Nobel Peace Prize Committee Sets New Standard as Political Contraindicator, Awards the European Union its 2012 Prize

When I was young, one of the cartoons I enjoyed was Rocky and Bullwinkle. An occasional character was Wrong Way Peachfuzz, who made enough of an impression on other children to merit an entry in Wikipedia:

Peachfuzz was, from his youngest days, an incompetent sailor. As a child, even his toy boats sank. At the age of 18 he joined the navy. He was awarded numerous medals, all of which were donated by the enemy. Sailing the wrong way through the Panama Canal and becoming the only captain of an icebreaker in the South Seas earned him the nickname “Wrong Way” (an allusion to the American pilot Douglas “Wrong Way” Corrigan). After receiving a large inheritance from an aunt he purchased and took command of the S.S. Andalusia (“Athabaska” in some shorts). His crew considered mutiny but decided rather to install a dummy control room, so that Peachfuzz would think he was in command, while the crew actually controlled the ship from another location. Unfortunately, Peachfuzz takes a wrong turn. and winds up in the real control room. In another episode Peachfuzz tries to dive overboard to help Rocky save Bullwinkle, but being Peachfuzz he only succeeds in diving up and back onto the ship.

The Nobel Peach Peace Prize Committee looks to have adopted Peachfuzz as its role model. Awarding Obama the prize before he’d done much of anything as President lead to a raft of jokes, such as a Saturday Night Live skit on how Obama had won the prize for not being Bush.

That award turned out to be not merely a joke but a deep embarrassment as Obama failed to close Gitmo swiftly as promised, expanded the war in Afghanistan, instituted drone attacks in Pakistan, greatly increased the use of covert warfare, and has declared himself to be above the law, with the right to kill any US citizen designated a “suspected terrorist” without due process.

And now we have the same discredited committee giving the Eurozone its 2012 prize. Admittedly, the EU is not the Eurozone, but with the biggest nations in Europe members of the currency union, Eurozone politics are likely to continue to dominate that stage. And as we and others have chronicled at length, the Eurocrats seem determined to strip periphery countries of sovereignity and put not just their economies but their societies on the rack in a failing plan to save the banks of the surplus countries. In 2009, the Peace Prize Committee wanted to acknowledge and encourage Obama’s better impulses but instead bestowed the prize as his authoritarian side was coming to the fore. Now, the dark side of Europe is on full display as more and more ordinary people take to the streets to protest the fecklessness of their leaders as social structures are fracturing and old national hostilities are rising under the weight of destructive, misguided policies.

From the Wall Street Journal:

The European Union has been awarded the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize in a nod to the 27-member bloc’s “advancement of peace and reconciliation,” and to applaud its solidarity as it continues to work to contain the debt crisis hanging over the euro zone.

The head of the Norwegian committee Thorbørn Jagland said that the committee gave the award in an effort to encourage Europe to back away from the “extremism and nationalism” that led to major conflict in years past. “This is, in a way, a message to Europe to secure everything we have achieved and move forward,” he said while addressing a packed crowd at the Nobel Norwegian Institute in Oslo Friday.

Update: Richard Smith reminds us this is may not be the committee’s worst moment. Stalin was nominated as a serious candidate in 1945 and 1948 and Adolph Hitler was a nominee, purportedly as a joke, in 1939.

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      1. Aquifer

        Bert – brilliant! Maybe this was a way of saying – “hell, if the ECB can’t/won’t chip in, we will …” More than one way to get a peace of the action …

  1. Zero

    Sounds like the “committee” has not been watching the latest news clips about Greek and Spanish police “peacefully” beating the crap out of protesters.

    The collapse of the West is getting more hilarious every day. Who are they going to give this worthless Peace Prize to next? Hitler, post mortem? After all, didn’t Hitler too try to “unify” Europe? I think he should get one too. He’ll be in good war criminal company: Obama, Kissinger.

    This goes to show just how shallow and void of any value, meaning, or respect the so-called “western institutions” have become. Whether it’s the Nobel Peace Prize Committee, the EU, the IMF, the WorldBank, USAid, NATO, they are all a joke at this point. They are all disgraced and laughable.

