with US president Barak Obama receiving it in 2009, only a few short months after he took office. Sure, he made a world tour telling everyone who would listen, and that it’s a new administration with a new way of doing things. Throughout his first term, however, whatever your view of the American leader, you would have trouble describing him as a “peacenik” His unrelenting pursuit of al Qaeda forces with seemingly constant drone attacks in foreign lands make a mockery of him being on the Peace Prize recipient list, no matter what justification. Some may suggest killing those that endanger peace is an act of peace, but if that were the case, perhaps the award should go to munitions dealers and “private security firms” such as Blackwater. In fact, the most appropriate recipient given that mindset, would be the military-industrial complex President Dwight Eisenhower warned everyone about in his farewell address. The irony of the situation is exquisite.
Others point to the awarding of the prize to Al Gore for his efforts on creating awareness about climate change while making boatloads of cash with his film and public speaking tour concerning “An Inconvenient Truth”.  Yet more suggest Jimmy Carter was also a political choice for his efforts in trying to bring about a lasting peace in the Mid-East. We all can see how successful that was. Barry McGuire’s 1965 hit Eve of Destruction seems, perhaps, even more relevant now than it was then.
Is it just me or is there a common thread running through the selections? Are there no deserving, peace-loving Conservative/Republicans out there? Exactly how did the European Union fit the criteria specified by its creator, Swedish explosives magnate and arms dealer, Alfred Nobel? It was his intent for the prize to be awarded to the person that “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."  Obviously, many in the media and in the audience were unconvinced of the worthiness of the recipient as the announcement was greeted with boos and jeers. 
Many commentators have made the point that the Peace Prize, instead of being a celebration of an individual’s effort to further world peace, has become a tool for making political statements. This is a travesty and does a huge dis-service to those men of peace who were most deserving such as Martin Luther King, Mohamed Anwar al-Sadat, and Menachem Begin.
But the EU? They have NATO member nations. They were involved in the bombing of Libya, as well as wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and many more. Maybe they weren’t at war with each other, but they’ve been at war.
So, who should have won instead? True, that is a tough question and I certainly don’t get all the material the adjudicators have access to, however I can still think of a few.
Take, for example, Queen Elizabeth and Deputy First Minister of Ireland, Martin McGuiness, who was once the monarch’s hated foe when he commanded the Irish Republican Army. To have made peace which culminated in their historic, symbolic handshake last June, exemplifies quite well Nobel’s intent.
Not a Monarchist? How about 14 year-old Pakistani Malala Yousafzai, who is lying in a coma as a result of being shot in the head by the Taliban for speaking out against their stance on women receiving an education. It has created an anti-Taliban backlash in the nation that has laid bare the resentment of the “average” Pakistani citizen toward the violent, fundamental extremists that kill far more of their own than any real enemies of the state.  The courage of this young girl to stand up to violent oppression may mark the turning point in a war that cannot be won with bullets.
Shame on you, Nobel committee. You’re debasing your own currency.

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