In 2009 the Nobel Prize committee drew much criticism for awarding the peace prize to Barack Obama, who had just become President of the United States of America and had, at the time, done precisely nothing. Since then President Obama has continued the war in Afghanistan, fought a war in Libya, and massively expanded the use of unmanned drone strikes for targeted assassinations in a wide range of countries including Pakistan and Yemen – thereby conducting deadly military operations in a larger number of different countries than any other US President since World War 2. This year’s prize didn’t even go to a person – it was awarded to the European Union. So what hell is going on with these strange choices?
The idea that the European Union has made a significant contribution to world peace is very uncertain. Sure there has been peace amongst the countries of the EU since its establishment, but that does not mean that the EU was responsible. Up until WWII European nations were largely Imperialistic, and fought wars with each other across the globe over territory. After world war 2 most European countries were tired of war, as well as seriously broke, and so turned their back on Imperial aggression, largely allowing their Empires to disintegrate without fighting. The establishment of the European Union was a reflection of this desire to turn away from war, but Europe would almost certainly have lived in peace even without it. But the really odd thing about the choice of the European Union for the peace prize is the timing – any contribution the EU made to world peace is a long time in the past, so why give this organisation the peace prize now?
I think that the reason is because the Nobel Peace prize no longer has anything to do with contributions which have been made towards world peace. Both of the two choices have mentioned – Barack Obama and the EU – share one thing in common: they are based on hope for the future rather than recognition of what has already been done. Barack Obama was awarded a prize because of his conciliatory rhetoric towards the global community; the Nobel Prize committee therefore gave him the prize in order to encourage him to live up to his ideals. They failed, and in hindsight the choice looks as ridiculous as many people said it was at the time. They are now awarding the prize to the EU because of fears that the debt crisis will lead to the break up of the European Union, the rise of extremist parties, and possible conflict between debtor and creditor nations. The Nobel committee are not recognising the EU for contributions made – they are trying to encourage it to live up to its ideals and ensure European peace and stability. Personally I think that history will show this choice to be just as ridiculous and just as futile.