As October 5 approaches, the time is nigh for the announcement of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize. The award’s reputation has taken a few knocks over the years, and, despite the long list of 331 (undisclosed) nominees, this year’s favorites to win are a motley crew indeed. From the hopelessly compromised ACLU, to the abuse enabling Pope Francis and even North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, 2018 is looking like a bleak year for world peace. But are any of those possibilities as controversial as the one, the only, The Donald?
Does President Trump deserve the award, and more importantly, why does anyone even care? Many were quite ready to dismiss the Nobel Prize when President Obama won so undeservingly; why are so many willing to take this farce of an award seriously now that Trump may or may not win?
Expectations not Achievements
Barack Obama was possibly the most ridiculed Peace Prize winner, largely due to the fact that nobody thought he had done anything to actually deserve it – including the man himself, who expressed his surprise at receiving the award.
While the election of the first black U.S. president was a momentous event, the award was a tad hasty, particularly since Obama went on to expand U.S. military interventionism and somehow worsen U.S. race relations during his two terms.
Trump is the latest U.S. president to become a favorite for the prize, after managing to get Kim Jong Un to come to the table with South Korea and start talking about peace, with possible denuclearization to follow.
South Korean leader Moon Jae-in is also a favorite to win, and he himself recommended Trump for the prize in April, saying Korea would be satisfied with simply enjoying peace. Trump supporters liked the idea and the president has since been endorsed by 18 Republican lawmakers, who wrote to the Nobel committee encouraging his nomination “in recognition of his work to end the Korean War, denuclearize the Korean peninsula and bring peace to the region.”
Despite an initial setup, it seems that little has been achieved since the first dramatic steps and it would be premature to declare peace on the Korean peninsula.
The Obama incident highlights a problem the Nobel committee has faced several times: awarding the prize based on expectations of achievement, rather than on actual success. Another example of this folly was the 1994 prize awarded to Yasser Arafat, Yitzhak Rabin, and Shimon Peres for contributions to healing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – because that worked out well.
Many decried Obama’s award as virtue signaling in pursuit of a political agenda, but in lieu of definite action cementing Korean peace, it would be equally political to give the prize to Trump – or Kim and Moon for that matter, unless the Nobel committee wants another Arafat/Rabin/Peres embarrassment on its hands.
Does Trump Deserve It?
Despite the general impression during the 2016 presidential campaign that Trump would be a non-interventionist leader, many have been surprised at just how international the focus of his presidency has been. Curiously, the president has chosen to surround himself with notorious neocons and war hawks like current National Security Advisor John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and the results have been less than peaceful:
- Despite the evidence-free Russiagate narrative, Trump’s actions have shown again and again that he is engaged in a deepening rift with Russia that may well lead to conflict, especially if he gets his NATO wish and Europe starts investing in defense on Russia’s doorstep.
- Trump’s first international trip as president centered on a visit to Saudi Arabia, currently engaged in a series of proxy wars with Iran, including the ongoing war and arguable genocide in Yemen. The House of Saud put on the Ritz to greet its newest ally, and the U.S. has since provided support to the Saudis in that conflict.
- While backing the Saudis against rebels in Yemen, the U.S. has famously gone the other way in Syria, backing rebels against the Assad regime. Who could forget the two times Trump decided to bomb Syria in retaliation to chemical weapons attacks – without any evidence that Assad was to blame?
- The Trump military has dropped a lot of bombs. According to Military Times, “U.S. forces in Afghanistan have dropped more munitions in the first three months of  than during the same time period in 2011 — a time widely considered the height of the war there.”
- While Trump was quick to take credit for the defeat of ISIS, so were numerous others, including Syria, Russia, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Kurds etc…Can we call this one a joint effort?
Whether one thinks Trump’s approach to war and peace is right or wrong – that is a personal choice – why should the ludicrous Peace Prize have any impact on anybody’s opinion?
Who Takes This Seriously Anymore?
A final point to make before President Trump or anybody else is awarded this ridiculous prize: Who cares? By 2018, the Nobel committee has become so tarnished by its own foolish decisions that it no longer has any credibility. But then, the Nobel Peace Prize was started by the inventor of dynamite, itself a weapon in various wars – perhaps the whole project was doomed from the start.
In 2007, Al Gore won for making a movie that had nothing to do with war, oppression, or peace. The prize went to the European Union in 2012; while the union has achieved its post-WWII aim of preventing wars among its members, it has also proved undemocratic and authoritarian in so many ways. But this is not a recent trend: Henry Kissinger, arch warmonger and manipulator of the 20th century, was awarded the prize in 1973; still revered by the U.S. establishment, Kissinger was approached by both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump for advice on their presidential campaigns, showing once again that no matter who sits in the Oval Office, the U.S. war machine rolls on.
Aung Suu Kyi, awarded the prize in 1991 “for her non-violent struggle for democracy and human rights” in Myanmar, has stirred recent controversy for failing to protect civilians during the Rohingya genocide carried out by that country’s military. Lars Heikensten, head of the Nobel Foundation, has stated that the committee will not be revoking Suu Kyi’s award, but the matter brings up a dilemma that the Peace prize has never managed to reconcile: Can one virtuous deed outshine a life of sin? And can one evil act debase a lifetime of good?
Is peace the work of an entire lifetime? Sadly, most Nobel Prize recipients fail to live up to this saintly standard. Or is peace found in the essence of one act? If so, President Trump may become a laureate yet.