US Presidents have a higher probability of receiving the Nobel Peace Prize than any other political leader in the world. Four have received the Prize to date along with one Vice President. The first was Theodore Roosevelt in 1906 who successfully mediated the end to the Russo-Japanese war.
This was followed shortly after by Woodrow Wilson in 1919 who founded the League of Nations – the precursor to the United Nations. Jimmy Carter’s lifelong commitment to find solutions to intractable international conflicts earned him his Prize in 2002.
Al Gore was the only Vice President to receive the Prize in 2007 for his efforts to educate the world on climate change. Obama, ironically, was the most controversial recipient having received his for “strengthening international diplomacy” but was really awarded it for not being George Bush.
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Unlike Obama who still enjoys huge popularity around the globe, Donald Trump’s brashness has been hard to swallow by world opinion. Any Prize, irrespective of it’s merit, will therefore be a hard sell by the Norwegians.
And unlike the Prize for say chemistry or medicine, where a handful of global experts can validate the distinction of the discovery or contribution, the Peace Prize is significantly more subjective.
Controversy has surrounded almost every recipient from Henry Kissinger, Yasser Arafat to Aung San Suu Kyi – who in an unprecedented move has been condemned by a dozen of her fellow Laureates for her role in Myanmar’s genocidal policies. Add to this the recent sexual abuse allegation against the Committee for the Nobel Prize for Literature and you have a situation that does not lend itself to making unpopular choices.
Despite many wanting to see Trump fall flat, it would be criminal not to want him to succeed. Particularly, when the alternative is so perilousDr. Azeem Ibrahim
Denuclearize and secure peace
But if Trump manages to convince Comrade Kim to denuclearize and secures peace in the Korean peninsula, he will undoubtedly be more deserving than any recipient in living memory.
He will have neutralized the world’s most dangerous situation, solidified his legacy, even if he only serves one term, and will rightly go down in presidential history as the “greatest deal maker” – a label he has always craved. He will have proven all his critics wrong and his army of supporters right.
Despite many wanting to see President Trump fall flat, it would be criminal not to want him to succeed. Particularly, when the alternative is so perilous. But what are the chances of seeing The Donald in Oslo?
The answer to that depends on whether Kim Jong-Un is sincere when he says he really is open to give up his nuclear weapons if a suitable deal can be struck. Unfortunately, we have seen this movie before and it seems quite unlikely.
Kim Jong-un may be an unpleasant character, but he is by no account crazy. And, it seems, he has learnt from history. Saddam gave up his nuclear and other WMD programmes in the Oil for Food programme, and less than ten years later he was hanged by a US-installed Iraqi government.
Qaddafi gave up his nuclear programme in order to trade oil with the West, and again, less than ten years later he was killed in a Western-supported uprising. Ukraine voluntarily gave up the the nuclear arsenal it inherited from the Soviet Union by 1996, and not two decades later, Russia, the recipient of those missiles, invaded and annexed Crimea.
There is nothing to suggest that Kim intends to repeat this history. In fact, the reason he has pushed on with the nuclear program in recent years despite unprecedented pressure from the West and his neighbours, including the North’s longstanding ally, China, is because Kim and his regime are convinced that nukes are the only thing that can sustain their regime.
And it is difficult to argue against their case: every regime which has given up their nuclear programme under pressure from the West has suffered the consequences; while now that Kim’s nuclear programme is on its feet and largely successful, “the most isolated regime in the world” gets to meet face-to-face with the leader of the free world.
But the optics for Trump are much worse that that. It’s not just that Trump’s administration is rewarding Kim with a visit for decades of defiance and for breaking international rules on nuclear proliferation. The details of the meeting will also be hugely relevant.
Any meeting will be an unbelievable propaganda coup for the regime: after decades of delirious and fantasist news coverage in the North about how powerful the regime is to stand along against all the world’s great powers, now the American president comes to Korean to “seek terms” with Supreme Leader Kim. Never in their life would the officials at the propaganda ministry would have expected such a prize to land in their lap.
So best case scenario, the meeting between Trump and Kim will result in the North giving up it’s nuclear weapons and thawing relations with their neighbours which means we are likely to see both Kim and Donald in Oslo soon. Worst case scenario is a humiliating set back for Trump meaning there are no longer any further cards to play.
Azeem Ibrahim is Senior Fellow at the Centre for Global Policy and Adj Research Professor at the Strategic Studies Institute, US Army War College. He completed his PhD from the University of Cambridge and served as an International Security Fellow at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard and a World Fellow at Yale. Over the years he has met and advised numerous world leaders on policy development and was ranked as a Top 100 Global Thinker by the European Social Think Tank in 2010 and a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum. He tweets @AzeemIbrahim.