    China, Russia, and Latin America must be laughing their asses off watching these Western pussies squirm in their own humiliation and disgrace.

    Oh, how disgraced the West has become! How humiliated! How impotent! How pathetic!

    Oh, how lovely! How delightful! And most importantly, how just!

    1. Jim Haygood

      Maybe next year the nutcase Norwegians can award the Peach prize to our drone fleet.

      Keepin’ it safe, keepin’ it real!

  2. Rouse

    The award is to the EU, not the Eurozone. Get the facts right. The EU ensured peace in Europe for 60 years. That is a massive achievement that should be copied in many other places. It is the largest economic zone in the world and it has the highest social progress achieved anywhere in the world. Life is good in Europe. Get that.

    1. Richard Kline

      The EU did _nothing_ during the last calendar year to merit a Peace Prize; get that. I’m a big believer in the merits of federation, but the Prize is putatively for specific achievements, known or anticipated.

      The Prize Committe has passed from farce to fantasy in the last few years. Someone should tell them that it’s permissible to award _no_ prize in a given year if there’s nothing to reward. True, the Committee has a tradition more than a century old of gesturing at the head-of-state level to influence behavior or frame expectations, a practice at times well-used. True, there have been grotesque absurdities in awards past given. (Kissinger? In what universe??) The Prize Committee seems to have sunk into an internal groupthink which suggests a dire need of new blood. It would have been far more rational to award the national leadership of Burma the prize this year, for example. Yes, most of them are skunks, but the social opening is to a significant degree real in a country which has badly needed it. One could see an ‘expectation’ award to Morsi in Egypt, or the head of state in Thailand, for instance. A shortlist beyond that could be generated. But the political signaling in this year’s award is simply incoherent. The committe really needs new blood and new thinking, they’re just doddering at their mission at present . . . .

      1. Heron

        Yeah. With this and the Obama award, I get the feeling that they significantly over-estimate their ability to influence world leaders and political economy. I’m not one to say that institutional factors determine political actions and that individuals are irrelevant, but giving millionaires a plaque and(to them) a pittance isn’t going to make them suddenly abandon their class-interests out of shame. As a follow up to truly brave and beneficial activity awards like this can be a valuable recognition that what a person or group has done was important and worthwhile, but giving them out to encourage behavior -like some sort of plead for decency- is, quite frankly, laughable.

        1. Commissar Four-pockets

          To really give somebody an incentive to avert cataclysmic societal collapse you’ve got to give it him four times, like they did with Leonid Brezhnev, Hero of the Soviet Union.

          1. David


            I was thinking the very same thing wondering how many Lenin Prizes and Order of the Red Banners did Brezhnev award himself for sinking the Soviet economy.

      2. bmeisen

        The European Union works in every moment of every day for peace and justice for countless communities in 23 member states with often very ugly histories, numbingly complex traditions, and dozens of official and unofficial languages – a stunningly diverse variety of stakeholders.

        Its core unifying principle is the inviolablity of the human spirit as it is expressed in each human being, guaranteed through independent judiciaries and democractic government. This principle finds constant expression in the real world, for example in the rejection of capital punishment, a position required of each member state, one that is motivated by the belief that the state’s monopoly on violence and duty to address wrongdoing finds an appropriate limit when honoring the human spirit.

        Furthermore the very real financial benefits of Union membership are frequently ignored, and not just by this blog – the now decades-old capital transfers from wealthier to poorer member states via EU funds have allowed countries like Spain to recover from decades of oppressive, often medieval social structures to become wealthier and more fully democratic. Greece had an infrastructure to privatize thanks in part to EU capital transfers.

        There are major problems, corruption, bureaucratic nightmares, catastrophic mistakes (the Euro) and they dissolve to insignificance in comparison to the spectacular financial, political and cultural gains achieved through the effort to unite.

        1. Ms G

          “This principle finds constant expression in the real world, for example in the rejection of capital punishment, a position required of each member state, one that is motivated by the belief that the state’s monopoly on violence and duty to address wrongdoing finds an appropriate limit when honoring the human spirit.”

