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Sunday, October 26, 2014

A little premature, but...

Posted Wednesday, October 14, 2009, at 12:57 PM

President Obama's Nobel Peace prize seems a little premature for a man who has held office for less than a year.

The committee that awarded the prize cited his efforts to encourage the use of diplomacy to solve conflicts between nations, both in his brief tenure as president and in his writings prior to his election.

Some cynics have suggested it was awarded because he wasn't George Bush, whose heavy handed "our way or the highway" approach to foreign policy had angered many of America's allies, let alone its enemies. They've seen Obama's presidency as a breath of fresh air on the world scene, and for that, we guess the award does have some merit. Some.

In looking at the 90 previous peace prize winners one salient feature stood out. Almost none of them had ever actually accomplished their goals of achieving peace.

The most recent peace prize award that seemed to have shown success was in 1999, when the Doctors Without Borders organization was honored, and in 1998 when the two main negotiators, John Hume and David Trimble, had brokered a peace that seems to have lasted in Northern Ireland. Teddy Roosevelt won it in 1905 for mediating the peace treaty that ended the war between Russia and Japan.

In 1993, Fredrik de Klerk and Nelson Mandela won it for ending apartheid in South Africa, and in 1978, Anwar Sadat and Menachem Begin won it for ending decades of war with a peace treaty between Israel and Egypt.

But more commonly, the award has gone to individuals or groups as a way of focusing the world's attention on problems, such as the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (1997) or Amnesty International (1977). But in those cases the goals of those groups clearly have not be achieved.

And there are even stranger winners of the award. In 1973, Henry Kissinger and Le Duc Tho won it for ending the war in Vietnam, which actually ended in 1975 with the few remaining U.S. troops fleeing before the advancing North Vietnamese armies that had crushed the South Vietnamese forces we'd virtually abandoned.

In 1926, Aristide Briand was one of the prize's winners, for helping negotiate the Briand-Kellogg Pact, an international agreement that outlawed war. Obviously, that agreement was less than successful.

Two other presidents have won the award, Jimmy Carter, largely for his work after he left office, and Woodrow Wilson, for his efforts to form the League of Nations, which the United States did not join and which failed miserably in its efforts to outlaw war.

In fact, failure of the goals of the winners has been the norm, rather than the exceptions. We can only hope that, even if it was premature, that Obama manages to buck the trend and eventually earn it.

-- Kelly Everitt



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Meanderings of the Managing Editor
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