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Will Trump Win the Peace Prize? Or Kim Jong-un? Place Your Bets.

October 4, 2018
by Pat Joseph

It’s Nobel Prize announcement week, and today was supposed to be Literature’s turn. That got poleaxed, however, by yet another scandal in the #MeToo chronicles. This one involved a member of the Swedish Academy who, just last Monday, was sentenced to two years in prison for rape. So, sorry booklovers, no Lit prize this time around.

I know what you’re thinking: First Bob Dylan, now this; how much more can Literature take? But never mind that. The big question is: Who wins the Peace Prize tomorrow? If you look at the gambling odds, the smart money is on Moon Jae-in and Kim Jong-un. The odds makers have them at 4/6, which translates to a 60% chance of winning.

As Tom Lehrer once quipped, satire died when Henry Kissinger won the peace prize.

That’s right, the North Korean dictator (‘Little Rocket Man’ as our Commander-in-Chief has called him) might share in the prize given annually to one who, per Alfred Nobel’s will, “has done the most or best to advance fellowship among nations, the abolition or reduction of standing armies, and the establishment and promotion of peace congresses.”

That hardly sounds like a description of Kim, who rules over one of the world’s most repressive regimes, one that forces hundreds of thousands of its own citizens into prisons and labor camps.

And yet it’s true that Kim made comparatively peaceful history last April when the Supreme Leader crossed the DMZ and stepped foot in South Korea. In that meeting and subsequent summits, the two leaders discussed the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula and the possibility of permanent peace. Some 65 years after the end of war in Korea (at least the hot version of it), hands have been clasped, agreements reached.

While that certainly sounds laudable, Berkeley Law Professor Jesse Choper thinks it would be “premature to award the prize to Kim without more time to see the extent to which he will sign an agreement and carry through with any deals that he makes.”

I reminded him that many people—even many of his fans—thought Obama was awarded the prize prematurely in 2009 for his “extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.” At the time Obama hadn’t even been in office a full year and, as now, the US had troops on the ground in Afghanistan.

Trump has lately confessed his affection for Kim. “He wrote me beautiful letters. And they are great letters. We fell in love.”

Is it possible, I asked, that the Nobel Academy is wielding the prize as an encouragement to peace rather than just a recognition of accomplishment? A carrot on a stick, so to speak?

“Maybe so,” Choper allowed. “But I have real difficulty comparing Obama to Kim. Obama may have done very little up to the time, but Kim has done plenty to indicate that he is at least ‘fairly unstable.’”

Robert Reich, the former Secretary of Labor and Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at UC Berkeley, says South Korean President Moon Jae-in is absolutely deserving of the prize. By email, he said, “Moon Jae-in should win it. He’s done more than anyone to try to bring all sides together — and worked at it for years, steadfastly, patiently, honorably.”

As for Moon sharing it with his despotic neighbor to the North, Reich is less enthusiastic—to say the least. “I think it diminishes the accomplishment,” he wrote. “Kim has hardly distinguished himself as a diplomat or a promoter of peace. Like Trump, he’s shown himself to be erratic, impulsive, and just plain weird.”

Indeed, the two have displayed some affinity for one another. Despite the Rocket Man and dotard taunts, Trump has lately confessed his affection for Kim. “We went back and forth, then we fell in love,” he said at an event in West Virginia last week. “He wrote me beautiful letters. And they are great letters. We fell in love.”

Jimmy Carter: “If President Trump is successful in getting a peace treaty…I think he certainly ought to be considered for the Nobel Peace Prize.”

Erratic, impulsive, and weird though he may be, Trump is also in the running for the Peace Prize, at least if the bookies have a bead on things. Ladbrokes, the London-based gambling outfit, puts the U.S. president’s odds (either alone or with others) at 5/2, a nearly 30% chance of winning. For comparison, the company gave Dylan only 16/1 odds in the lead up to his winning the literary prize two years ago. (And you’d been thinking about laying down a twenty, before you got cold feet.)

No doubt those odds will strike many Americans as, well, odd. But it’s not entirely without precedent. As political satirist Tom Lehrer once quipped, satire died when Henry Kissinger won the peace prize.

That was in 1973, and Kissinger’s co-recipient, Le Duc Tho, the chief negotiator for the North Vietnamese, seemed to agree with Lehrer. To date, he is only person to have refused the Peace Prize, declining on the grounds that Kissinger broke the armistice agreement the two had hashed out in 1968.

Still, not everyone thinks it’s crazy that Trump could become a peace laureate. Former President Jimmy Carter, himself a Peace Prize recipient and, generally speaking, a fierce critic of Trump’s, told Politico last May, “If President Trump is successful in getting a peace treaty that’s acceptable to both sides with North Korea, I think he certainly ought to be considered for the Nobel Peace Prize. I think it would be a worthy and a momentous accomplishment that no previous president has been able to realize.”

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