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Last Updated: 10/14/2009
Obama: Another Nobel Scandal
Jan Oberg

It is high time to have a discussion about this prize and bring it closer to what Alfred Nobel wanted it to be.

In his will, Alfred Nobel states the criteria for awarding the prize that bears his name. For all the five prizes, two general criteria must be met:

-          The prizes recognize deeds undertaken “during the preceding year”, and

-          Recognize achievements that have “conferred the greatest benefit on mankind”

Four additional expressions apply particularly to the peace prize (noted in the best analysis so far of this prize, Norwegian lawyer Fredrik Heffermehl's "Nobel's Vilje"), as it is meant to credit those who have:

-          Promoted "brotherhood among nations"

-          Contributed to the "abolition or reduction of standing armies"

-          Participated in "the holding and promotion of peace congresses"

-          Been "champions of peace"

Even with a broad contemporary interpretation of Nobel's words from 1895, President Obama has done none of it - although he has spoken a lot of elegant, visionary words about doing it, about us all ("we") doing it.

He has not reduced significantly the U.S. military presence in Iraq; rather, he has markedly stepped up the military presence in Afghanistan. His administration has not given up the Ballistic Missile Defence in Europe – so harmful to peace and enabling rather than deterring nuclear war – instead, his defence secretary has told us in so many words that the new BMD program will be much better. The visionary elements of his Prague speech on a nuclear weapons-free world were almost absent in his UN speech recently.

Obama has taken no visible steps to reduce his army; instead the enormous military budget he took over from Bush has increased.

Has he contributed to the brotherhood among nations? Perhaps, but not half as much as so many others, including the broad-based peace movements around the globe, and hundreds of individuals (at least) who could be better classified as “champions of peace”. But he has spoken a lot of nice words about it.

This is just another scandal in the series. The Nobel Committee has once again failed to honour Alfred Nobel's will. It has once again, as a bunch of retired politicians, shown no awareness of what peace is. It has again rewarded one of their own kin – a politician and thereby a government (of the world's most militaristic country).

How politically foolish to give it to him now instead of waiting and seeing whether he will DO what he says!

When will there be a serious debate about this bizarre institution? When will media and experts begin to raise questions? How long shall the world's peace people accept that they have been deprived of their peace prize?

Jan Oberg, PhD, is director of the transnational foundation for peace and future research (TFF). More articles at