The eminences who convey the Nobel Peace Prize have taken a jolt from America.
In 2009, they gave US President Barack Obama their esteemed honor “for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.”
He had been in office less than a year, but never mind: He wasn’t George W. Bush, whose staunch Americanism always chafed Old World sensitivities.
Obligingly, the Nobel laureate in the White House has tried on many fronts to expand government toward proportions characteristic of countries in Europe and Scandinavia.
On Nov. 2, Americans told their president what they think of this liberal veer. They voted Republicans back into office in Congress and state governments in historic numbers.
What must members of the Norwegian Nobel Prize Committee be thinking?
Or are they distracted by problems at the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, to which they awarded half the Peace Prize in 2007?
Credibility of the IPCC came into doubt after a sequence of errors, all skewed toward an aggressive political agenda. In response to this most unscientific pattern, the InterAcademy Council in August called for “fundamental reform” of the IPCC, embodiment of the supposed consensus on the need for humans to sacrifice wealth and freedom to a poorly understood warming threat.
The other half of the 2007 award went to former US Vice-President Al Gore, high prophet of global warming doom, who, despite the clear jeopardy of his political party, went prominently absent from US midterm election campaigns.
Gore hunkered down after the late-May announcement that he and his wife of 40 years were divorcing, followed almost immediately by a spate of allegations and rumors that, if true, will not enhance his standing as a pitch man for green causes—or anything else.
Reversals are the stuff of politics, of course. That’s one of many reasons why Nobel judges should, if they care about durability of the award, suppress the urge to use their decisions to make political statements.
(Online Nov. 5, 2010; author’s e-mail: email@example.com)