Good and Bad Nobels: Where does Al Gore fit in?

I’ll leave it to others who have thought far more about Al Gore’s work than I have but it’s worth noting that Nobel Peace Prize winners are a mixed page. I’d divide them into four categories:

Good people and organizations that did great things. While all have flaws, people like Martin Luther King , Elie Wiesel, Norman Borlaug, Nelson Mandela, George Marshall, and the International Committee of the Red Cross acted with good intentions and accomplished great things.

Good people with good intentions that didn’t work out as planned. Journalist Carl von Ossietzky, for example, was a greater writer who warned about the danger of German rearmament and spoke out against Hitler even after it became dangerous to do so. But, obviously, World War II and the Holocaust both happened anyway. Even U.S. Secretary of State Frank Kellog–who initiated the Kellog-Briand Pact to outlaw war forever–did help originate the idea that an international norm against aggressive war should exist. While wars continued to be fought in its wake (including, oh, World War II), the Pact did end the idea that countries could get away with wars of pure territorial conquest.

People who accomplished nothing and will not be remembered by history. South Korean President Kim Dae Jung appears to have used a variety of slimy means to secure a few meetings with North Korean leaders but did nothing to lessen tensions or stop the North from developing its atomic bombs. Betty Williams and Mairead Corrigan did manage to reduce violence in Northern Ireland in the short term but failed to create a lasting movement. Williams, who now lives in a Texas retirement community, has proven herself a total flake and a generally unsavory person. (She once said she wanted President Bush killed.)

Bad people who did evil things before and after getting the prize. Christopher Hitchens has done a very good job taking down Henry Kissinger. Yasser Arafat went back to terrorism within weeks of taking the prize and may have even used some of the prize money to subsidize terrorist attacks. Woodrow Wilson was an incredible bigot who won a peace prize for his unsuccessful efforts at creating a world government while negotiating the peace treaty that made World War II inevitable. All of them used the prize to legitimize fundamentally bad agendas.

All of the laureates, in each category, however, were heralded as great heroes in their time. I once had a decent impression of Arafat myself.

Although he’s insufferably arrogant, I don’t actually think Gore is evil or, frankly, likely to accomplish much. Thus, I tend to believe that he belongs in the third category. My colleagues can do a much better job than I critiquing Gore or even arguing that he’s the spawn of Satan. But I’d like to make the point the Nobel Peace prize winners in general are nothing if not a mixed bag.