The Corner

The Newest Nobel Peace Laureate

Concerning the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to the European Union, a few observations:

1) The committee begins its statement this way: “In the inter-war years, the Norwegian Nobel Committee made several awards to persons who were seeking reconciliation between Germany and France.” That is certainly true. The committee also gave such awards before the First War.

2) That the EU has helped keep the peace on a continent infamous for war is not a stupid contention. It is debatable, of course, but not stupid. Many, many wise people have believed it — Walter Laqueur, for one. I was reading him on the subject just recently.

3) The committee likes to intervene in public affairs — for the better, they think. They have honored the EU now because the EU is under threat. It is in danger of breaking up. The committee is throwing the EU a lifeline. They’re trying to complicate the efforts of those who oppose the union.

If you’re one of those people — and if you are, who can blame you! — you’re now opposing a Nobel peace laureate. The recipient of humanity’s highest honor (according to some — according to many, actually). You see how it works . . .

4) The committee doesn’t mind lost causes. For example, they honored the League of Nations right to the bitter end — knowing it was a lost cause. The last prize they gave before the war was to the Nansen refugee office, a branch of the League.

5) There is a parochial element to the 2012 prize, if I may put it that way: Norway is not a member of the EU (and the peace prize is a Norwegian prize, remember). Norway is one of the relatively few European countries not to belong to the EU. The public there has never wanted it. (There have been referenda.) But a lot of elites want it — quite possibly including the five members of the Nobel committee.

6) The committee has always liked to honor international organizations, in particular the U.N., of course (and before it, the League, and before that, the Inter-Parliamentary Union). The 2012 prize conforms to a pattern.

7) Throughout its history, the Norwegian committee has happily ignored Alfred Nobel’s will — the terms he set for his peace prize. The leading such term is “fraternity between nations.” Now and then, the committee actually follows the will. And when they do, they make sure to announce it!

I was sort of tickled when I read this, in today’s statement: “The work of the EU represents ‘fraternity between nations’, and amounts to a form of the ‘peace congresses’ to which Alfred Nobel refers as criteria for the Peace Prize in his 1895 will.”

Of course, some Greeks and others may not think that the EU and “fraternity” go together just now . . .

8) Some interviewers have asked me whom I would like to see get the prize. I usually say, “A Cuban democracy figure or group — maybe Oscar Biscet, or the Ladies in White.” Cold day in hell, I guess (though you never know for sure — see the 2010 prize, to a Chinese prisoner of conscience).

9) There is much more to say about the 2012 award. I have made just a few points. Readers interested in the history of the Nobel Peace Prize — a fascinating subject, I found — are invited to consult my book, Peace, They Say. (Pardon the plug.) (As usual.)

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