Nobel Rot

by BINOY KAMPMARK

Melbourne.

One wonders whether having a peace prize makes an assumption about redundancy and diminishment in advance. Ever year, the arguments seem to mount.  This year, the choice of the European Union being the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize struck many as daft, dangerous and redolent with black humour.  In a more distinct sense, it suggested that Alfred Nobel would turn in his grave.  When you start considering that the man who fronted the cash and the name for the award was a dynamite fiend and pioneer, very little will be making him stir.  From the start, the prize has been something of a running joke, an award susceptible to manipulation.

What has struck some critics as peculiar is that of awarding an entity rather than an individual.  Not only that, it is an entity that does work other than peace building.  “The EU,” claimed a puzzled editorial of The Bangkok Post (Oct 14), “is involved in so many different areas not related to peace building, and frankly, some probably at odds with peace building, that trying to justify awarding it the Nobel Peace Prize becomes an argument in the abstract.”  The editors feel that the worthier choice would be Malala Yousafzai, a 14-year-old Pakistani girl who was gravely wounded by the Taliban for campaigning for girls’ rights to an education.

This is a good argument, till you realize that many “peace” prize recipients have been dealing with peace in the abstract for years.  Former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger must surely rank up there as being the most conspicuous example of this, when he accepted the prize at a time, as was noted then by his sparring partner Le Duc Tho, when there was no peace to be awarded over.  Vietnam was still, and would continue to be involved in conflict for a few more years.  It might be argued, as in fact has been by such groups as the anti-austerity Syriza party that peace is a dream at the moment in various parts of Europe.  “In many parts of Europe, but especially in Greece,” argues Syriza spokesman Panos Skourletis, “we are experiencing what really is a war situation on a daily basis albeit a war that has not been formally declared.  There is nothing peaceful about it.”

The critical view is on better ground in terms of reading Nobel’s will, which does specific an award to a “person”.  Again, this has been interpreted in most broad terms. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (1954) and Amnesty International (1977), have received the award, amongst other specialized agencies.  The irritation, at the end of the day, seems to be with the EU more than anything else.

Take the ill considered remarks of entrenched EU critics like Ukip leader Nigel Farage.  “This goes to show that the Norwegians really do have a sense of humour. The EU may be getting the booby prize for peace because it hasn’t created prosperity.  The EU has created poverty and unemployment for millions.”  Former UK chancellor Lord Lamont, found it “ridiculous, preposterous and absurd” that the EU get the prize at a time when individuals were prancing up and down the streets of Athens “dressing up as Nazis” (Guardian, Oct 12). “What next?” inquired Dutch Euroskeptic Geert Wilders, “An Oscar for Van Rompuy?”

The union is certainly under threat, facing ruinous debt and a debate over austerity, and the viability of its institutional (mis)arrangements.  Could the prize be seen as a fillip?  “It was a cheer for an entity tackling the continent’s economic misery – particularly in debt-ridden Greece, Spain, and Portugal – as some member countries might be faced with dropping the euro, the EU currency” (CNN, Oct 12).  Chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, Thorbjørn Jagland and committee members wanted “to remind all Europeans about what we have achieved on this continent and that we should not let it start disintegrating again and getting nationalism and extremism (to) grow on this continent, because we know what that leads to.”

The report card of the EU is more impressive than depressing.  In the grim world of conflict resolution, it succeeded in bringing stability to a continent periodically ravaged by wars.  In the words of the Nobel Committee, the EU “for over six decades contributed to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe.”  But the entity is uneven, misshaped, complex. It has reached its natural breaking point after the seeds of the project – peaceful cooperation between France and Germany – took root and flourished.  To award such a prize on the hope that it provides some band aid is wishful thinking.  But to criticize it merely for being an imperfect institution is an argument that doesn’t, at the end of the day, hold much water.

