Nobel Peace Prize Awarded for Ending Chemical Weapons Use

An agency has won the Nobel Peace Prize for something that hasn't happened yet.

nobel-prize

An agency has won the Nobel Peace Prize for something that hasn’t happened yet.

Reuters (“Chemicals weapons watchdog OPCW wins Nobel Peace Prize“):

The global chemical weapons watchdog charged with overseeing destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile during a civil war won the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize on Friday.

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), a relatively small organization with a modest budget, dispatched its experts after a sarin gas attack killed more than 1,400 people in August.

Their deployment, supported by the United Nations, helped avert a U.S. strike against President Bashar al-Assad.

Thorbjoern Jagland, the head of the Nobel Peace Prize committee, said that the award was a reminder to nations with big stocks, such as the United States and Russia, to get rid of their own reserves “especially because they are demanding that others do the same, like Syria”.

“We now have the opportunity to get rid of an entire category of weapons of mass destruction….That would be a great event in history if we could achieve that,” he said.

It’s truly bizarre to celebrate work against chemical weapons in a year when they’ve been used more frequently and lethally than at any time in recent memory. Further, to the extent we’re celebrating the institutionalization of norms against chemical weapons use, it seems odd to recognize an organization that was created by the treaty that signified said institutionalization rather than the leaders who got us there.

The Nobel Peace Prize has in recent years become the international relations equivalent of the Department of Pre-Crime in “Minority Report,” reacting to things that might happen rather than recognizing achievements that have been, well, achieved. The most notable case of this, of course, was the award to Barack Obama weeks into his presidency ”for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.” After decades of lauding those who have ended or prevented wars, made major contributions to the cause of human rights, or helping feed starving people, the Prize now seems mostly to be awarded to causes and organizations that hope one day to do something about an issue that the Committee thinks would be swell.

As someone on my Twitter feed noted, none of the other Nobel Prizes are awarded in that manner. You don’t get the Nobel Prize in Literature for a great first draft.

 

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Mark Ivey says:

    Speaking as someone who spent quite a lot of time in a chemical protective suit, i can “appreciate” the reasoning for this years award.

  2. beth says:

    Why so dismissive? From the OPCW website:

    From Entry into Force of the CWC (April 1997) until 30/09/2013, the OPCW has conducted 5,286 inspections on the territory of 86 States Parties, including 2,731 inspections of chemical weapon-related sites. 228 chemical weapon-related sites have been inspected out of a total of 228 declared.
    100% of the declared chemical weapons stockpiles have been inventoried and verified.
    180 initial declarations have been received.
    100% of the declared chemical weapons production facilities (CWPFs) have been inactivated.

    Isn’t it possible they’ve received this award for the work they’ve already done which has been highlighted by the Syrian situation? It seems to me that 16 years of chemical weapon destruction should count for something.

  3. So, the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (1997) shouldn’t received one (they’re still landmines), the Dalai Lama (1989) shouldn’t have received one (Tibet isn’t free yet), Aung San Suu Kyi (1991) shouldn’t have received one (Burma/Myanmar is still a dictatorship), Norman E. Borlaug (1970) shouldn’t have received (there’s still hunger), etc.?

    Great logic there.

  4. beth says:

    @Timothy Watson: Yeah, ever since Barack Obama received one (and as a flaming liberal, even I thought that was just a goofy pick) conservatives have gone out of their way to diss the winners. I guess Obama got liberal black cooties all over the prize.

  5. PJ says:

    @James Joyner:

    the Prize now seems mostly to be awarded to causes and organizations that hope one day to do something about an issue that the Committee thinks would be swell.

    As someone on my Twitter feed noted, none of the other Nobel Prizes are awarded in that manner. You don’t get the Nobel Prize in Literature for a great first draft.

    It helps to read the will of Alfred Nobel:

    and one part to the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.

    The reduction of standing armies bit…

  6. BIll says:

    @PJ:

    The reduction of standing armies bit…

    Chicolini, The Minister of Defense for Fredonia, asked why his country should have a standing army answered-

    So we can save money on chairs.

  7. PD Shaw says:

    @beth: Perhaps a Nobel should go to whomever had the idea for the Convention and got countries to join. That checklist you quote is basically, “when countries decide to do something, we will show up and give them a sticker.”

  8. PJ says:

    @PD Shaw:

    Perhaps a Nobel should go to whomever had the idea for the Convention and got countries to join.

    So, the next time scientists do something that would award them a Nobel Prize, the government or whoever funded their research should get it instead?

  9. James Joyner says:

    @beth: But OPCW is merely the implementation arm of the CWC. Why not an award for those who shepherded its passage instead?

    @Timothy Watson: Of those, Borlaug is the only obvious choice. He made real strides toward ending hunger. I was meh on the landmines treaty, which the United States is not a party to, but at least the award went to the organizers and it was a real effort to limit a horrible tool of war that mostly kills innocents. The Dalai Lama and Aung San Suu Kyi are merely political actors seeking to further their own interest. What have they done to promote peace?

  10. beth says:

    @PD Shaw: Maybe you’d like to don a hazmat suit and rush into areas where chemical weapons have been used (like they did in Syria). I wouldn’t and think anyone who does so deserves any prize they’re given.

  11. beth says:

    @James Joyner: For the same reason I have more respect for the police officers who have to enforce the laws rather than the legislators who make them.

  12. gVOR08 says:

    I am getting a chuckle out of the supposedly liberal news these days. A few weeks ago it was all ‘Obama Doing Nothing About Syria!’, Obama Too Weak!!’, Obama Indecisive!!!’. Now it’s ‘Pst, don’t tell anybody, but they’re taking the chemical weapons out of Syria. Hush hush.’

    I felt giving the Nobel to Obama was a bit of a stretch, although for good motives. But, you do have to admit that by being elected he ended the most aggressively warlike regime on the planet, and prevented it from being replaced by “Bob bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran.”

  13. PD Shaw says:

    @beth: This is not a legislative system; its a voluntary compliance system. When a country declares something, OPCW goes in and verifies what they’ve elected to declare. The tricky part is getting the country to fully declare.

  14. Just Me says:

    This one isn’t as dumb as Obama and I still think awarding it to Arafat was the dumbest ever.

    But here the fact that the award comes with a check it makes some sense-the money at least can be used to help reach the goal.

  15. @James Joyner:

    The Dalai Lama and Aung San Suu Kyi are merely political actors seeking to further their own interest. What have they done to promote peace?

    Wow, just wow, Aung San Suu Kyi was under house arrest for 15 years plus being arrested on several occasions, and she’s simply looking to increase her own influence or power?

    Do you hold the same opinion of Samuel Adams, Thomas Jefferson, etc.?

    And you’re saying there’s no relationship between basic human rights and peace?

  16. bill says:

    the nobel is like the grammy’s- no substance at all. obama got one for….what? and look into the past to see the idiocy of who get’s one- it’s like time mags “man of the year” bs.