Al Gore

How to Win a Nobel Peace Prize

Al Gore did it-you can too!

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In the last decade, Al Gore has won the triple crown: an Oscar, a Nobel Peace Prize, and (this is disputed) Florida. Now, winning an Oscar is hard—you usually have to pretend to be handicapped, or speak with a semi-convincing English accent, or spend hours in an uncomfortable period costume. And Gore himself would have trouble telling you how to claim the Sunshine State. But the Nobel Prize is easy. The important thing to remember is that peace doesn't have much to do with it. One of the very first winners was Theodore Roosevelt, a man who described the Spanish-American War as "fun." The Peace Prize is more of a Humanitarian of the Year Award, with humanitarian defined loosely enough to include Yasser Arafat and Henry Kissinger.

Broadly speaking, there are three ways to get it:

1. Be a famous humanitarian. This is the obvious approach. It is also the hardest. The Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to Albert Schweitzer, who built hospitals in Africa; to Norman Borlaug, who developed high-yield strains of wheat; to Muhammed Yunus, who devised a new method of giving loans to low-income entrepreneurs; and to the Dalai Lama, who…actually, I'm not sure what the Dalai Lama does, but evidently it impresses a lot of people.

Does your achievement need to be related to peace? It can—as with, say, Linus Pauling, who capped off an impressive scientific career with a crusade against above-ground nuclear testing. But the peace angle isn't necessary. It isn't even strictly necessary that your accomplishments be as impressive in practice as they are in your intentions. (You'll note that Gore has not actually stopped global warming.) The best way to get credit in Oslo is to conduct your humanitarian pursuits while working with some vast global agency. Indeed, if you don't think you have the chops to, say, revolutionize Third World agriculture, you can always get a Peace Prize the next way:

2. Start an international organization. Or, if you can swing it, be an international organization. Over the years, the Nobel Peace Prize has gone to Amnesty International, Doctors Without Borders, the UN's International Labor Organization, and the Red Cross. Gore himself will share his prize with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

The Peace Prize has also gone to Cordell Hull, who helped found the United Nations; to Dag Hammarskjöld, the former head of the United Nations; to Kofi Annan, another former head of the United Nations; and to a wide range of delegates to and officials within the United Nations. UNICEF won it once. The UN's refugee office won it twice. When Annan took the prize, he shared it with the entire United Nations. And before there was a United Nations, the Nobel committee promoted the League of Nations. (In 1919 it gave the prize to League founder Woodrow Wilson, whose previous contribution to peace was to plunge the United States into the most pointless major war in its history.) Before there was a League of Nations, the Nobel committee honored groups like the Inter-Parliamentary Union and the Institute for International Law.

Now, some of those organizations do worthy things. But they don't have much to do with peace, unless you define peace as "international cooperation." Sometimes, as with Amnesty International and Doctors Without Borders, that means a bottom-up movement of individuals collaborating across national lines. More often the award honors institutions of global governance, whether or not they're particularly pacific. One year it went to the UN's peacekeeping forces, which advance the cause of peace by shooting people.

You'll see a similar trend in the non-institutional figures who win the Peace Prize. Occasionally it goes to a Carl von Ossietzky, a Martin Luther King, an Andrei Sakharov, a Lech Walesa—that is, to a person nonviolently struggling against an oppressive state. But the award is as likely to go to a current or former government official: a George Marshall, a Willy Brandt, a Mikhail Gorbachev, a Jimmy Carter. Some of those statesmen aren't exactly pacifists, which leads us to the third and easiest way to win the Peace Prize:

3. Kill a lot of people, then stop. In 1973, the Nobel Peace Prize was shared by Henry Kissinger and Le Duc Tho. Kissinger's CV included the "secret" bombing of Cambodia and the "Christmas" bombing of North Vietnam; just a month before his prize was announced, he was complicit in the coup that installed a brutal dictatorship in Chile. So why did he win? Because he and Tho had reached a truce to end the Vietnam War. Tho wasn't a particularly peaceful man either, but at least he had the common courtesy to refuse the award.

More recently, the prize went to Palestine Liberation Organization chief Yasser Arafat, a man whose career to that point had been spent arranging terrorist assaults on civilians. He shared the award with Israel's Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Rabin; the three of them, like Kissinger and Tho, had negotiated an end to a war. In this case the peace agreement didn't hold, and both the state of Israel and various Palestinian groups went on to produce many more corpses. So don't worry if you develop a taste for blood during the initial stage of your Peace Prize campaign: You're free to resume killing once Mr. Nobel's money is safely in your hands.

By this method, the prize could conceivably go next year to Dick Cheney, the Janjaweed, or anyone else in a position to bring a war to a temporary stop. That someone could be you!

My advice to anyone who wants to follow in the footsteps of Linus Pauling and the Dalai Lama is to fuse approaches two and three. Start an NGO devoted to murder and mayhem—something on the SPECTRE/Al Qaeda/Medellin Cartel model—and then agree to a truce. In theory, you could accomplish this in an afternoon, but to make a splash big enough to impress the Nobel judges it's probably best to bargain with something larger than the Nashville Police Department's hostage negotiations unit. Choose your target wisely.

Either that, or make a movie.

Jesse Walker is reason's managing editor.

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  1. JESSE FOR PRESIDENT!!!!!!!

    the winning (and this is disputed) of Florida was a great opening to a cool article. kudos!

    snap snap snap!

  2. “and to the Dalai Lama, who…actually, I’m not sure what the Dalai Lama does, but evidently it impresses a lot of people.”

    lol…

  3. You’ll note that Gore has not actually stopped global warming.

    But you know he would if those reactionaries at Hit and Run weren’t holding him back.

  4. and to the Dalai Lama, who…actually, I’m not sure what the Dalai Lama does, but evidently it impresses a lot of people.

    He’s a very peaceful person who talks a lot about being peaceful. Plus, he’s a little asian dude in a big robe that is always happy. Who better to give the Nobel to?

    Oh, and some Hollywood types like to pretend they’re Tibetan Buddhists, so that might have something to do with it.

    In all seriousness, I saw him speak once and he’s actually a pretty funny guy.

  5. In all fairness to the committee, could it be, like the Oscars, there isn’t always in every single year a person or organization who clearly deserves the prize?

    “God, the nominees are a right shower this year…”

  6. plus, Marcvs, he’s a pretty good golfer. Big hitter, the Lama. Long.

  7. Excellent analysis.

  8. I will give you no money but at the moment of your death you will have complete consciousness.

    So, I got that going for me, which is nice.

  9. ” winning an Oscar is hard-you usually have to…spend hours in an uncomfortable period costume.”

    Let it not be said that Al has not paid his Actors Equity dues- the rufus Laureate may be seen modeling the red asbestos union suit of his alter-ego , Underdog, at

    http://adamant.typepad.com/seitz/2007/03/some_like_it_ho.html

  10. Jesse, I believe this is your finest article yet. And that’s not faint praise.

  11. Minor quible. WW1 was not the most the pointless major war in American history. (and I am not talking about the current unpleasantness.) Rather, that distinction must go to the War of 1812.

  12. Bravo! Bravo! I much doubt that Dick Cheny could win the Nobel Peace prize. He hasn’t made any advancements in psudo science that promotes further taxation.

  13. So how was the war of 1812 pointless? for who us or Britan?

  14. No, no, no! The War of 1812 was not pointless! It demonstrated:

    a) the U.S. Navy was capable of kicking the Royal Navy’s ass (see U.S.S. Constitution, etc).

    b) that the United States would continue to get along just fine if Washington, D.C. were burned to the ground – sadly, the last time this opportunity has been taken.

  15. The War of 1812 assured that the US could massacre Indians without interference from the British,in return for which we would stop getting creamed invading Canada.

  16. the United States would continue to get along just fine if Washington, D.C.
    were burned to the ground

    Nice, but this presumes a Madison-like evacuation to the hinterlands, a scenario less-probable today, given beltway traffic during the British-Invasion Hour. Then again, would anyone really mind if the Brits captured Dubbya?

  17. “Kill a lot of people, then stop.”
    HILARIOUS (except for the part about it being, you know…true)

    Also, I’d like to agree with ‘Kenny’. Considering how no lands changed hands (all returned to the pre-war boundaries) and Britain didn’t change its impressment/maritime policies, it didn’t really accomplish much did it?

    Basically, we fought a bunch of battles for the fishing rights to the Gulf of St. Lawrence. WHA-HOO.

  18. Great post, with one quibble. That “brutal dictatorship” in Chile which Kissinger assisted prevented a civil war, promised to return the country to civil rule on a date certain, which it did, and laid the foundation for the most prosperous country in South America today. Some brutality! Kissinger has other problems, though, and in sum the point is valid.

  19. VM,

    I caddied for the Dalai Lama once.

  20. Rather, that distinction must go to the War of 1812.

    When was the war of 1812?!!

  21. It is ironic that both Menachem Begin, who was head of the Irgun, a Jewish terrorist group that massacred 254 people, (Mostly women, children, and old men)at Deir Yassin in 1948, and Yassir Arafat, (who egged on numerous terrorist attacks on civilians) both got the prize. People who are bitter enemies are so often alike.

    So, kill a lot of people and wait a few years.

    Rush Limbaugh called the award a “joke”, but as we can see, there have been worse choices. Rush was acually nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize himself by an organization who said he promotes liberty. Maybe next year Rush!

  22. “the United States would continue to get along just fine if Washington, D.C. were burned to the ground”

    I don’t know, does that sound even a wee bit like treason? Would this be any better or worse if it had been written in a liberal blog somewhere? Or uttered by bin Laden on his recent tape?

    Washington DC is a city of nearly 600000 people, and last time I checked it was part of the United States. I know someone there. You might too.

    If you don’t like Congress or whatever, say it. But don’t talk like a terrorist just because you think it makes you sound clever or tough or whatever.

  23. “Rush was acually nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize himself by an organization who said he promotes liberty.”

    Yeah – and Rush is infinitely more qualified than Al Gore to get the prize.

  24. Do you want to know how to win a Nobel Peace Prize? Its really simple, all you have to do is hate America and hate our Troops. If the Nobel Peace Prize was legitimate, they’d give George W. Bush a prize for his work in fighting the biggest threat to peace today, Islamo-Fascism.

  25. Well, DONDEROOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!, you hate everything that America stands for. So where’s your prize?

  26. “and to the Dalai Lama, who…actually, I’m not sure what the Dalai Lama does, but evidently it impresses a lot of people

    nice job, jesse walker

  27. The Dalai Lama is coasting off the glory for all the cool shit he did in his previous life.

  28. Well said, Jesse.
    BTW, the Dalai Lama lectures to simple minds and makes his coin selling ‘Free Tibet’ bumper stickers from his chalet in Switzerland.
    And any place else that isn’t Tibet.

  29. “Linus Pauling, who capped off an impressive scientific career with a crusade against above-ground nuclear testing”

    What’s that have to do with peace? Did it get him into a foursome with the Lama or something?

  30. ProGLib – was the Lama a good tipper?

    Doktor T: in a past life, he invented the flying car – a “Tucker of the Renaissance”, but all of the sedan chair companies conspired to put him out of business.

    The Flying Car.

    That’s why.

  31. You might want to fact check your data on the oscar. Al Gore won an Emmy. An Oscar was awarded for the movie An Inconvenient Truth but not to Al Gore – it was awarded to the director Davis Guggenheim.. Al did join Davis on stage (along with some of the film crew) to accept the Oscar so perhaps that’s where this notion comes from…

    ~joe

  32. George Bush wants to have the George Bush think tank when he retires from being president. If that isn’t an oxymoron I don’t know what is.

    Your right-winged hatred of Al Gore and all democrats seems so over the top I have to question the motive for the existance of the website. Are you funded by this administration? Do you receive federal money? Are my tax dollars paying for this right-wing BS propaganda?

  33. THE ONLY TIME “OVER THE TOP” SHOULD BE ALLOWED IN POLITE CONVERSATION IS IN RESPONSE TO THE QUESTION, “WHAT WAS THE ABSOLUTE BESTEST, GREATEST, MEGA-MONDA-AWESOMEST SLY STALLONE MOVIE EVAR?”

    OTHERWISE, YOUR SILLY TAUNTS MAKE YOU SEEM LIKE A GOATEED SPOCK VERSION OF A LGF TWADDLENOCK

  34. Dondero, you’re back from Mexico? Did you hear the phrase “squeal like a piggy” in Spanish while you were down there?

  35. Dondero,
    I totally agree. Those who hate America should be lined up and shot. Long live freedom!

  36. ” An Oscar was awarded for the movie An Inconvenient Truth but not to Al Gore – it was awarded to the director Davis Guggenheim.. Al did join Davis on stage (along with some of the film crew) to accept the Oscar so perhaps that’s where this notion comes from…”

    Oh please. The film has no content or existence apart from being a film presentation of Gore’s slide show. The two are inseparable.

  37. Rush should get a Nobel for promoting tolerance.

    Oh, wait, would opiate tolerance count?

    1. I’m retarded.

  38. “”the United States would continue to get along just fine if Washington, D.C. were burned to the ground””

    A more economical alternative would be to just burn down the AEI building.

  39. I think the Dalai Lama got his prize for promoting mellowness and for not setting up a Tibetan terrorist base in Dharamsala.

  40. Do you want to know how to win a Nobel Peace Prize?

    Drive that old Chrysler down to Mexico?

  41. That “brutal dictatorship” in Chile which Kissinger assisted prevented a civil war, promised to return the country to civil rule on a date certain, which it did, and laid the foundation for the most prosperous country in South America today. Some brutality!

    Yeah, I’d say rounding up and torturing and murdering thousands of dissidents is pretty brutal. But, hey, prosperity!

  42. Your right-winged hatred of Al Gore and all democrats seems so over the top I have to question the motive for the existance of the website.

    Despite the reflexive, partisan numbskulls who frequent this board, the Reason writers are generally equal-opportunity haters, heaping scorn on Republicans and Democrats alike. Incompetence, dishonesty, and hypocrisy are worthy of hatred no matter the political party.

  43. Yeah – and Rush is infinitely more qualified than Al Gore to get the prize.

    If there was a Nobel prize for partisan hyperbole, you’d be in the running!

  44. Hope the media gives credit where due:
    Gore “shared” the Nobel win with a United Nations committee? So in effect Gore was second again.

  45. You’ll see a similar trend in the non-institutional figures who win the Peace Prize. Occasionally it goes to a Carl von Ossietzky, a Martin Luther King…

    Minor point- MLK was not exactly non-institutional. The civil rights movement was already quite sophisticated before he became president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, one of many religious and non-religious grassroots civil rights groups operating in the south throughout the 50s and 60s. Though he did much good as an eloquent figurehead, he was hardly alone in his struggle.

    Otherwise, the article is quite pointed. The Nobel is like the Oscars, they rarely get it right.

  46. Oh please. The film has no content or existence apart from being a film presentation of Gore’s slide show. The two are inseparable.

    Actually, the commenter has a point. Technically, Gore himself didn’t win the Oscar. If I’d remembered that he had won an Emmy I would have used that in the triple crown joke instead.

    Minor point- MLK was not exactly non-institutional. The civil rights movement was already quite sophisticated before he became president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, one of many religious and non-religious grassroots civil rights groups operating in the south throughout the 50s and 60s. Though he did much good as an eloquent figurehead, he was hardly alone in his struggle.

    I didn’t meant to suggest that he was. Lech Walesa wasn’t alone either. I just meant that they weren’t working for a UN-style international organization.

    That “brutal dictatorship” in Chile which Kissinger assisted prevented a civil war, promised to return the country to civil rule on a date certain, which it did, and laid the foundation for the most prosperous country in South America today. Some brutality!

    What Les said. A regime that tortures and murders its political opponents — or anyone, for that matter — counts as brutal in my book. Also, Pinochet didn’t exactly leave office voluntarily; a people-power movement forced him out. Many people on the right have this notion that he was a reluctant dictator who happily stepped aside once his work was done, but that simply isn’t true.

  47. Great article! The Nobel offices should be wallpapered with this.

  48. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/10/13/AR2007101301071.html

    This link has absolutely nothing to do, at all, with this story, but I am posting it anyway. Why? Because for weeks, this website posted the same old tired bullshit about how people that claimed Iraq was improving were liars peddling vile propaganda. However, given the nature of this site, I expect to see no blog entries at all making corrections. Therefore I will be posting this link in every blog entries comments section. Time to eat crow, assholes.

  49. Could a moderator remove the spam please?

  50. VM,

    Nah, he stiffed me.

  51. In all fairness to the committee, could it be, like the Oscars, there isn’t always in every single year a person or organization who clearly deserves the prize?

    It doesn’t have to be awarded every year. There were no winners in 1972, 1967, 1966, 1956, 1955, and several other years I can’t be bothered to type.

    It would have been smart of JW to read the criteria for the Peace Prize: “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”.

    “Peace congresses” get a special mention, which justifies people like Woodrow Wilson – after all, the League was the biggest peace congress in history.
    Ironically, under the “reduction of standing armies” clause, the best candidates from the 1990s are Deng Xiaoping and Dick Cheney.

  52. Re: the war of 1812:

    The British Orders in Council, which were such an irritant to American merchant shipping, were actually repealed 2 days before the U.S. declared war. Those being the days of sail, news of the change in British policy didn’t reach our side of the pond for weeks. Had a faster means of communication been available, the war might have been avoided entirely. Then again, it might not have been, as the desire to expand westward and into Canada was high on the War Hawks to-do list, and other grievances could have provided casus belli – disputes over boundaries of the Northwest Territory, accusations that the UK was “stirring up the natives”, etc.

    The same communications lag resulted in the battle of New Orleans being fought after the signing of the Treaty of Ghent.

    Kevin

  53. kevrob: the war of 1812 was pointless for this reason – the supposed casus belli (1) was the impressment of British sailors from American ships. The reason for this impressment is that Britain was fighting Napoleon, and needed to keep the Royal Navy manned. By 1815, the war against Napoleon was over (2) and the Navy was downsized by 90% – so no more need for impressment.

    (1) As noted above, the real casus belli was the Canadians’ continued refusal to become American. The American army thus invaded, with the belief that they would be welcomed as liberators. In fact they were welcomed as lunch.

    (2) Which meant that the finest army in Europe, and the finest general in the world, suddenly had no other calls on their time and were free to head over to the US, had the war continued.

  54. Great article, except for the comment:

    “One year it went to the UN’s peacekeeping forces, which advance the cause of peace by shooting people.”

    I hate to split hairs, but typically if UN Peacekeepers shoot anyone it’s an accident of the “accidental discharge” type. What they actually do is promote peace by:
    1) being shot at
    2) subsequently being scared of being shot at
    and
    3) all while wearing stupid blue helmets inside of bright white vehicles.

    I think there may have been a couple atrocities committed at the hands of UN Peacekeepers. But I’d be pretty pissed too if I had to wear a stupid blue helmet (or beret).

  55. It would have been smart of JW to read the criteria for the Peace Prize

    I did.

    WW1 was not the most the pointless major war in American history. (and I am not talking about the current unpleasantness.) Rather, that distinction must go to the War of 1812.

    I stand by my belief that WWI was more pointless, but I will grant that the Battle of New Orleans was quite possibly the most pointless battle in U.S. history.

  56. You people cast scorn on Alfred Nobel but that is because you don’t understand his dream. A dream that anyone who became famous was instantly enrolled in a lottery to win a medal and one million dollars. You see, the best way to achieve peace is for a bunch of rich, famous people to come together and pat themselves on the back for advancing peace.

  57. Best comments I’ve seen are “First Nobel for a PowerPoint presentation” , and “Nobel for fear” .

    The second indeed is Gore’s accomplishment – using arrogant pseudoscience exaggerated to the point of willful dishonesty to instill fear in the population to modernize their shackles .

    I still can’t get past the 0th law of thermodynamics which says you can’t make heat go up hill and stay there .

  58. I could kiss the author of this article for the brilliant satire. I would like to add that there is a nexus between NGOs and people in power there is an understanding between them and they nominate each other while the deserving person rarely wins it like Mahatma Gandhi I am not advocating his name only because I am an Indian but I am sure you all will agree that he was one of those who was free from any blemish. Mother Teresa got it though that was good! Baba Amte should get it also if only for setting and example for others to follow!

  59. But for some very greedy and ambitious US leaders who entered world war quite pointlessly US would have been the champion of human rights and liberty but Alas! Greed and ego. Americans are not all that way for sure but these leaders spoil the image of Americans worldwide. Lately Bush getting so many innocent young Americans killed in Iraq.What was the neccsity for meddling in Iraq?

  60. “Kill a lot of people, then stop.” Very good. But it doesn’t apply to President Obama – since rather than stopping the killing, his plans appear to be to accelarate it.

    As for “Be a famous humanitarian”, President Obama is of course being setup for it, in fact, as the “savior”. But that hasn’t happened yet.

    So what qualified Obama?

    See: http://print-humanbeingsfirst……prize.html

    Thanks,

    Zahir Ebrahim,
    Project Humanbeingsfirst.org

  61. Strange are the ways of the Laputians.

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