Nobel's criteria for peace still relevant


T

he Peace Prize, according to Nobel's will, is for "the most or the best work for fraternity between the nations and the abolition or reduction of standing armies and the formation and spreading of peace congresses". Only 70 of the 119 individuals and organisations that have won the prize conform to Nobel's will. The prize has been awarded for human rights activism, development and ecology, all important fields deserving their own prizes. But Nobel's foresighted will is crystal clear.

Giving the Nobel Peace Prize to a president for rhetoric, with no real achievement, is like giving a drivers license based on a pledge to drive safely, without any real demonstration.

True, people are touched by rhetoric. There was a change in the international climate in the beginning of Obama's presidency, waiting for deeds to match the words. But the magic started waning not only because there were so few concrete deeds, but also because Obama, when encountering resistance, seemed to leave clear stands for elusive appearance of a consensus, of being bipartisan, betraying millions who voted for him. A person who is led rather than a leader.

People welcomed Obama's promise to close Guantanamo. Why not now? He promised to bring the troops home from Iraq. Then why does he increase the army? He admitted that the US overthrew a democratically elected prime minister in Iran in 1953. Did we hear an apology? He made that great speech to the Islamic world in Cairo. The Palestinians are mainly Muslim. Any follow-up? He stopped using the term "The War on Terror". How about eliminating the war, trying to understand, enter a dialogue? He promised to end torture? Is the UN monitoring?

The Nobel committee mentioned speeches about multilateral diplomacy and a nuclear-free world. Then why not support the Goldstone Report, instead of pressuring the Palestinian Authority to reject it. To move towards nuclear disarmament, why not issue an executive order to destroy 10 per cent of the US nuclear arsenal, inviting the Russians to reciprocate, and to invite the (IAEA inspection of US production facilities suspected of engineering a new generation of nuclear arms?

Obama did cancel the Polish-Czech rocket shield against a Russian attack. But Cancelling a provocative, stupid Bush policy is like harvesting laurels for stopping beating one's wife.
Who should have gotten the prize and did not? The first name that comes to mind is, of course, Mahatma Gandhi, who did not only reduce violence, but negate it, and improved understanding across conflict borders. And yet he died prizeless. The then Nobel Peace Prize Committee consultant, Jacob Worm-Muller, told this author in 1953 that Gandhi was not a real pacifist, because he fought the British Empire, a "gift to civilisation".

The following is a short list of some other non-laureates:

(1) Jose Figueres, president of Costa Rica, for abolishing the army; (2) Jean Monnet-Maurice Schuman, for creating peace by making former Nazi Germany a "member of the family", in the European Community; (3) Soekarno-Nasser-Tito, for the 1955 Bandoeng Conference, and Beograd 1961, for the nonaligned movement, the refusal to be members of two blocs on a potentially disastrous collision course; (4) Jawaharlal Nehru-Zhou Enlai for panchshila, five pillars of peaceful co- existence; (5) Olof Palme, prime minister of Sweden, for the five countries initiative for denuclearisation; (7) Pope John Paul II for work on reconciliation; (9) Hans Kung for his work for a global ethic bridging religions; (10) Lula da Silva, president of Brasil, for bringing the Latin American countries on an equitable, and hence peaceful basis.

What do all of these cases have in common? Incompatibility with Norway's foreign policy. Aligned with the US, that most violent country in modern history, four US presidents and five US secretaries of state were awarded the prize. Norway is a very loyal ally. And it is not Norwegian foreign policy to abolish the army; the European Community-Union in the beginning was also an effort to build a defenses community without the US; Soekarno-Nasser-Tito were seen as anti-West and so were Nehru-Zhou Enlai; Kekkonen, Palme were nonaligned and did what NATO-Norway could not have done; so is Lula; what happened in Leipzig came from the wrong Germany in the wrong bloc; Pope John-Paul II and Hans Kung built bridges, but were both Catholic; and Zapatero was the negation of Anglo-America.

Nobel's criteria for peace are still relevant. Candidates are numerous. Human rights, environment and development should also be praised, but not at the expense of peace prizes in Nobel's spirit.

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