It's Nobel Prize season again. Beginning Monday, the Nobel Committee or the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences will announce winners in medicine, physics, and chemistry. Then on October 6, the Norwegian Nobel Institute will announce the winner of the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize. Winners of that coveted award get a credential to opine on issues of war and peace and diplomacy and politics on the world stage. In both impact and broader prestige, the Nobel Peace Prize is different. So too is the criteria by which it is awarded.
While prizes in the sciences are based on life's work and proven success, Norwegian politicians and their appointed proxies award the Nobel Peace Prize more on the basis of aspiration and politics more than achievement of peace.
This year, Iran nuclear deal negotiators—former Secretary of State John Kerry, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohamad Javad Zarif, and European Union foreign policy boss Federica Mogherini—are odds-on favorites to win the prize. Not only does the Norwegian Nobel Institute want to reward high-profile diplomacy, but it also may seek to stick it to Washington, especially against the backdrop of President Trump's likely refusal to certify Iranian compliance with the deal.
Such a politicized decision, however, would ultimately only embarrass the Nobel committee, given the records of the perspective laureates.
Mogherini is a veteran of the Italian Communist Party and so, in her youth, knowingly attached herself to a global movement responsible for the deaths of 100 million people in the 20th and 21st centuries. She has never in her life advocated for individual liberty or freedom. When she visited Tehran after the deal, she could have spoken out on behalf of women but, instead, by conforming to Islamic Republic-mandated dress imposed upon Iranian women, she mimicked their oppression.
Zarif, meanwhile, has lied about Iranian involvement in Syria, provided cover for atrocities in Syria, and excused Syrian President (and Iranian client) Bashar al-Assad's use of chemical weapons against civilians. Had it not been for Iranian support for the Assad regime, several hundred thousand men, women, and children would be alive today.
Kerry, meanwhile, with his noxious mix of unbridled ambition, gullibility, a poor grasp of facts, and in a fit of personal pique, reversed decades of Middle East peace process precedent and may have set the cause of peace back decades.
In a way, though, a prize for Mogherini, Zarif, and Kerry would be par for the course.
Consider the long history of Nobel Peace Prize embarrassments:
Aung San Suu Kyi: In 1991, the Nobel committee awarded Suu Kyi its prize "for her non-violent struggle for democracy and human rights." She cut a sympathetic figure: a woman who won a democratic election only to have Burma's military junta strip it away and place her under house arrest. For more than two decades, her fate became the metric by which Western diplomats and human rights activists judged Burma. Today, however, as Burma's chief minister, she is both the face for a regime conducting ethnic cleansing and its chief apologist.
Yasser Arafat: The Palestine Liberation Organization chairman shared the prize in 1994 for agreeing to the Oslo Accords during which he foreswore terrorism and recognized Israel. The only problem was that, for Arafat, such words were meaningless. More Israelis died in PLO-sponsored terrorist attacks in the months after the Oslo Accords came into force compared to the months before. Captured documents show Arafat personally ordered and paid for terrorist attacks subsequent to his prize. The icing on the cake wasn't his embezzlement of billions of dollars in international aid; rather, it was that his own negotiators agreed to a final peace deal with Israel only to have Arafat walk away.
Tawakkol Karman: Most people have already forgotten about this 2011 co-recipient and Yemeni political activist. At the time the youngest Nobel Peace laureate, the Norwegian committee explicitly said they picked Karman in order to show that the Muslim Brotherhood (she belonged to an affiliate group) was a productive partner for peace. Alas, while Karman did not hesitate to speak up against the Yemeni dictatorship's abuses, she was conspicuously silent in the face of Islamist violence, even when Taliban terrorists shot 14-year-old girls' rights advocate (and future laureate herself) Malala Yousefzai in the face. It seems a truism for too many recent Nobel laureates: peace is a worthy objective for those like them, but those who oppose their political desires deserve no such consideration.
