- - Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Last Friday, the Nobel Committee in Oslo announced the joint winners of this year’s Peace Prize: Pakistan’s Malala Yousafzai and India’s Kailash Satyarthi.

For several moments, there was stunned silence. It was the first time in many years that critics of past Nobel Peace Prize winners (including me) had absolutely nothing bad to say about this decision.

As far as I’m concerned, it was a rare and inspired choice.

Miss Yousafzai is a well-known, 17-year-old activist for girls’ education rights. She survived a 2012 assassination attempt by the Taliban, and her campaign for democracy, liberty and freedom for all individuals has created millions of admirers worldwide.

Mr. Satyarthi’s equally admirable campaign has been mostly hidden in the shadows. The 60-year-old founded Bachpan Bachao Andolan (Save the Childhood Movement), which strongly supports child rights and firmly opposes human trafficking.

The joint winners clearly have enormous respect for one another. As CNN’s Laura Smith-Spark wrote, “Yousafzai spoke with Satyarthi by phone Friday, and they agreed to work together to advocate that every child is able to go to school. She said they also decided to try to build a stronger relationship between their countries, which are longtime rivals.”

Miss Yousafzai also wants Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to attend this ceremony. In her view, a Pakistani Muslim and an Indian Hindu receiving this award “gives a message to people of love between Pakistan and India, and between different religions.”

It remains to be seen whether this particular request will come to fruition. With the eyes of the world watching, I’d be surprised if it didn’t.

To their credit, the Nobel Committee definitely got one right for a change. If they think this will make up for past mistakes, they’re sadly mistaken.

The Nobel Peace Prize has gradually transformed into a heavily politicized award for left-wing elites to celebrate marginal causes and figures. While there have certainly been some acceptable (or tolerable) recipients over the years, there have also been some strange choices.

Tyrants like North Vietnam’s Le Duc Tho (1973) and Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat (1994) are on the list. Guatemala’s Rigoberta Menchu (1992) is still there, in spite of disputed facts about her life story. The United Nations, a meaningless entity in today’s society, received an award with then-Secretary-General Kofi Annan (2001) as well as its peacekeeping forces (1988). The International Atomic Energy Agency (2005), Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and Al Gore (2007) and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (2013) are head-scratchers, too.

Two U.S. presidents have also received the Nobel Peace Prize for questionable achievements.

Jimmy Carter won the 2002 award for his “decades of untiring effort to find peaceful solutions to international conflicts.” His ferocious opposition to Israel must have been the clincher, I guess. Meanwhile, Barack Obama won the 2009 award for, if you can believe it, his “extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.” Fascinating. Before the Islamic State became a threat, what success did the president ever have on this front, exactly?

Then again, we shouldn’t be surprised by the names on this list. As The Wall Street Journal’s Bret Stephens wrote in an Oct. 2009 column, “most of the prize winners draw from the obscure ranks of the sorts of people the late Oriana Fallaci liked to call ‘the Goodists.’”

This sizable group of individuals has a collective mindset in which “all conflict stems from avoidable misunderstanding.” To them, the “world’s evils spring from technologies, systems, complexes (as in ‘military-industrial’) and everything else except from the hearts of men, where love abides.” The Goodists “mistake wishes for possibilities,” establish “a higher premium on their own moral intentions than on the efficacy of their actions,” and will always “champion education as the solution, whatever the problem.”

It’s fair to say this year’s Nobel Peace Prize co-winners fit within some, albeit not all, of the parameters. The political and economic situations they both faced were quite different. In Miss Yousafzai’s case, the terrorist group’s assassination plot against her wasn’t avoidable or part of any misunderstanding.

Perhaps we should call them neo-Goodists, if only to create a subtle distinction.

To conclude, there will much optimism in December, when Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi deservedly receive the Nobel Peace Prize. As a realist by nature, I fully expect the Nobel Committee to revert to form in 2015 and disappoint us, again.

Michael Taube is a contributor to The Washington Times.

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