The Ranting Kraut

19.3.2006 – 27.9.2010

Did Al Gore Deserve the Prize?

Posted by rantingkraut on October 13, 2007

From Melanie Phillips to the audience of BBC online, people seem to feel strongly that Al Gore did not deserve his award since he did fairly little for peace. If contributions to peace are the issue, then that is a fair point. As Damian Thompson put it in the telegraph: “Climate change is a threat to the environment, not to “peace” and international order.

Gore’s defenders are likely to argue that there is an indirect connection: the consequences of global warming can give rise to security issues which could lead to war. This is the line of argument taken by the Nobel Committee –it largely follows the logic of the human security agenda and shares the inherent problems of this approach. If all indirect linkages to conflict are placed under the heading of security, then everything is a security issue (cf. Roland Paris (2001) “Human Security: Paradigm shift or hot air?” pdf). If any problem that could give rise to violent conflict is itself seen as a threat to peace, then addressing any important problem at all makes you a peace activist.

Another angle to take would be to look at consistency: who received the prize in the past? There are some pretty odd Nobel Peace Prize winners: Henry Kissinger and Yasser Arafat were fairly hawkish politicians who tried to make peace when they saw they couldn’t win. (Tom Lehrer famously claimed that political satire became obsolete when Henry Kissinger received the Nobel Peace Prize.) The prize also went to the UN and to Kofi Annan, who headed the UN when they couldn’t quite decide if the ‘acts of genocide’ in Rwanda added up to a genocide.

Aside from these bizarre awards there are others which are not nasty but simply off-topic. In the recent past, the prize went to Muhammad Yunus, a microfinance pioneer, Rigoberta Menchú, an indigenous rights activist and Shirin Ebadi, an Iranian women’s rights activist. None of these have been dedicated to peace any more than this year’s recipient. On past performance, Al Gore’s award doesn’t seem out of place.

Those who argue that, from now on, the Nobel Peace Prize can’t be taken seriously any longer have to ask themselves why they took it seriously during the last thirty years. The Nobel Peace Prize has been no more than a political fashion statement for decades.

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