          There are millions of Greeks, Spaniards, Italians and Portuguese people who are unemployed, moving to other continents to find work, starving, and digging in trash bins to find food (or shooting themselves because being of the indignity). Americans are being herded into the same structural indignity. Somehow, I don’t think these Europeans take much comfort in knowing about the EU’s position on capital punishment.

      3. Chris Rogers

        Richard Sir,

        The Committee does not require new blood or replacing, what it requires is that its members are executed – I’m confident this measure may send a final warning to our masters that really we have had enough and that without noticeable change rapidly there will be open warfare in our nation states between the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’.

        To say that this award is an intellectual travesty is a understatement – if it was honouring the memory of Robert Schuman I’d applaud – as it stands its honouring exponents of neoliberalism and neoconservativism, and as such the award is a mockery.

    2. Foppe

      Did you perchance miss the fact that the EU only came into existence 20 years ago, and that it therefore cannot be considered ‘responsible’ for maintaining the peace for 60y? This award is a joke.

      1. bmeisen

        You could have checked wikipedia Foppe.

        1950 Schuman Plan
        1965 fusion of three European cooperatives into the European Community
        1968 Customs Union
        1972 EC conceptualizes the European Union
        1975 Greece joins EC
        1977 Spain and Portugal join EC
        1993 first EU treaty adopted

        The current treaty framework continues a process that started in 1950.

        1. Foppe

          Your point being? The suggestion was made that Matt’s point was invalid because he focused more on the EZ than EU. I point out that this complaint is meritless because the “EU” as such never did what it is being rewarded for; as you point out, previous treaties, which were of an entirely different scope and extent, were in effect.
          Similarly, the Nobel committee suggests that “European” (western-european? do the dictatorial periods in spain and greece matter? Do we count the balkans? The east bloc more generally) peace was guaranteed by “the EU”. iow, the entire argument is just feel-good crap rather than anything substantive.

      2. Jim

        Foppe, impossible to argue with Europhiles.

        The EU has contributed more to trampling over democracy over the last 20 years than any other institution, and certain “progressives” continue to applaud it!!!!!

        I share the sentiment expressed by so many in this community, that the Peace Prize has become a joke.

        And I lament that so many progressives who would be up in arms if an EU-like body attempted to dictate policy in the US are cheerleading as the “small group of far-sighted statesmen” usurp the nation state in the continent of Europe.

  3. Heron

    I think it would really be best if the Nobel Peace Prize committee focused on awarding the prize after-the-fact, as a reward for notable behavior, instead of doing these bizarre preemptive awardings, as an impetus to future behavior. Awards just don’t work like that as any behaviorist can tell you.

    1. Dirk77

      Yes. It appears the committee is confusing a prize with a grant. They should have published an RFP, and have gotten Obama and the EU to submit proposals. These would have peer reviewed. And the Nobel Peace Grant would then be rewarded subject to periodic progress reviews.

  4. Garrett Pace

    If Romney is elected I wonder if he will win the Peace Prize next year – after all, he isn’t George W. Bush either.

    Or maybe they’ll give it to Obama again, who is also still not George W. Bush, even though his impersonation of the man is spot-on.

    1. monday1929

      They might consider awarding it to Fransisco Franco, who is still, still dead and who also is not George Bush. A double non-threat, if you will.

  5. Ed

    While it wouldn’t have prevented the Obama and Kissenger awards, I also think the practice of awarding these prizes to institutions shouldn’t have been allowed. I think the first ones were given to the Red Cross, so everyone overlooked the fact that giving a prize to an institution is a bad idea, and of course it got out of hand.

    The prize should always go to one or two individuals. If an institution does good work, then it should be given to the individuals responsible for running the institution at the time. Institutions last longer than individual people and have a history of going bad. The various science prizes are given to individual scientists, not to universities and research labs.

    The EU is especially a bad case since integration has advanced enough that it is close to being the government of a country, so this is more absurd than usual. Why not give the prize to Canada? Religious institutions also seem to be out of the question, though they do more than their share of social service works and generally wind up on the anti-war side of the argument.

    If the committee wanted to make the point it seems to be trying to make, they just could have awarded the prize to Jacques Delors, which would have the advantage in that Delors had left power well before the EU response to the financial crisis.

