Tag Archives: Nobel Peace Prize

The Nobel Peace Prize

Jose Manuel Barroso and Herman Van Rompuy respond to the announcement of the award.

Jose Manuel Barroso and Herman Van Rompuy respond to the announcement of the award.

Most observers were surprised when the Nobel Committee awarded the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize to the European Union on Friday. Newspapers from across the continent described the decision as “surprising,” “strange,” “timely,” and even “shocking.” Few anticipated the award.

In an editorial in Belgium’s La Libre Belgique, Oliver le Bussy argued that “the Nobel committee wanted to remind people that the European project… has had a civilising effect, making a large contribution to turning ancient enemies into partners and spreading democracy and human rights.” Spain’s El Pais echoed this sentiment, arguing that the prize provided “moral support and encouragement to overcome individual nations’ reservations, which impede decisive progress” towards greater integration, including “naturally, political union.”

Some, however, were more skeptical. The British papers provided a wide range of criticism. But perhaps the most powerful critique was Thomas Kirchner’s piece in the Sueddeutsche Zeitung, in which he describes the EU as a “ quarreling bunch of more or less bankrupt states” and says the Nobel committee “must be careful if it wants its decisions to be taken seriously for much longer.”

And the British newspaper The Guardian offered perhaps the most humorous take.

Was the Nobel Committee off course in its decision? The answer depends on your time frame of analysis. Certainly the European Union has been plagued by fiscal crises over the past several years. Its inability to develop a coherent response to the Greek crisis (let alone to respond in a meaningful way to Portugal and Spain) raise real concerns about the future of the organization.

But the history of the European Union deserve recognition. As the European Union positions itself increasingly as a single market with a single currency, it’s easy to forget the roots of the organization in the aftermath of World War II. At that time, the primary focus of European integration was simple: prevent war between Germany and France. Guided by the principles of institutional liberalism, the founders of the European Union sought to expand political, social, and above all economic cooperation between Germany and France in an effort to prevent future wars.

And from this perspective, the Nobel Peace Prize makes much more sense. The thought of war between Germany and France—really between any two members of the European Union—appears laughable today. So while the European Union struggles with fiscal recovery and economic reconstruction, it is important to remember roots as an institution of international political stability.

Still, there were many others who might have won the award. CNN’s Frida Ghitis described the decision as a “missed opportunity” and contended the award could have been more productive in achieving its goal of promoting international peace had it been awarded to someone else. She singles out Malalal Yousafzani, the 14 year old Pakistani girl shot by Talibani militants for advocating education for girls, as particularly worthy. Ahead of the decision, the bookmaking site NicerOdds was giving best odds to Gene Sharp, a political theorist of nonviolence, and Sima Samar, chair of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission and the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Sudan.

What do you think? Did the Nobel Committee did it make the right decision in recognizing the organization’s history? Or did it miss the mark in awarding the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize to the European Union? And who do you think should have won the award? Let us know what you think by leaving a comment or answering the poll question below.

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Obama’s Peace Prize Acceptance Speech

President Barack Obama on Thursday delivered his speech accepting the Nobel Peace Prize. Already there has been much analysis, and Stephen Walt has called for us to ignore the speech, describing it as “thoughtful, self-effacing, nuanced, balanced, eloquent, lucid, well-delivered, etc. etc. (yawn)” but “suggest[s] we focus our attention henceforth on what he actually does.”

But Daniel Drezner beat me to the punch, noting that Obama’s speech illustrates many concepts and theories in international relations, including realism, Neoliberal institutionalism, social construcivism, democratic peace theory, feminist IR theory, and human security, among others. He actually suggests that it would make a great final exam question for professors wrapping up the semester.

Drezner is certainly correct, but what struck me most about Obama’s speech was the irony. Just days after he announced a massive increase in the U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan, he is in Stockholm accepting the Peace Prize. In his speech to the committee, Obama said,

But as a head of state sworn to protect and defend my nation, I cannot be guided by their examples alone. I face the world as it is, and cannot stand idle in the face of threats to the American people. For make no mistake: Evil does exist in the world. A nonviolent movement could not have halted Hitler’s armies. Negotiations cannot convince al Qaeda’s leaders to lay down their arms. To say that force is sometimes necessary is not a call to cynicism — it is a recognition of history; the imperfections of man and the limits of reason.

He may well be right, but it’s certainly an interesting way to accept a speech promoting peace. And while it may be presented in a more elegant light, the underlying policy reflects the same priorities and goals as the previous administration espoused.

