FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

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.
More articles by:

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

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

June 22, 2017
Ken Levy
Sorry, But It’s Entirely the Right’s Fault
Jason Hirthler
Invisible Empire Beneath the Radar, Above Suspicion
John Laforge
Fukushima’s Radiation Will Poison Food “for Decades,” Study Finds
Ann Garrison
Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour Party, and the UK’s Socialist Surge
Phillip Doe
Big Oil in the Rocky Mountain State: the Overwhelming Tawdriness of Government in Colorado
Howard Lisnoff
The Spiritual Death of Ongoing War
Stephen Cooper
Civilized, Constitution-Loving Californians Will Continue Capital Punishment Fight
Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla
Cuba Will Not Bow to Trump’s Threats
Ramzy Baroud
Israel vs. the United Nations: The Nikki Haley Doctrine
Tyler Wilch
The Political Theology of US Drone Warfare
Colin Todhunter
A Grain of Truth: RCEP and the Corporate Hijack of Indian Agriculture
Robert Koehler
When the Detainee is American…
Jeff Berg
Our No Trump Contract
Faiza Shaheen
London Fire Fuels Movement to Challenge Inequality in UK
Rob Seimetz
Sorry I Am Not Sorry: A Letter From Millennials to Baby Boomers
June 21, 2017
Jim Kavanagh
Resist This: the United States is at War With Syria
James Ridgeway
Good Agent, Bad Agent: Robert Mueller and 9-11
Diana Johnstone
The Single Party French State … as the Majority of Voters Abstain
Ted Rall
Democrats Want to Lose the 2020 Election
Kathy Kelly
“Would You Like a Drink of Water?” Please Ask a Yemeni Child
Russell Mokhiber
Sen. Joe Manchin Says “No” to Single-Payer, While Lindsay Graham Floats Single-Payer for Sick People
Ralph Nader
Closing Democracy’s Doors Until the People Open Them
Binoy Kampmark
Barclays in Hot Water: The Qatar Connection
Jesse Jackson
Trump Ratchets Up the Use of Guns, Bombs, Troops, and Insults
N.D. Jayaprakash
No More Con Games: Abolish Nuclear Weapons Now! (Part Four)
David Busch
The Kingdom of Pence–and His League of Flaming Demons–is Upon Us
Stephen Cooper
How John Steinbeck’s “In Dubious Battle” Helps Us Navigate Social Discord
Madis Senner
The Roots of America’s Identity and Our Political Divide are Buried Deep in the Land
June 20, 2017
Ajamu Baraka
The Body Count Rises in the U.S. War Against Black People
Gary Leupp
Russia’s Calm, But Firm, Response to the US Shooting Down a Syrian Fighter Jet
Maxim Nikolenko
Beating Oliver Stone: the Media’s Spin on the Putin Interviews
Michael J. Sainato
Philando Castile and the Self Righteous Cloak of White Privilege
John W. Whitehead
The Militarized Police State Opens Fire
Peter Crowley
The Groundhog Days of Terrorism
Norman Solomon
Behind the Media Surge Against Bernie Sanders
Pauline Murphy
Friedrich Engels: a Tourist In Ireland
David Swanson
The Unifying Force of War Abolition
Louisa Willcox
Senators Bernie Sanders, Cory Booker, Tom Udall Back Tribes in Grizzly Fight
John Stanton
Mass Incarceration, Prison Labor in the United States
Robert Fisk
Did Trump Denounce Qatar Over Failed Business Deals?
Medea Benjamin
America Will Regret Helping Saudi Arabia Bomb Yemen
Brian Addison
Los Angeles County Data Shows Startling Surge in Youth, Latino Homelessness
Native News Online
Betraying Indian Country: How Grizzly Delisting Exposes Trump and Zinke’s Assault on Tribal Sovereignty and Treaty Rights
Stephen Martin
A Tragic Inferno in London Reflects the Terrorism of the Global Free Market
Debadityo Sinha
Think Like a River
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail