First off, let me try to issue a clarification/apology to all my readers: I'm not a weekly columnist, I'm trying to write with greater frequency, but the truth be told I'm just not really finding a whole lot to be worth writing about of late. I'm also doing a lot of reading, having polished off Susan Faludi's The Terror Dream earlier in the week and currently going through a collection of essays under the title American Power: Potential and Limits in the 21st Century. Also lurking around is the massive Mulroney memoirs and a small pile of others. Plus, that hockey thing. I was terrible during Election 2004 because of it, but what can I say? I love my Habs.
Anyways, the big news of the day is that Al Gore is the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize for 2007. I'm pretty stunned by this announcement given that Al Gore hasn't brought peace to anything. He's done a lot of great work raising awareness of climate change in the United States, and made a popular movie to boot, but peace? Nothing Al Gore has done has made the world a less dangerous place than it was a year ago; conflict in Iraq, nuclear weapons being built in Iran, instability throughout the Middle East, and genocide in Darfur and the Congo are all still raging in spite--in spite!--of Al Gore's best efforts to raise awareness of the problem of man-made global warming. Yeah there were a few big concerts back in July that had everybody buzzing about the "Climate in Crisis" for about 48 hours--sort of like how Live8 solved famine in Africa--but the continuing lack of consensus among the world's major, middle, and non-powers about collective action on global warming sticks out like a very sore thumb.
If one truly wants to consider peace efforts in the world in the past year, why not look at North Korea? A year ago, Kim Jong-Il successfully detonated a nuclear weapon and was acting very boldly following his ascension into the nuclear "club." Conflict in the Korean Peninsula seemed to be in the short term, following a summer full of missile launches into the Sea of Japan and the usual rhetoric emanating from the aptly-titled "Hermit Kingdom." Yet here we are a year later, and legitimate and sustained serious talk about North Korean nuclear disarmament is ongoing. As in the past, the DPRK has indicated that it will disable and dismantle all of its nuclear weapons facilities, and work is underway to ensure that this is done by the end of 2007. Imagine that, from testing nuclear weapons to giving them up in barely more than a year. The six-party talks have proven effective, and the extraordinary face-to-face meetings between the North and the South--only the second such talks since 1953!!--have obviously paved the way for a more sustainable rapprochement between the two Koreas than we have witnessed in our lifetimes. There is even talk of allowing the Internet into the DPRK in limited areas. A completely closed society, governed by fear and propaganda, is slowly taking steps that open it to the rest of the world. There is to be an economic zone within North Korea that allows companies from the South to set up shop. This is amazing progress.
In the end, then, it seems to me that the decision to award the Nobel Peace Prize was as much a political rebuke of the Bush Administration as was the awarding of the Prize in 2002. Carter, like Gore, has been incredibly outspoken in his hostility to the Bush Administration, and that appeared to be a motivating factor for the Nobel committee in its deliberations (remember, this occurred during the build-up to war in Iraq). I can only imagine what John Kerry must be thinking at this moment--perhaps something along the lines of finding his own cause celebre to chastize President Bush and gain favour with people around the world. I saw his book last summer, it appears as though there is something about losing to Bush that turns a person into an environmentalist. But that avenue has already seen its ticker-tape parade, so Mr. Kerry will have to look elsewhere. He's unlikely to secure the role of "Middle East peace envoy" since that's been given to Tony Blair (speaking of, where is he?) already. Maybe he can go on a Joe Wilson-style "fact finding mission" in Iran about its nuclear program. That'll for sure wow the Nobel committee.