Desmond Tutu: That brings us to South African Bishop and 1984 laureate Desmond Tutu, who won the prize for his worthy advocacy against South Africa's Apartheid regime. In subsequent years, however, Tutu's soft spot for terrorist groups such as Hamas and his robust anti-Semitism bubbled to the surface. It's not just his branding as racist the idea that the Jews should have a state of their own; he has also embraced and endorsed Hamas activists calling for genocide against Jews. And, he has minimized the Holocaust by pointing out that at least Nazi gas chambers allowed the Jews a "neater death" than that suffered by blacks in Apartheid South Africa. Tutu may have been right to fight apartheid, but not even the Nobel Prize will be enough to purify his own anti-Semitism and bigotry.
Jimmy Carter: The 39th president is widely applauded as a peace-maker, although many of those whom he is credited bringing to the table privately say they made peace despite his sometimes complicating interventions rather than because of them. No matter, give the man his due: He did encourage, if not shepherd through, peace between Israel and Egypt, the largest Arab country. Behind-the-scenes, though, Carter has a habit of siding with dictators and interceding in ways which make matters worse. He has long supported Zimbabwe's brutal dictator Robert Mugabe and, as I show in Dancing with the Devil: The Perils of Engaging Rogue Regimes, from his very first foreign policy speech as a candidate for president, he has encouraged the North Korean regime to expect reward for terror and defiance.
Indeed, his 1994 interventions in Pyongyang above and beyond what President Bill Clinton approved undercut what may have been the last, best chance to stop North Korea's nuclear program. None of that compares to his own dishonesty, however, and his shamelessness when caught. In order to launder the Syrian regime's peacemaking, Carter falsified his own notes, as his then-note-taker demonstrated. Being a Nobel laureate, however, means never saying sorry, even when whitewashing dictators or promoting fictions that cost lives.
Barack Obama: President Obama won the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize largely on the promise his lofty rhetoric sparked. Eight years later, however, Obama's decisions poured fuel on the fire of conflicts in Syria, Libya, and Iraq, easily leading to an exponential increase in their death tolls. Once again, it seems the Norwegian Nobel Institute's decision to award its top prize on the basis of imagination and hope rather than reality and change has a very large cost.
Kofi Annan: In 2001, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan shared the peace prize with the organization which he administered. While it's utterly predictable the Nobel jurists would want to celebrate the United Nations, Annan's selection should have raised eyebrows. Not only did he preside over the UN's largest corruption scandal in terms of Iraq's oil-for-food program, but it was Annan's fecklessness as the UN official in charge of peacekeeping that enabled the Rwanda genocide to go forward. To Annan's credit, however, he did ultimately apologize for his Rwanda inaction; small solace for the hundreds of thousands condemned to mass graves.
Al Gore: The former vice president and runner-up in the 2000 presidential elections won for his environmental activism. That's all well and good, but Gore's overstatement of the global warming threat fueled much of the backlash against it. His own personal hypocrisy when it comes to conservation is just the melting icing on the cake.
The American Friends Service Committee: Who can begrudge the chief NGO of the non-violent Quakers who took home the 1947 prize for their "compassion for others and the desire to help them"? Don't tell Cambodians that -- as the Khmer Rouge massacred 1 million Cambodians, it was the AFSC that denied the genocide and provided cover for the perpetrators.
Henry Kissinger: Former Secretary of State and National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger might be lionized as a realist and master strategist, but the tally sheet of 1973 Nobel Peace laureate for his work negotiating a ceasefire with North Vietnam is heavily skewed against peace. His decisions led to the deaths of tens of thousands of Cambodians, the betrayal of Kurdish allies, and death squads in Chile. Nor for conservatives who might be inclined to look the other way on the logic that the communists against whom he was maneuvering were far worst, his Vietnam diplomacy condemned millions of South Vietnamese to re-education camps, exploitation, and death.
Perhaps, then, a Nobel Prize for Iran's foreign minister, Kerry, or Mogherini would be more the rule than the exception. They have certainly expended enough of other peoples' blood in order to qualify.
Michael Rubin (@Mrubin1971) is a contributor to the Washington Examiner's Beltway Confidential blog. He is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and a former Pentagon official.
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