    I’m I correct in that the prize is awarded by the great and good of Norway? If so its worth pointing out that Norway has stayed out of the EU and its predecessors.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Noble Peace prize for the Sago Palm tree in my front yard.

      It’s peaceful and it doesn’t seem to war on anyone or anything, not on the dogs that pee on it nor the birds, the ants etc.

  6. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Can a dove ever win the Noble Peace prize one of these days?


    Doves are peaceful and any dove, just being himself or herself (as we are told often enough, just be yourself), reminds humans to be peaceful as well. That is influence, my human friends.

  7. Garrett Pace

    Is the basis of the EU award for the accomplishment of handcuffing Germany to the rest of the continent, thereby reducing the temptation to dominate in other ways? Preventing military mastery at the cost of economic mastery?

    Though of course Germans have always had very enthusiastic views about European unification.

  8. Aussie F

    The political subtext – anyone objecting to deepening social misery, chronic unemployment, malnutrition, state repression of organised labour, and domination by IMF techocrats is a war mongering fascist lunatic. Such a person should be locked up.

    By extension the bankers at Goldman Sachs and UBS are cosmopolitan paragons, the heirs to Erasmus of Rotterdam, and the repositories of every civic virtue.

  9. emptyfull

    What’s sad is that the next time a genuine proponent of peace receives it, the prize will be greatly diminished. How silly.

  10. Hugh

    Some information:

    These are the 5 idiots behind this year’s choice, basically a collection of distinguished Establishment Norwegians and has-been politicians:

    This year there were 231 nominations, of which 43 were organizations. So it wasn’t like, the committee didn’t have other possibilities. Those nominated are supposed to be kept secret for 50 years.

    The nomination process is very much also an Establishment affair:

    Members of national assemblies and governments of states

    Members of international courts

    University rectors; professors of social sciences, history, philosophy, law and theology; directors of peace research institutes and foreign policy institutes

    Persons who have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize

    Board members of organizations that have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize

    Active and former members of the Norwegian Nobel Committee; (proposals by members of the Committee to be submitted no later than at the first meeting of the Committee after February 1)

    Former advisers to the Norwegian Nobel Committee

    Unsurprisingly, there is no mechanism for nominations from ordinary people, as in petitions and such. This is perhaps why you will not see the indignados, the Occupy movement, or the Arab Spring on the podium.

    Here’s the full list of winners:

    BTW there have been times when no Peace Prize was awarded, most recently in 1972.

    1. p78

      A Lawyer, a former bishop, a self-employed advisor (perhaps she’s rich)… what are the professional credentials of these people?

  11. Hugh

    I think Ed pretty much nailed it when he pointed out the hypocrisy of a Norwegian committee selecting the EU for the Peace Prize when Norway has twice rejected membership to it in referenda.

    All this makes me wonder if Mario Draghi or Christine Lagarde will get the Nobel for Economics, or will it be another neoliberal/neoclassical like last year? Who knows the way things are going maybe they’ll give it to Angela Merkel and the Bundesbank, or Barclays, or Goldman Sachs, or maybe even Turbo Timmy and Helicopter Ben.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Perhaps one way to view ia that the Norgewian 99.99% rejected it while the Norwegian 0.01% has always had a lust for it.

    2. Jim

      The people of Norway are wise, as are the citizens of the UK.

      Those that have allowed the EZ to take over their lives? Too docile and less than brilliant.

      The EZ has made the UK the premier country in the continent of Europe, bar none.

  12. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    While the execution has been lacking to say the least, the idea is sound that we praise good deeds.

    But that isn’t enough.

    We must condemn bad deeds as well. So, there should be a Noble prize for War. The winner is to be shamed or treated worse.

  13. Nolan

    What a shame the Soviet Union never won the award, after all their hard work keeping order in Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

  14. Andrew Watts

    Watching Rocky and Bullwinkle taught me to hate authority when I was growing up. Don’t forget Fearless Leader!

  15. felix

    We have to consider ourselves lucky neither Hitler or Stalin are still alive, as these self-importan clowns would have probably given the prize to one of them.

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