This year’s Nobel peace prize is absurd


I suppose it could have been worse. The Norwegian Nobel Committee might have awarded this year’s peace prize to U.S. President Barack Obama again. But aside from that, it’s hard to imagine a more ridiculous recipient than the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

This isn’t actually meant to disparage the OPCW, which oversees the destruction of chemical weapons by states that have pledged to do so. Thanks to OPCW’s monitoring, for example, we can now rest easy knowing that Albania no longer threatens the world with mustard gas.

But let’s be frank. The OPCW received the award because it has been charged with supervising the elimination of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad’s chemical arsenal. It has that mandate because of a deal the United States blundered into with Russia that allows Assad’s regime to continue it’s brutal suppression of an uprising, so long as it no longer does so with chemical weapons.

Nobel Laureate Barack Obama claims Assad’s decision to give up his chemical weapons is a result of the “credible threat” of American military action to punish him for Syria’s sarin gas massacre on August 21 that killed more than 1,400 people. Even if we accept the notion that Assad was scared straight by a looming attack that Washington took great pains to assure the world wouldn’t amount to much, so what?

The problem with red lines, as François Heisbourg, a special advisor at the Foundation pour la Recherche Stratégique in Paris, put it in a recent interview, is that they have two sides. If action on one side of the red line, such as gassing children, will draw a response, it is implicit that action short of that red line — say, cutting their throats — will not. Obama’s red line simultaneously proscribed some behaviours while allowing others. The deal struck by America and Russia, and endorsed by Syria, formalizes that red line. Now a Nobel Prize for the OPCW gives it the aura of not just legitimacy but, obscenely, of peace making.

Let’s at least be clear about what this deal has accomplished. A type of weapon responsible for a small fraction of the more than 100,000 victims of the Syrian civil war may be removed from the battlefield. Nothing has been done to mitigate the ongoing slaughter. Clerics in Damascus recently issued in edict giving permission for starving residents of a rebel-held suburb to eat dogs and cats — normally forbidden sources of meat. The clerics said the hungry might soon be forced to eat the dead.

Christopher Stokes, general director of Médecins Sans Frontières, has said aid convoys wishing to travel to areas where they are needed are blocked, while chemical weapons inspectors get waved through. He calls the situation “absurd.” The Nobel peace prize makes it all the more so.


This year’s Nobel peace prize is absurd

  1. Everyone was primed for Malala to be awarded the Peace prize….it would have been wonderful symbolism. Young, female, fighting to get an education even though she got shot…’s was something the planet needed to see since education for everyone is the answer.

    Instead we got this clunker of a ‘winner’. And now the Taliban are making fun of Malala, saying the world has judged her.

    The Nobel committee has been going downhill for years….and this is their worst one yet.

    • For once we can agree on something.

    • Emily – several times a year now I have noticed that on occasion we are in agreement!!!! this is one of those times!!!!

  2. it’s hard to imagine a more ridiculous recipient than the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons

    Wasn’t Vladimir Putin nominated?

    • He was nominated by the Organization for the Promotion of Chemical Weapons for a lifetime achievement award. Different organization.

      • :-) Good one.

        As it happens, I heard correctly. Putin was indeed nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by a disgraced member of the House of Lords in the U.K.

        • Ah well, we’ve given it to Yassir Arafat, Henry Kissenger and numerous other luminaries of peace and non-violence. Why not throw one to Putin?

  3. The Nobel peace prize became a joke when Al Gore won for a highly inaccurate power point presentation, and it solidified it’s lack of seriousness when it was given to Obama for doing precisely nothing but writing a book about himself.

    • Seems to me, Media hyped, do nothings are in vogue for the Nobel. Next year look for Justin to take home the hardware!

  4. The problem lies within the very nature of the organization itself! Once a wonderful and truly remarkable idea it has been reduced to not only a failure and a parody of itself – BUT – the very thing it was setup to struggle against !!!!!! – In point of fact I would go so far as to propose that we need another organization to to do battle with it – the UN has slowly but surely become more of one of the problmes rather than offer any solutions and I see little reason for it’s continuing existence – the sooner we get rid of it – the better off we willl al be and repalce it with soemthing that could actuallly become a productive and contibuting agent for dealing with international problems – not to mention saving billions and billions of dollars not only in direct cost but the cost of a lot of it’s actions!!!!!

  5. Not like the good old days when Nobel Peace prizes were reserved for rewarding war criminals and terrorists (Henry Kissinger and Le Duc Tho in 1972 or Anwar Sadat and Menachem Begin in 1978).

    • Well said.

  6. The Peace Prize is for those who avert war. Neither Malala nor the CW inspectors qualify. If it was to acknowledge those who prevented intervention in Syria — with the consequence of a regional war involving Iran, Israel, Turkey, and Lebanon too — then it should have gone to Putin and Obama.

  7. Agreed.

  8. Not only this year’s.

    Kissinger and Arafat are on the list as well. At the time he received his prize, Obama’s contribution to world peace was insignificant. Arguably, even less after, but that is subject for another debate.