This morning, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the global watchdog group faced with the daunting task of eliminating chemical weapons in Syria.
The move struck some as premature — especially considering there is no guarantee the group will even be successful in Syria, a country that is still in the middle of a bloody civil war that has killed more than 100,000 people.
— Julia Macfarlane (@juliamacfarlane) October 11, 2013
This isn't the first time the Nobel Peace Prize has been criticized. Last year, eyebrows were raised when it was awarded to the European Union.
In 2009, President Barack Obama was given the prize for "his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples," despite the fact that he had only been elected a year earlier. Obama hasn't exactly been a dove since then, threatening to launch military strikes, awkwardly enough, against Syria.
Indeed, the Nobel bears all the hallmarks of a political statement — strikes bad, chemical weapons destruction good — rather than an earnest effort to seek the person or persons who most advanced the cause for peace in the past year. After all, OPCW wouldn't even be in Syria were it not for concessions from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Where are their prizes?
This year, most people seemed to be rooting for Malala Yousafzai, the 16-year-old who became an activist for women's education after being shot in the head by the Taliban.
Very disappointed #Malala didn't win the Nobel peace prize. Nobody in the world right now is a more powerfully eloquent advocate for peace.— Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) October 11, 2013
Sure, it's hard to argue that the OPCW's mission isn't a worthy one, but its win reinforces the idea that the Nobel Peace Prize is not purely about recognizing brave individuals like Yousafzai.
"To understand the Nobel Peace Prize, one has to grasp that it’s not actually a prize for doing good," writes Indian journalist Praveen Swam. "It is, instead, a medium to propagate what might broadly be called the North Atlantic moral aesthetic of politics."
Overall, the decision to deny Yousafzai makes it hard to take the Nobel Peace Prize seriously, writes James S. Robbins in USA Today:
These prizes were ill-deserved, hurt the legitimacy of the Nobel brand and raised serious questions about the laureate selection process. Giving awards to the people on the ground – honoring the workhorses instead of the show horses — will help rebuild the authority of the Nobel Prize as a meaningful force for peace. [USA Today]
Ultimately, Yousafzai's organization reacted with the grace one would assume from a Nobel Peace Prize nominee:
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- How a degree from Duke University dashed my dreams of buying a home
- Half the world's population lives in these 6 countries
- This is why you can't trust the NSA. Ever.
- Why you should stop believing in evolution
- Innocent before proven guilty? The bizarre bipartisan rush to clear Rick Perry
- The secret to handling pressure like astronauts, Navy SEALs, and samurai
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
- ISIS and the echoes of the West's religious terror
- The single best way to help your kid succeed at school
- What Keeping Up with the Kardashians can teach America about interracial marriage
Subscribe to the Week