2009’s Peace Nobel Prize… for the Commander-in-Chief of the US Armed Forces?

The Nobel Prize has always been a symbol of extraordinary achievements in such fields as science, economics or peace. Surprisingly, at least to the common mortals, this year’s peace award was given to the President of the US, even if this institution is the head of the US armed forces leading at least two wars.

Surprisingly too, it is by no means the first time; other US Presidents have received the prize: Jimmy Carter (2002), Theodore Roosevelt (1906). Both personalities are the center questionable state actions such as the Operation Cyclone or the Big Stick policy.

And surprises dont’t end here: when you scroll through the list, at least controversial personalities as Yasser Arafat and Shimon Peres (1994), Menahem Begin and Al-Sadat (1978), Herni Kissinger (1973) will make the even slightly sensible to shriver on their seats.

Surprises apart, there seems to be a certain volontary heterogeneity in the awarded personalities. You will find institutions like Médecins sans Frontières or the Red Cross, people who lead causes (Martin Luther King, Mother Teresa, Adolfo Perez Esquivel, Desmond Tutu for example) or people who have accomplished advancements in peace or humanitary missions (George Marshall, Albert Schweitzer). Is this consistent? Perhaps…

Let’s take a look at what the Nobel organization declares as motivation of the Peace Noble prize, in the words of Mr. Nobel himself appearing in  their statutes:

« The whole of my remaining realizable estate shall be dealt with in the following way: the capital, invested in safe securities by my executors, shall constitute a fund, the interest on which shall be annually distributed in the form of prizes to those who, during the preceding year, shall have conferred the greatest benefit to mankind. The said interest shall be divided into five equal parts, which shall be apportioned as follows: one part to the person who shall have made the most important discovery or invention within the field of physics; one part to the person who shall have made the most important chemical discovery or improvement; one part to the person who shall have made the most important discovery within the domain of physiology or medicine; one part to the person who shall have produced in the field of literature the most outstanding work in an ideal direction; and one part to the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses… »

But even if we find it consistent, consistency by itself does not legitimate the action. What is the will of the prize and what are its concrete effects in practice?

The will of the prize seems to be undeclared and is thus subject to interpretations. It would seem sufficiently accurate to say that the objective of the prize is to divulgate the achievements of these people and the people themselves.

Does the Noble Prize fail in this sense? Seemingly not. And in practice? The Nobel prize today is a media event , just like Oscars or the World Cup… but with fewer spectators! It certainly has little influence on the masses.

But does it affect the personality and its action? It can strengthen low profile causes or academic positions, or just confort the person receiving it.

Coming back to Barako, since the achievements are far from being evident, here is the statement explaining the award:

« The Nobel Peace Prize for 2009

The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided that the Nobel Peace Prize for 2009 is to be awarded to President Barack Obama for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples. The Committee has attached special importance to Obama’s vision of and work for a world without nuclear weapons.

Obama has as President created a new climate in international politics. Multilateral diplomacy has regained a central position, with emphasis on the role that the United Nations and other international institutions can play. Dialogue and negotiations are preferred as instruments for resolving even the most difficult international conflicts. The vision of a world free from nuclear arms has powerfully stimulated disarmament and arms control negotiations. Thanks to Obama’s initiative, the USA is now playing a more constructive role in meeting the great climatic challenges the world is confronting. Democracy and human rights are to be strengthened.

Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world’s attention and given its people hope for a better future. His diplomacy is founded in the concept that those who are to lead the world must do so on the basis of values and attitudes that are shared by the majority of the world’s population.

For 108 years, the Norwegian Nobel Committee has sought to stimulate precisely that international policy and those attitudes for which Obama is now the world’s leading spokesman. The Committee endorses Obama’s appeal that « Now is the time for all of us to take our share of responsibility for a global response to global challenges. »

Oslo, October 9, 2009″

The question here is if this prize’s instance is not a sort of constraint tending to render more difficult state decisions like supporting wars or continuing the environment’s degradation.

In this optimistic sense, the Peace Nobel Prize for Barako, seems to be a huge challenge… and certainly too naïf.

So no peace, little media influence, no cause support, no personal reward, no achievements, I still cannot find why! Any ideas?

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