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge.  He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne.  Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

Exclusively in the new print issue of CounterPunch
THE ARAB SPRING AT A CROSSROADS — Esam Al-Amin surveys the new Middle East, from the revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia, to the aftermath of the overthrow of Qaddafi and the civil war in Syria, and outlines the economic and political challenges facing the fledgling Arab democracies; THE BI-PARTISAN PLAN TO GUT MEDICARE: Dave Lindorff digs beneath the rhetoric to expose the grim similarities in both Obama and Romney’s schemes to degrade Medicare by cutting spending, reducing eligibility and privatizing services. KAFKA IN SEATTLE: Kristian Williams details the surreal ordeal of Matthew Duran, thrown into federal prison even though prosecutors admit he committed no crime.

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
Weekend Edition
July 31-33, 2015
Jeffrey St. Clair
Bernie and the Sandernistas
John Pilger
Julian Assange: the Untold Story of an Epic Struggle for Justice
Roberto J. González – David Price
Remaking the Human Terrain: The US Military’s Continuing Quest to Commandeer Culture
Lawrence Ware
Bernie Sanders’ Race Problem
Andrew Levine
The Logic of Illlogic: Narrow Self-Interest Keeps Israel’s “Existential Threats” Alive
ANDRE VLTCHEK
Kos, Bodrum, Desperate Refugees and a Dying Child
Paul Street
“That’s Politics”: the Sandernistas on the Master’s Schedule
Ted Rall
How the LAPD Conspired to Get Me Fired from the LA Times
Mike Whitney
Power-Mad Erdogan Launches War in Attempt to Become Turkey’s Supreme Leader
Ellen Brown
The Greek Coup: Liquidity as a Weapon of Coercion
Stephen Lendman
Russia Challenges America’s Orwellian NED
Will Parrish
The Politics of California’s Water System
John Wight
The Murder of Ali Saad Dawabsha, a Palestinian Infant Burned Alive by Israeli Terrorists
Jeffrey Blankfort
Leading Bibi’s Army in the War for Washington
Geoffrey McDonald
Obama’s Overtime Tweak: What is the Fair Price of a Missed Life?
Brian Cloughley
Hypocrisy, Obama-Style
Robert Fantina
Israeli Missteps Take a Toll
Pete Dolack
Speculators Circling Puerto Rico Latest Mode of Colonialism
Ron Jacobs
Spying on Black Writers: the FB Eye Blues
Paul Buhle
The Leftwing Seventies?
Binoy Kampmark
The TPP Trade Deal: of Sovereignty and Secrecy
David Swanson
Vietnam, Fifty Years After Defeating the US
Robert Hunziker
Human-Made Evolution
Shamus Cooke
Why Obama’s “Safe Zone” in Syria Will Inflame the War Zone
David Rosen
Hillary Clinton: Learn From Your Sisters
Sam Husseini
How #AllLivesMatter and #BlackLivesMatter Can Devalue Life
Shepherd Bliss
Why I Support Bernie Sanders for President
Louis Proyect
Manufacturing Denial
Howard Lisnoff
The Wrong Argument
Tracey Harris
Living Tiny: a Richer and More Sustainable Future
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
A Day of Tears: Report from the “sHell No!” Action in Portland
Tom Clifford
Guns of August: the Gulf War Revisited
Renee Lovelace
I Dream of Ghana
Colin Todhunter
GMOs: Where Does Science Begin and Lobbying End?
Ben Debney
Modern Newspeak Dictionary, pt. II
Christopher Brauchli
Guns Don’t Kill People, Immigrants Do and Other Congressional Words of Wisdom
S. Mubashir Noor
India’s UNSC Endgame
Ellen Taylor
The Voyage of the Golden Rule
Norman Ball
Ten Questions for Lee Drutman: Author of “The Business of America is Lobbying”
Franklin Lamb
Return to Ma’loula, Syria
Masturah Alatas
Six Critics in Search of an Author
Mark Hand
Cinéma Engagé: Filmmaker Chronicles Texas Fracking Wars
Mary Lou Singleton
Gender, Patriarchy, and All That Jazz
Patrick Hiller
The Icebreaker and #ShellNo: How Activists Determine the Course
Charles Larson
Tango Bends Its Gender: Carolina De Robertis’s “The Gods of Tango”