Award Ethics: Just In Case You Forgot, The Nobel Peace Prize Is Confirmed As Having No Integrity Whatsoever

…sort of like the Academy Awards.

The ex-Secretary for the Nobel Prize Geir Lundestad admitted in a recent interview that President Barack Obama did not deserve the 2009 prize but was given  the award to strengthen Obama politically. This is, or should be, no surprise. However, the brazen admission is nauseating.

Not only were there real, deserving candidates for the prize. it is clear that they were passed over in a cynical effort to influence U.S. politics and policy. In his memoir entitled Secretary of Peace, Lundestad writes, “No Nobel Peace Prize ever elicited more attention than the 2009 prize to Barack Obama . . . Even many of Obama’s supporters believed that the prize was a mistake. In that sense the committee didn’t achieve what it had hoped for.”

By using Nobel’s honor this way, the committee devalued the award for all past and future recipients, no matter how deserving. Lundestad, meanwhile, shows that those who have controlled the most ethics oriented of major awards have no comprehension of ethics. His regrets about the award being given to an individual who had done nothing to earn it arise only from the fact that it didn’t work. Indeed it did not, as Obama drone-killed hundreds without due process, carried on illegal bombing in Libya, refused to act when Syria used chemical weapons, and generally practiced feckless, timid, principle-free politics in international affairs. That, however, was moral luck, and the argument is consequentialism. It would have been equally wrong to give the award to Obama if he had achieved real success in promoting world peace afterwards.

I want to be explicit that no one should hold Barack Obama responsible for this fiasco in any way. Awarding  the prize was unfair to him as well. Nor should he have allowed the honor to influence his decision-making at any time during his Presidency. There is no evidence that he did.

Once an award has been given based on politics and ideology rather than merit, it is no longer an award, but a lie. The Nobel Peace Prize is meaningless, not because it was awarded unethically once, but because there is no evidence that it won’t be again, the next time the Committee thinks they can manipulate a nation’s leadership and policies.


Pointer: Res Ipsa Loquitur


39 thoughts on “Award Ethics: Just In Case You Forgot, The Nobel Peace Prize Is Confirmed As Having No Integrity Whatsoever

  1. For almost a decade it’s been well-known that Obama was given the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize simply for not being George W. Bush. Nominations for the prize have to be in by the beginning of February, by which time Obama bad been in office about two weeks, no more. He had barely unpacked his move-in boxes at the White House. The point that the Europeans were trying to make is that “we hate the Republican party. Why can’t you be more like us?”

    Four American presidents have won the prize, but only three for anything they did as president. Jimmy Carter’s 2002 award, 22 years after he left the White House, doesn’t count, since it was awarded for his post-presidential work, and probably awarded as a snub to GWB who was then prosecuting the war on terror after 9/11.

    Arguably, Woodrow Wilson’s award, for founding the League of Nations, was of questionable value, since the League turned out to be a failure. The only award to an American president, for actions taken as president, that was unquestionably deserved was, ironically, to a Republican, to Teddy Roosevelt for negotiating the Treaty of Portsmouth and ending the Russo-Japanese War.

    The award started to really lose its luster in the 1970s, when the awarding committee, just like the UN, started to lose its way, and didn’t examine the character of those it gave the award to. I think it completely sank beyond redemption in 1994, when it gave the award to Yasser Arafat, a lifelong terrorist.

    • “Arguably, Woodrow Wilson’s award, for founding the League of Nations, was of questionable value, since the League turned out to be a failure. The only award to an American president, for actions taken as president, that was unquestionably deserved was, ironically, to a Republican, to Teddy Roosevelt for negotiating the Treaty of Portsmouth and ending the Russo-Japanese War.”

      1. Wilson is consequentialism. The idea of the LON was innovative and promising, and undeniably in the service of peace. His award was deserving.
      2. TR’s award is strange, since he essentially ended the war by threatening war.

  2. It was a mistake for Obama to accept the prize. It proved for his opponents that he was a narcissistic weenie, and put his defenders in a position of foolishly agreeing with the award, or muttering about how well respected a short-term Senator from Illinois already was internationally. It was a bad political decision, confirming to many that the new President was a preening, shallow fool.

      • I think that’s…. Unreasonable. God, I’m about to go to bat for Obama. Dammit.

