Obama's Nobel Prize. Why does the Peace Committee have such a bad record?
I am fairly sure that Barack Obama's heart is roughly in the right place, but to give him a Peace Prize when he hasn't yet achieved any actual peace anywhere in the world (and indeed may well yet raise the stakes in Afghanistan) is faintly ludicrous. In fact, it seems a bit like giving Neville Chamberlain one in 1938, on his way back from Munich, without stopping to find out what happens next. The Peace Prize should surely be for achievement, not effort.
But there is 'form' here. While the Nobel Literature committee every other year or so hands out its millions to geniuses most of us have never heard of (and good for them, I say), the Peace committee seems much more star struck. Or to put it more generously, they can be uncomfortably quick to reward any world leader (or plucky campaigner) for what seems to be the faintest, temporary step in the right direction.
A few columnists have already picked out some of their more egregious awards. Henry Kissinger, as they have pointed out, must surely rank as one of the very worst. Al Gore seems to have been rewarded for self-publicity riding on the back of some pretty crude views about climate change. And the trio of Arafat, Peres and Rabin in 1974 must have been the triumph of hope over common sense
Of course there have been some good ones (and they seem more sure-footed when it comes to rewarding organisations like Amnesty or Médecins sans Frontières). But there are other skeletons in this particular cupboard. Willy Brandt picked it up in 1971 (for improving East/West relations), only a few years before it was revealed that his assistant was working for the Stasi (which wasn't exactly the warming in East/West relations that the Nobel committee had in mind). Who on earth persuaded them to give it in 1976 to Betty Williams and Mairead Corrigan, the founders of the Northern Irish "Peace People" -- a movement which faltered almost as soon as they had been awarded the prize. And was Rigoberta Menchu (laureate in 1992) exactly what she was cracked up to be?
It's hard to decide whether the committee are very bad judges, or whether the prize itself is a poisoned chalice. Maybe it would have been wiser for Obama to turn it down with a polite "not yet"
Meanwhile here in the UK, we have another racist language scandal. The husband wants to know why the papers aren't reminding us that one of the last people to get hauled up for using the P word was Prince Harry. Has the Buckingham Palace press office managed to put an embargo on this?