Five Stories You Might Have Missed

The Nobel Prize Committee sparked considerable debate on Friday when they named President Barack Obama the recipient of the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize. According to the committee, Obama received the award for “his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and co-operation between peoples,” citing in particular his effort to reach out to the Muslim world and his push for nuclear disarmament. FT blogger Gideon Rachman commented, “while it is OK to give school children prizes for “effort” – my kids get them all the time – I think international statesmen should probably be held to a higher standard.” Qari Mohammad Yousof Ahmadi, a senior spokesman for Afghanistan’s Taliban movement said of the award, “Obama should be awarded the war prize, rather than the peace prize.” Daniel Drezner said the decision “cheapens an already devalued prize.” At Foreign Policy, David Rothkopf decried the decision as “the most ludicrous choice in the history of an award that has a pretty dubious history… It’s as if a freshman tailback were handed the Heisman Trophy as he ran onto the playing field along with a hearty pat on the back and the explanation that he’d been selected to encourage him to have a great year to come.”

But most of the criticism of the award seems to be reserved for the Nobel Peace Prize Committee rather than for President Obama. Indeed, while calling the decision a “ludicrous choice,” Rothkoph also praised Obama’s speech regarding the award. He wrote,

Short of deferring his acceptance of the Nobel Prize, President Obama could not have struck a better tone in his remarks this morning accepting the award. From saying he did not deserve it to framing the award as a “call to action” to citing others who merited such an award, he was pitch-perfect. And in reciting some of his key goals — from the elimination of nuclear weapons to combating climate change to bringing a lasting peace between Israel and Palestine — he raised hope that the award might be even further motivation to advance to what are, as noted above, worthy objectives.

In news from outside the Nobel Prize awards:

1. The security situation in Pakistan appears to be in serious decline. Over the weekend, a group of militants stormed the headquarters of the Pakistani military in Rawalpindi, taking hostages and creating a standoff situation. The Pakistani military was able to retake the compound early Sunday, rescuing 42 hostages and killing most of the militants. On Friday, a car bomb exploded near a shopping mall in Peshawar, a city in the northern part of the country. The attack, described by Pakistani security officials as “one of the most daring attacks ever carried out by the Taliban,” killed 49 people and injuring nearly 100. The attack came just one day after a similar bombing outside the Indian embassy in Afghanistan, and may constitute part of a renewed offensive by Taliban elements operating along the Afghan-Pakistan border. Last week, the Pakistani government launched a renewed offensive against the Taliban in the Waziristan region of the country. But so far, the campaign has had few successes, and the increase in recent attacks, particularly the brazen attack against Pakistani military headquarters, cast doubt on the ability of the Pakistani military to effectively address the Taliban threat.

2. Despite reservations that the treaty would erode national sovereignty and transfer too much power to Germany, Lech Kaczynski, the President of Poland, signed the Lisbon Treaty on Saturday. Poland’s accession make the Czech Republic the lone European Union member that has not approved the Lisbon Treaty. Despite Czech resistance, the treaty appears to be headed for adoption and thus a radical restructuring of the European Union. The treaty would make EU decision making more efficient, streamlining the current voting system in the European Council and strengthening the role of the European Parliament.

3. A number of trade disputes intensified last week. On Thursday, the United States announced an investigation into Chinese steel pipes, the culmination of which could result in a 98.7 percent duty on steel pine imports from China. The announcement follows the imposition of a 35 percent duty on Chinese tire imports last month and a longstanding dispute over Chinese currency values.  Meanwhile, the United States filed a complaint against the European Union with the World Trade Organization on Thursday. The complaint alleges that EU restrictions on the importation of chicken meat washed with chlorine and other chemicals constitutes an unfair trade barrier. Canada last week filed a complaint with the WTO alleging US country-of-origin labeling requirements in cattle and hog exports also constitute an unfair trade barrier.

4. Intervention by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was able to help overcome last minute setbacks to the Armenian-Turkish peace treaty on Saturday. The agreement, which must still be approved by both country’s parliaments, sets out a timeline to restore diplomatic relations and open the border between Amenia and Turkey. While the agreement was difficult to reach, both sides stand to gain. For Turkey, resolving the longstanding dispute could smooth its path to membership in the European Union and increase its influence in the Caucasus. Armenia could see its economy improve access to European Union market. Despite the potential benefits, the agreement could still be derailed due to longstanding tensions between the two countries, which date back to 1915 murder of up to 1.5 million Armenians by the Ottoman Empire, often referred to as the world’s first genocide.

5. On Tuesday, Idelphonse Nizeyimana, a key player in Rwanda’s 1994 genocide, was arrested in Uganda. Nizeyimana was responsible for the organization of the genocide in Butare, a southern province in Rwanda. The arrest was the second high profile detention in a month, following the arrest of Gregoire Ndahimana in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. But the arrests highlight tensions between Rwanda and the United Nations over the handling of charges related to the genocide, in which more than 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and politically moderate Hutus will killed. Both Nizeyimana and Ndahimana have been transferred to Tanzania to stand trial at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, despite efforts by the Rwandan government to have them tried by the Rwandan government in Kigali.