Nobel Prizes from Lala Land.
Norway is a tiny country that was born lucky. It is weak and defenseless (and was quickly overrun in World War II [while neighboring, neutral Sweden sold the Third Reich 40% of its iron ore, that went for everything from Tiger tanks to kill Americans to the ovens at Auschwitz—with free shipping across the Baltic included as a favor]. In the late 1940s it would have been Finlandized during the Cold War, if not for American-led NATO. And the world’s largest military is still pledged to its defense, in case any of the nations, to whose icons it bestows awards, some day decides to send terrorists or nukes its way
Second, it sits on or near enough oil to allow what is otherwise a rather insignificant country to be the wealthiest per capita oil producer in the world, and enjoy the influence that many in the Gulf have grown accustomed to. Throw in minerals, natural gas, timber, and fish and the nation sits on a bonanza of natural wealth. No wonder there are philosophers who ponder how to dispense the largess and absenteeism is a national crisis (one receives almost ad infinitum the same cash whether “sick” at home or well on the job). The population of under 5 million is largely homogeneous (90% Nordic), and is thus stable, and both rich and safe beyond its wildest dreams. It does not border a Third World country; “difference” and the “other”—even with recent Islamic immigration—is still defined as speaking Swedish or Danish.
In other words, Norway has the leisure to be utopian, and cannot quite understand why other countries are not as liberal as it has proven. So Norway loves to give award to all sorts of right-thinking frauds (Menchu), scoundrels (Elbaradei), terrorists (Arafat), Stalinists (Le Doc Tho), Elmer Gantrys (Jimmy Carter) and hucksters (Gore)— as it sits in judgment of others from Lala land.
Remember, though, the Norwegians privately would not like to live under Central American communism of the Ortega brand, or right next to nutty nuclear Iran, or have Palestinian terrorists on their borders, or in general live the real life that the nation sanctimoniously advocates in the abstract. It sees what happens to neighboring Denmark’s cartoonists when they exercise free speech. It once saw what Neville Chamberlain wrought for its own neighborhood.
Norway is, in other words, the Hollywood nation. Imagine it is as the son or daughter of a movie star, one who grew up in Malibu, and feels so terribly about it that he lectures the U.S. about everything from global warming to George Bush’s assorted sins—confident that he will never have to work at Ace Hardware, and never have to live near South Central LA. That’ sums up Norway.
Effort and intention, not achievement, matter to these pious Europeans. We should honor preseason favorites, not 20-game winners; praise dazzling book proposals, not best sellers; gush about on-the shelf Pentagon plans not battle victories. Don’t dare end the Cold War, or save millions in Africa from AIDs, or get rid of Milosevic; but most certainly do dare to convince the world that the Muslims jump-started the Renaissance. For that brave assertion, global peace will surely follow.
Norway on the Potomac
More seriously, the Obama Prize represents two recent larger Nobel trends: 1) an effort to curtail American foreign policy in favor of international deference (as in the case of rewarding Carter and Gore for their defamation of Bush in their opposition to Iraq); 2) a general disconnect from accomplishment in favor of leftist intentions, as in the case of Elbaradei or Rogaberta Menchu who accomplished essentially nothing (and spoke or wrote about that nothing in suspect fashion), but were a hit among international Western elites as authentically anti-Western non-Westerns.
Anyone who has taught in the university over the last thirty years has witnessed dozens of mini-sorts of Nobel Prizes each year handed out to faculty on the basis of what they represent or said rather than accomplishment; but it is still remarkable to see such postmodernism hit the world stage, where reality is virtual and constructed on language and expressed intent.
Think of the tiny Norway’s Machiavellianism: A utopian American President is now supported for his rhetoric—and yet also sent a signal that brave new Nobel Prize laureates simply don’t support Israel, pressure Iran, stay in Afghanistan or Iraq, or keep open Guantanamo. It is as if that Oslo is saying ‘our man in Washington’ is, well, now really ‘our man in Washington.’