        Obama, like almost every other president, had narcissistic tendencies, and so I don’t think it was in his DNA to refuse, and perhaps for that reason accepting the award was unethical, but you can do ethical things for unethical reasons…. And I’m not sure that the most ethical thing to do for him would be to refuse the honor.

        I mean…. He’d just been elected on the promise that he’d introduce a more gentle America to the world, and he may even have thought that he’d be able to deliver. On top of that it’s the president’s job to project certain… je ne sais quoi…. things. Signals? What kind of message would he be sending if he refused?

        • I think he could have explained a refusal by simply saying he had every intention of making the world a more peaceful place, but simply hadn’t yet had the opportunity to accomplish that, while recommending others whom he felt were more deserving of the award. That would have been a fantastic message, and would have made him an ethics hero in my eyes.

          • I agree with you, but it would have been exemplary behavior. I’m sure Obama felt that he would be insulting the committee after an attempted compliment and expression of faith. I can’t fault him. Turning down a major honor is a big deal, and turning down a Nobel is unprecedented.

            But I always loved Saroyan refusing to accept the Pulitzer, saying that the judges weren’t qualified to tell him him what was his best work, only he was. He was, of course, a magnificent asshole. Obama, whatever his flaws, is a nice guy.

              • The Peace Prize? I forgot about Lê Đức Thọ, who got the PP with Kissinger—who else? (If it walks like a Đức and quacks like a Đức…)

                By the way, do you think this attitude in that era’s Nobel cabal explains the economics prize to Paul Krugman?

                • Jean-Paul Sartre was awarded the Literature Prize but refused, stating, “A writer must refuse to allow himself to be transformed into an institution, even if it takes place in the most honourable form.”

                  I’m not all that familiar with Krugman’s work. I looked up why he was given the prize and it seems to be because of New Trade Theory, which only works in post-WW2 Japan. I see he is a Liberal, which fits into the narrative that the Prize has a liberal slant. Normally, I wouldn’t find that troubling, but as economist friend is fond of telling me, “There is a reason most economists are conservative.”

                  • To be clear, the Nobel Prize in Economics is really an award given by Keynesians to whoever is the most devout Keynesian.

                    It, like the Oscars, is a big progressive self-congratulation as they slap each other on the back for being the most devoted to progressivism.

                    • Rather than indulging solely in ideological labelling, have a look for yourself at some of his work. A couple of days ago, he did a Q&A on the issues raised by tariffs, currency and trade.

                    • 1) Different (and opposing) schools of economic thought may or may not arrive at similar answers to economic questions, but if one school arrives at an answer that seems sort of right but relies on very very faulty premises or reasoning, that doesn’t mean that school of thought is reliable.

                      2) I wonder very deeply inside my soul if more than half of Krugman’s opposition to the tariff’s are:
                      a) Trump proposed them,
                      b) he’s not inherently against tariffs as a tool, but rather thinks there are different circumstances to use them.

                      3) I’m familiar with Krugman’s work. I’m not impressed.

                    • I repeat: “Rather than indulging solely in ideological labelling…”

                      I don’t disagree with calling him a Keynesian: the point is, so what?

                      So, which of his dozen points in that article do you take issue with?

                    • My point is that the Nobel Prize for Economics is political endorsement just like the Peace Prize. In that way, the summary label is quite effective.

                      It’s all diluted nonsense to bolster a particular worldview in the eyes of people who don’t pay much attention. It is nothing else.

                    • And again: so what?

                      The format of your argument is simple:
                      1. Keynesians are bad
                      2. Krugman is a Keynesian
                      3. Ergo QED Krugman is bad.

                      We have a surfeit of such ideological labeling in today’s world, and at this point all it’s doing is feeding the differences that keep us apart.

                      IMHO the solution is to get specific. What are the practical implications of a given argument? What do you have to say about Krugman’s specific comments on trade issues, for example? That would be a substantive discussion.

                      I’m done with dueling ideological label-wars; it’s a waste of your time and mine alike.

                    • I hope you aren’t merely projecting your own evaluation of other people onto me. Because here’s a distinct option, that I actually espouse:

                      1) Keynesians are mostly wrong because they rely on wrong premises and wrong logic
                      2) Krugman is a Keynesian
                      3) Therefore Krugman is mostly wrong

                    • And no, I don’t need to debate about that article where he’s against tariffs now though he was for them a few years ago.

