Now that the ruckus has subsided over the Nobel Prize for Peace to Barack Obama, the time has come to examine an issue largely overlook in recent years. Here is the question: Does the prize hold any relevance, or is it nothing more than a popularity contest judged by a handful of Norwegians with a distorted world vision?
The Peace Prize, according to the Nobel Foundation, should go to a person who, during the preceding year, did the most "for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses." The Norwegian Nobel Committee, however, the small panel that decides who receives what used to be one of the world's most prestigious honors, added to the criteria the protection of the world's climate, thus allowing Al Gore and the International Panel on Climate Change to share the prize in 2007.
So, who received the award last year? That was Martti Ahtisaari, a former Finnish president and, according to the Nobel Committee, a "citizen of the world" who, in 2005, became the Special Envoy of the UN Secretary-General to come up with a plan for the future of Kosovo. The Ahtisaari Plan of 2007 promoted Albanian independence for the Christian heart of Serbia. The plan drew harsh and immediate criticism from the Serbian government, particularly in light of Muslim-backed terrorism against the Christian population of Kosovo that resulted in the damage or destruction of approximately 150 Christian sites between 1999 and 2004.
The awards to Obama and Ahtisaari were not the first to be greeted with bewilderment. The Gore award in 2007 and Jimmy Carter's in 2002 were among the more recent curious selections of the past twenty years.
Mikhail Gorbachev received the 1990 award for his part in ending the Cold War, which he could not have accomplished without the politics and policies of President Ronald Reagan, whom the Norwegians believed was unworthy of a share in the prize.
Rigoberta Menchu got her 1992 award "in recognition of her work for social justice and ethno-cultural reconciliation based on respect for the rights of indigenous peoples." The Nobel Foundation let her keep it, even after learning her autobiography was a lie. One might call it a disingenuous indigenous story.
Yasser Arafat, an avowed terrorist widely considered someone who enjoyed the company of young boys, and who once packed heat when addressing the UN General Assembly, shared the prize in 1994.
Kofi Annan and the United Nations sharing the prize in 2001 may be the most outlandish decision in the controversial history of the prize, one akin to holding up Adolph Hitler as a champion of peace. Although Annan took the money and a bow, he admitted three years later he did nothing to stop the slaughter of nearly one million Tutsis in Rwanda in 1994. "The international community failed Rwanda and that must leave us always with a sense of bitter regret," he said.
Sports analogies have a way of keeping controversial decisions from becoming slam dunks. Several stories about Obama's prize pointed out that winning Rookie of the Year does not qualify one for the Hall of Fame, or sentiments along that line.
A recent statement regarding this year's Heisman Trophy brought to mind its relationship to the Nobel Peace Prize selection. Here's what happened. A college football announcer stated there's talk that University of Houston quarterback Case Keenum is a serious candidate for the Heisman Trophy, given each year to the person selected as the nation's best collegiate football player. The color guy quickly sacked that comment by saying Keenum doesn't belong in the conversation.
He could have said Keenum is one of several good players in the running this year. He could have said there's still a half-season of football to be played, but Keenum certainly deserves consideration. He could have said Keenum has given some strong performances this season and that he hopes Kennum continues to have a good year. But he didn't. Instead, he scoffed at the player who leads the nation in total offense with 2,501 passing yards, 76 rushing yards, and 19 touchdowns.
One can only assume "the other guy in the booth" based his snobby snub on the fact Keenum does not play in a conference with an automatic Bowl Championship Series berth. In other words, he's not a member of the self-ascribed elite and doesn't deserve even the utterance of his name in conversation.
How like the peace prize selection process this sounds: A small group of individuals of dubious importance deciding who deserves the highest accolade they have to offer, regardless of talent, accomplishments, or other tangible measures of success.
And the world buys into it each year.