- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 16, 2002

Bill Clinton must be eating his heart out. When the Norwegian Nobel Prize Committee finally got around to honoring an American former president, they leap-frogged over Mr. Clinton to reach back to Jimmy Carter. When you think of all the time and effort expended by Mr. Clinton during his years in office in pursuit of a place in history and the coveted Nobel Peace prize, you almost have to feel sorry for him. Almost.
Still, it is hard to imagine any America president, except Jimmy Carter winning the prize. The reason for this has nothing to do with historical achievements and everything to do with the politics and ideology of the committee that makes the decision.
The Nobel Committee has made some very strange choices in the past: U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan (2001); Jody Williams and the International Campaign to Ban Land Mines (1997); Mikhail Gorbachev, but not Ronald Reagan (1990); PLO leader Yasser Arafat (1994); International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (1985); South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu (1984); left-wing Swedish socialist Alva Myrdal (1982); Le Duc Tho of North Vietnam, who declined with Henry Kissinger who accepted (1973).
The politicization of the Nobel Peace Prize is hardly a new story. Nonetheless, the trend reached an abysmal new low on Friday, when the news came that former President Jimmy Carter had been awarded the million-dollar prize. Of course, Mr. Carter did not receive this honor primarily because of his own achievements, but because the Nobel Committee wanted to administer a slap in the face of President George Bush. And it was very up front about it.
According to the statement issued in Oslo on Friday, the committee mentioned the Camp David Accords, a quarter of a century ago, and the work of the Carter Center for "conflict resolution on several continents." And then it said, "In a situation currently marked by threats of the use of power, Carter has stood by the principles that conflict must as far as possible be resolved through mediation and international cooperation based on international law, respect for human rights, and economic development."
If that sounds fairly anodyne, listen to Gunnar Berge, the Norwegian head of the committee, who did not mince words as he announced this year's winner. "With the position Carter has taken… the award must be seen as a criticism of the line the current U.S. administration has taken on Iraq." Asked by a reporter if this was a "kick in the leg" at Washington, Mr. Berge said, "The answer must be an unconditional 'yes.' "
To be honest, though, this will do more to damage the credibility of the Nobel Committee more than that of the American president. For one thing, it delegitimizes the award given to Mr. Carter, who was honored for his recent criticisms of the Bush administration's Iraq policy, a subject on which he has become a leader in the Democratic Party along with former Vice President Gore. (Perhaps Mr. Gore will be the winner next year?) Mr. Carter recently wrote in The Washington Post that "Belligerence and divisive voices now seem dominant in Washington," and advocated international conflict resolution, well, Carter-style, including inspections, mediation, international cooperation, what have you.
The problem is that the obviously political nature of the award also undermines the worth of those prices that have been given to obviously deserving individuals and yes, there are some of those, too.
Think about Aung San Suu Kyi in Burma, who won in 1991 and whose brave campaign for democracy has faced down the Burmese dictatorship. Or Kim Dae-jung of South Korea, who spent years in jail as a political reformer and almost lost his life in his cause. Or David Trimble and John Hume of Northern Ireland, who worked tirelessly for peace against very long odds and bravely placed their own political futures on the line. Or the 1983 prize that went to Lech Walesa, the Polish electrician in Gdansk, who helped crack the Soviet empire.
Unfortunately, no one who receives this prize these days can be certain that they have not become a pawn of the Nobel Committee. And who would want that with the possible exception of Bill Clinton. All in all, however, peace through spite just does not sound like a winning formula.


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