Commentators have been struggling to make sense of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, which went to the quarreling, rioting, and crisis-ridden multilateral morass that is the European Union. The Nobel commendation praised the EU “for over six decades contributed to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe.”
Among the saner responses to this was a column by former State Department adviser Christian Whiton, who asked “Is this a joke?” And, with a degree of lucidity that routinely eludes the Nobel Peace Prize Committee, former ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton, speaking on Fox News (about 5 minutes into this clip), noted that if Europe has had peace “It’s not because of the European Union. It’s because of American power,” which, he pointed out, has sheltered Europeans for decades, and given them a chance to work out their differences.
But, with the EU enterprise lurching from one crisis to the next, with the Greeks and Spanish rioting over austerity, with the French and Germans bickering over bailouts (and with American power, perhaps not so coincidentally, in decline), much of the reaction to this prize defaulted to the rationale that the Nobel Committee was trying to give the EU a nudge away from the precipice. Or, as the the New York Times summed it up: ”The decision sounded at times like a plea to support the endangered institution at a difficult hour.”
Does that bode well for the EU?
While the Nobel Peace Prize has had its good moments — Lech Walesa, Aung San Suu Kyi — it also has a record that suggests it can be something of a portent to be feared. Here are just a few highlights, or maybe lowlights, of the laureates over the years, and events subsequent to the prize:
1973: Jointly awarded to Henry Kissinger and Vietnam’s Le Duc Tho, for the Paris peace agreement on Vietnam. Tho refused the prize, and two years later South Vietnam fell to the guns, ravages, and reeducation camps of the communist North.
1990: Mikhail Gorbachev, president of the USSR. A year later, the USSR imploded, and Gorbachev was president of nothing (this was not actually part of the peace plan for which Gorbachev won his prize).