                      The topic was the dilution and politicization of the various Nobel Prizes.

                    • Your contribution to the self-described “topic” was:

                      “To be clear, the Nobel Prize in Economics is really an award given by Keynesians to whoever is the most devout Keynesian.

                      It, like the Oscars, is a big progressive self-congratulation as they slap each other on the back for being the most devoted to progressivism.”

                      I suggest that is pure ideological name-calling, devoid of substantive commentary. If you’ve got something meaty to say, say it. Otherwise you’re just contributing to an echo chamber.

                    • It’s hardly name calling. It’s an observation of what seems to be the general trend with these awards.

                      What exactly is your beef here? Since you wanted me to debate the finer points of things Krugman has asserted in the past, I can only assume it has something to do with him regarding his award.

  3. I’m not really surprised by any of this. At this point, we are about nine years after the fact (3 since the book was published). Though I’m not sure when Obama was nominated, the nominations closed 11 days after he took office. Out of 205 people, he was the chosen by a parliament that consists of 5 people (most representing the makeup of the Norwegian parliament). Though he was unanimously chosen on October 5th, he will initially oppose by 3/5 members of the group who were later persuaded by the head of the committee. That right there should have told been why he should not have been elected.

    According to Wiki this is what the head of the committee had to say on the issue: “We have not given the prize for what may happen in the future. We are awarding Obama for what he has done in the past year. And we are hoping this may contribute a little bit for what he is trying to do,” noting that he hoped the award would assist Obama’s foreign policy efforts. (this last statement should have been another red flag that it was a political effort).

    Though we are not sure what accomplishments that they are specifically referring to, the head of the committee stated it was a speech Obama gave in Cairo 2009 which helped push them over the edge. This speech regarded Islam, prevention of nuclear arms, climate change, and giving more control to the UN.

    During an interview with the NYT the head of the committee ignored the question regarding his political influence and answered, “no one could deny that ‘the international climate’ had suddenly improved, and that Mr. Obama was the main reason…’We want to embrace the message that he stands for.”

    I will give the media credit on this. For the most part, even his supporters thought he didn’t deserve the award (or called it premature). A lot of them felt it was an attack on Bush. Authors from Slate and the NYT called on Obama not to accept the award (I think either way he was in an impossible situation) and according to Lundestand he almost didn’t.

    Obama’s legacy is tainted by a lot of different things, but this shouldn’t be one of them. I believe he wanted to live up to the expectations which were trusted upon him, but at some point realized given our position as a global power, our wars, and our problems with Iran that it was never going to happen.

  4. I told my friends at the time he should have declined and was sharply rebuked with “That’s just not done.” I didn’t have the facts at the time, but indeed it has been done. Even if he would have been the first, he should have turned it down, and he certainly didn’t earn it.

  5. It’s easy to understand why he did not decline the award. He is a politician. Sure wish he had lived up to it. What a mess.

  6. I think we all knew that the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to President Obama based on ideology and not anything related to efforts or accomplishments related to peace. I’ve never held Barack Obama personally responsible for the actions of the Nobel Peace Prize committee, what I hold Obama responsible for is his own actions after the fact, he knew without any doubt that he was not deserving of the award and he did not have the integrity to refuse the award. From the moment President Obama accepted the award the character of Barack Obama the person was revealed and it permanently tainted him in my eyes as a self-serving ideological hack.

    The Nobel Peace Prize Committee literally bastardized* the peace prize by intentionally corrupting the award for political reasons and turned the award into an ideological propaganda tool. Nobel Prize committee’s and their awards have been permanently damaged by this ignominious debacle.

    * Bastardize: corrupt or debase (something such as a language or art form), typically by adding new elements.

    Since the Nobel Peace Prize Committee chose to award the Nobel Peace Prize to bolster the President of the United States politically, can’t we legitimately say that those were foreign agents using fake propaganda to intentionally tamper in United States politics and each one of the committee members and their country should be severely sanctioned by the United States? I wonder; does anyone think there may have been some collusion between the DNC or prominent Progressive politicians in the United States with these foreign agents to bolster President Obama politically? Maybe Mueller investigation team should start investigating this tampering by foreign agents.

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