Ever wonder why genuinely distinguished scientists and genuinely annoying political hacks alike win Nobel Prizes?
Boston columnist Jeff Jacoby has an interesting piece on the root causes of the Stature Gap among various kinds of Nobel laureates:
“Unlike the other Nobels, the peace prize is awarded not by Swedish scientists and scholars but by a committee of Norwegian politicians. That no doubt explains why the choice so often seems political.
“The selection of ElBaradei and the IAEA certainly can’t be a reward for results. The international nuclear watchdog failed to uncover Iraq’s nuclear weapons program before the 1991 Gulf War. It missed Libya’s nuclear activities, which Moammar Qaddafi voluntarily surrendered after Saddam Hussein was toppled in 2003. When the global nuclear black market run by Pakistan’s A. Q. Kahn came to light, ElBaradei was shocked — underscoring, as The Economist noted, ‘how little he and his agency had known about an enormous operation that had been going on right under his inspectors’ noses.’ And they found out about Iran’s covert drive to acquire nuclear weapons only after Iranian dissidents told them where to look.
“Then again, ElBaradei was a vocal opponent of the US war in Iraq, and the Norwegians are not above using the peace prize to send an unfriendly message to the United States. When they gave the prize to Jimmy Carter in 2002, the committee chairman emphasized that it was intended to be ‘a kick in the leg’ of the Bush administration. This year, the committee insisted that any nuclear threat from rogue regimes must ‘be met through the broadest possible international cooperation’ — an apparent condemnation in advance of any US decision to deal with Iran unilaterally if worse comes to worst.
“The five Swedish Nobels are almost always rewards for true achievement. The one Norwegian Nobel too often smacks of an agenda. What a pity that the peace prize isn’t chosen in Stockholm too.”