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  • Victor C. Bolles

What was the Committee thinking?

The Norwegian Nobel Committee has just awarded the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize to Columbian President Juan Manuel Santos for his efforts to end the decades long civil war waged by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia (known as FARC). What was the Committee thinking? While the effort to end this civil war is perhaps laudable, the effort was poorly negotiated and ultimately flawed as a result. The proposed peace agreement signed in Havana grants the FARC political objectives it could never have been able to achieve either by force of arms or by the ballot box. This flawed agreement was rejected by the Colombian people however President Santos has vowed to continue the efforts to reach some sort of an agreement although he had previously promised not to do so.

This award appears to be based on seemingly good intentions rather than actual results (I say seemingly because there are other factors at play here). It reminds me of another Nobel Peace Prize that was based on intentions, the 2009 award to President Barack Obama who had not yet finished his first year as president. President Obama talked the talk that social democrats of Scandinavia (and other liberals and progressives) liked to hear. The Committee’s announcement was fawning in its praise of president Obama.

“Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world's attention and given its people hope for a better future. His diplomacy is founded in the concept that those who are to lead the world must do so on the basis of values and attitudes that are shared by the majority of the world's population. For 108 years, the Norwegian Nobel Committee has sought to stimulate precisely that international policy and those attitudes for which Obama is now the world's leading spokesman.”

-Norwegian Nobel Committee, Oslo, October 9, 2009

President Obama’s diplomacy (spearheaded by Democratic Presidential Nominee Hillary Clinton) has had almost the opposite result from what the committee expected. President Obama’s international policy has led to war and strife, invasion and nuclear confrontation. Human suffering and desperate refugees are at levels not seen since the end of the Second World War. The reason can be seen in the Committee’s words. The values and attitudes of the majority of the world’s population are not the values that lead to peace and prosperity. It was American values and principles that led to seventy years of relative peace and a massive reduction of poverty. Real tangible achievements, not words.

If the Committee wanted to give the prize to efforts to achieve peace in Colombia they should have given it to Alvaro Uribe, who as Santos’ predecessor as president of Colombia had decimated the FARC (with US assistance) to the point where they realized their hope to achieve their goals did not lie on the battlefield (of course a peace agreement with Uribe would have been very different from the one negotiated by Santos).

By turning his back on American exceptionalism, President Obama has made the world a much more dangerous place. Let us hope that the next president does not make the same mistake (although such a president would be unlikely to win the Nobel Peace Prize – qué lástima).

Photo By Awalin - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

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