Nobel Peace Prize: Why Not Lugar?
Indiana Writers Group column for Oct. 24 and thereafter
By Andrea Neal
To the Norwegian Nobel Committee:
I’ve been scratching my head for days trying to figure out why Al Gore won the Nobel Peace Prize and Dick Lugar hasn’t. I’m a teacher in Indiana and the question came up last week in my eighth-grade history class.
After all, Lugar’s efforts have resulted in the deactivation of thousands of nuclear warheads. Gore’s campaign to bring attention to global warming has resulted in an Academy Award-winning film called An Inconvenient Truth.
I’ve always assumed something as prestigious as the Nobel Peace Prize would go to someone who helped bring peace to our world in a measurable way. According to my Oxford Dictionary, peace means “tranquility” or “freedom from or the cessation of war.” Your 2007 prize announcement certainly defied my assumption.
To your credit, you tried to explain the link between peace and Gore’s environmental activism on your web site. “Extensive climate changes may alter and threaten the living conditions of much of mankind. They may induce large-scale migration and lead to greater competition for the earth's resources. Such changes will place particularly heavy burdens on the world's most vulnerable countries. There may be increased danger of violent conflicts and wars, within and between states.” (Wasn’t that the plot in the 2006 sci-fi thriller “Children of Men,” which portrayed man’s impending extinction due to terrorism and environmental destruction?).
Ever since you gave the big prize to Gore and the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, I’ve been stunned at how polite people have been about it. According to his press secretary, President Bush was “happy” for Gore. No doubt he performed cartwheels in the Oval Office.
We’ve all been there. It’s that feeling you get when you’re almost certain your child is going to get the big academic award or the sportsmanship trophy, and then somebody else’s child gets it. So you act like you’re happy, but inside you’re devastated.
Except in this case, our child is so much more qualified. And the conflicts the world is facing in 2007 are so much more critical than any potential conflicts we may face in some hypothetical future affected by global climate change.
In the rush to make a political statement, did committee members fail to notice that our globe has more than enough conflicts now? You’ve anointed Gore a “prophet” for his vision of Armageddon, while the world today hovers perilously close to nuclear war in the Middle East. Yet people “in the know” mock President Bush for daring to suggest that Iran’s insistence on acquiring nuclear arms and destroying Israel could somehow lead to World War III. That’s a blatant double standard.
Bottom line: Al Gore produced a documentary and can summon $100,000-per-appearance for lectures about changing weather patterns. Sen. Richard Lugar and his Democratic sidekick, former Sen. Sam Nunn of Georgia, have achieved nuclear arms reduction.
Lugar and Nunn were among the odds makers’ favorites for the prize in 2005. Instead the award went that year to the International Atomic Energy Agency and its director for their efforts to prevent nuclear energy from being used for military purposes. In 2006, the committee gave the prize to Muhammad Yunus of Bangladesh and the Grameen Bank for an innovative credit program that enables the poorest of the poor to lift themselves up by their bootstraps. This year would have been a perfect time for the committee to acknowledge Lugar and Nunn, who went to Russia in August to mark the 15th anniversary of the first Nunn-Lugar Act.
For the record, here are just a few of the accomplishments under the act:
• The deactivation or destruction of 7,191 strategic nuclear warheads, 662 intercontinental ballistic missiles, 485 missile silos and 906 nuclear air-to-surface missiles.
• Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan are nuclear weapons free. These countries were the third, fourth and eighth largest nuclear weapons powers in the world.
• The International Science and Technology Centers, which the United States co-sponsors, has helped 58,000 former weapons scientists find peaceful work. The International Proliferation Prevention Program has funded 750 projects involving 14,000 former weapons scientists and created 580 new high-tech jobs.
I can’t speak for the Nobel Prize Committee, but I think that’s an incredible list. The Nobel Peace Prize has lost all credibility when it cares more about politics than peace.
Andrea Neal is a teacher at St. Richard’s School in Indianapolis and adjunct scholar and columnist with the Indiana Policy Review Foundation. Contract her at firstname.lastname@example.org.