(Here and here is the previous Duck debate on this.)
The EU? Over a guy regularly facing down death-threats, bullying, and intimidation from one of the worst dictators on earth? Boo to the Nobel Committee for missing this obvious choice.
If they can give the prize to the drone-warrior with a kill-list (Obama) and an institution run by wealthy, comfortable lawyers, bankers, and white collar professionals, then surely they can give it to someone who every day is making a far more direct, personal, bodily commitment to peace and social betterment. In fact, why Tsvangirai hasn’t won yet is beyond me. It seems so obvious. (Yes, his personal life is somewhat chaotic, but I don’t think that is normally a consideration. Kissinger called himself a ‘swinger.’)
Here is a good profile from the BBC. Note how badly he got beaten up by the thugs of President Robert Mugabe in 2007. He’s be charged with treason multiple times, and his party, the Movement for Democratic Change, has been harassed from the beginning. That is commitment, far more than endless EU meetings about some treaty no one will read.
The initial reaction from Facebook and from my Realist friends reveals a certain amount of scorn for the Nobel Peace Prize announcement this morning. The EU today is an easy parody and I guess the response is to be expected.
Nonetheless, I appreciate Erik Voeten’s post that Dan linked below and share his bottom line that this is a decent decision. I would just add a couple of additional points. First, I agree that if we evaluate or judge the EU from the reference of 2012 or the most recent past, this decision looks a bit bizarre. But, if we situate it in the broader historical context of the post-war Europe, I think the EU is certainly worthy of the Nobel Peace Prize.
The continent from 1914 to 1945 was an absolute mess – in those three decades, somewhere between 75 and 90 million people died as a result of war. We’re nearly seven decades removed from the end of World War II and with time and distance it is often difficult to fully comprehend the human misery, the hopelessness, and the sheer exhaustion. To this day, the Holocaust remains something with which we can barely understand and absorb.
Erik Voeten is pleased:
The Realist argument about the importance of the U.S. security umbrella is probably correct. Yet, the dire predictions regarding the future of European integration have yet to materialize. Indeed, the EU sped up its integration considerably with the end of the Cold War; creating deeper institutions and adding fifteen new member states. The integration of the Eastern European former socialist states has not gone without difficulties. Yet, given the scale of the problem, I would argue that it has gone a lot better than it plausible would have without the EU. The promise of EU membership markedly improved democracy, human rights and market economy in all states, although it remains imperfect progress in some. The EU certainly has its share of difficulties, major missteps, and structural deficiencies. Ultimately, however, my best guess is that Europe is a more peaceful, prosperous, and democratic continent thanks to the EU. A Peace Prize much deserved.
On Facebook, a PhD student at GU sums up the other side of the debate:
Congratulations, Europe. Apparently you get prizes when Germany goes a few decades without invading someone.
Dan Drezner encourages us to analyze what he said for references to policy prescriptions from IR theories. Steve Walt tells us let’s focus not on what he said but on what he does. I’m with those who would focus on what he didn’t say as an indicator of what he might or might not do. (Not to be contrarian, but hey.)
Namely, with the Copenhagen summit at hand, I’d have liked to see more than just a passing reference to the relationship between the environment and war, and the fact that mitigating the impacts of climate change will be one of our most urgent security problems in the next century. How do readers interpret the relative marginalization of climate issues in the speech?
According to the Nobel website, the Peace Prize is supposed to be awarded annually 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”.
In 2009, the Norwegian selection committee decided that the most deserving person is Barack Obama.
Frankly, I’m a little surprised.
Yes, I was pleased in April when the President declared, “clearly and with conviction, America’s commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.”
Furthermore, I was grateful in January when Obama ordered the closing of the prison at Guantanamo Bay and the banning of torture.
And I look forward to the implementation of the plan to withdraw from Iraq by August 2010.
As promised, Obama’s has the U.S. talking to Iran. He has the U.S. working hard on peace between Israel and Palestinians.
And yet — most of these accomplishments are mere promises to act.
The gap between hope and change is fairly large and I’m surprised the Nobel committee decided to award the former. Perhaps they figured that the prestige of the award might help propel some of these plans towards fruition.
Much of the world is pleased (or say that they are), while the Taliban is unhappy (as are opposition groups in Pakistan).
I do not think the choice is bad or outrageous, but it is curious — more a political statement than anything.