Nobel Peace Prize: A Growing List of Questionable Choices


Barely into his first term as president, Mr. Obama won “for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.” But many critics, some supporters and even Mr. Obama himself questioned the choice, given that he had yet to achieve any significant result for the cause of world peace. “For what?” he recalled having asked in his autobiography upon learning that he had been picked.

Some commentators said the Nobel committee had made an “aspirational choice,” seeing potential in Mr. Obama’s hopes for a more tranquil world, punctuated by his desire to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But Mr. Obama authorized a surge of American troops into Afghanistan and presided over a vast expansion in the drone strike program. It would also be a few more years before most U.S. forces in Iraq would leave.

Mr. Kim, who went from dissident, exile and death-row prisoner during South Korea’s authoritarian era to become president, was awarded the prize for work to promote “democracy and human rights in South Korea and in East Asia in general, and for peace and reconciliation with North Korea in particular.” He went on a groundbreaking trip to North Korea, where he met with his counterpart, Kim Jong-il, advancing a thaw in relations and backing the goal of eventual reunification.

But the two countries have remained in a technical state of war, and under Kim Jong-il’s son and successor, Kim Jong-un, North Korea has developed an arsenal of nuclear weapons and missiles. In some ways, the prospect of peace between the two Koreas seems even more remote, despite meetings in the past few years between Kim Jong-un and his South Korean counterpart Moon Jae-in, and with President Trump.

The chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization and two statesmen of Israel were jointly recognized for “their efforts to create peace in the Middle East,” through the signing of the so-called Oslo Accords aimed at reconciliation between Palestinians and Israelis.

Mr. Rabin, then prime minister, was assassinated in 1995 by an Israeli fanatic who opposed a peace agreement. And efforts since then to resolve the conflict have repeatedly faltered, punctuated by bouts of violence and bitter recriminations. Doubts about a proposed two-state solution have only intensified in recent years, amid threats by Israel to annex territory in the occupied West Bank.


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