Nobel Committee blunders again
By Jonathan Gurwitz
The San Antonio Express-News | October 21,2012
People walk near the European Commission headquarters, right, and European Council building after the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the EU, at the European Commission headquarters in Brussels, Friday. The EU won the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday for its efforts to promote peace and democracy in Europe, despite being in the midst of its biggest crisis since the bloc was created in the 1950s.
If you can, as the Nobel Committee did in 2009, accept the nomination of a world leader for a peace prize only 10 days after he was sworn into office; if you can award that leader the prize less than nine months later, having done nothing to advance the cause of peace; and if — after three years — you can contain your snickers when reflecting on his record of expanding a borderless drone war of extra-judicial executions that has claimed the lives of hundreds and perhaps thousands of innocent civilians.
If you can do all this, then you can award the Nobel Peace Prize to anyone. Or anything.
So, in 2012, the members of the Nobel Committee once again did as they pleased. The same esteemed group that found a way to bestow a peace prize on Yasser Arafat but not on Pope John Paul II, that managed to commend Mikhail Gorbachev but not Ronald Reagan, acclaimed the European Union for “the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe.”
Given Europe’s bloody history, keeping the peace is no small accomplishment. Then again, a NATO-led force with a large American contingent has been keeping the peace in Kosovo since 1999, and a NATO bombing campaign ended ethnic cleansing in the Balkans in 1995. Next to NATO’s humanitarian achievements, the EU’s ability to tamp down hostilities between the likes of Belgium and Luxembourg doesn’t seem so impressive.
There’s an irony here. Norway’s Parliament appoints the five-member Nobel Committee. While these Norwegian politicians obviously think the European Union is wonderful, the people of Norway — a country that is by any geographical or historical definition European — have twice voted down referendums on joining the union.
There’s a tragedy to this year’s Nobel Peace Prize as well. In addition to a gold medal and a monetary award of $1.2 million, the prize confers two more things a club of wealthy European nations doesn’t need: international attention and legitimacy. For political dissidents, human rights advocates and those who labor for human dignity in some of the more remote corners of the Earth, the prize can mean the difference between life and death. Such benefits are trifling for the 500 million residents of the European Union’s 27 member states.
They would be priceless to Malala Yousufzai, the 14-year-old Pakistani girl who took a bullet in the head from the Taliban for daring to suggest that girls should be educated alongside boys. In a television interview in December, she said, “Even if they come to kill me, I will tell them what they are trying to do is wrong, that education is our basic right.” They would be priceless to the imprisoned Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, who last year told a reporter: “My voice is not for me. Every time I make a sentence I think how many people for how many generations had a voice that no one could hear. At most they will be remembered as numbers; in many cases, even numbers don’t exist.” They would be priceless to Middle East dissidents Kareem Amer, Maikel Nabil, Ahmad Batebi, Hadeel Kouki and Ahed al Hendi, who recently wrote in the Wall Street Journal: “Our jailers — in Egypt, Iran and Syria — believed they were stronger than us. We stand as a testament to the indomitable power of freedom to overcome tyranny. Dictatorships are inherently unstable. The world must know this.”
More people might know this — except for the exceptionally low standards set by the Nobel Committee in recent years. Even by those standards, the award of the 2012 peace prize to the European Union is a blunder.