It was recently confirmed by two politicians that they had nominated Edward Snowden for consideration for the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize. While being nominated by no means guarantees Snowden the award, if he was to become a Nobel laureate it would devalue an award that has come to represent not only the good of humanity but also its hope.
According to Alfred Nobel’s will the award should be given to the person who “shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.” Snowden has done the opposite, he has raised tensions between the nations of the world.
The response across Europe in particular to the extent of the NSA surveillance operations has been at best hypocritical leading us to question what politicians thought intelligence agencies were for. A particularly vocal critic was French President Francois Hollande, however France have their own intelligence services which by definition aims to break the laws of other countries by stealing classified information. There is no difference, both France and America are obtaining information illegally it is just that the US have significantly more resources devoted to the practice.
At its worst much of the support for Snowden is America bashing, pure and simple. It is an excuse for some Europeans to take the moral high ground over the Anglo-Sphere (since we must remember that the leaks revealed the UK did much of the US’ dirty work). Instead of increasing the brotherhood between nations that Nobel envisaged this has broken down links between the world’s democracies which if we are to achieve a better tomorrow must stand side by side.
The Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to men like Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela who devoted their lives to the struggle for equal democratic rights. I wonder what they would make of a man who betrayed his democracy and fled to a country with an appalling human rights record. It is hypocritical for someone to claim to be defending human rights to flee to Russia where freedom of speech and expression is severely restricted. It is ironic that had he been Russian he would most likely to be a target for assassination such as Russian whistleblower Alexander Litvinenko who was murdered in London in 2006.
“The response across Europe in particular to the extent of the NSA surveillance operations has been at best hypocritical, leading us to question what politicians thought intelligence agencies were for. A particularly vocal critic was French President Francois Hollande, even though France have their own intelligence services.”
In an ideal world there would be complete openness within and across countries, but we do not live in a perfect world. States require secrets to operate in the interests of their citizens which is of course the central and indeed the only function of any true democracy. Edward Snowden undermined the secret intelligence that protects not only American citizens but also those of her allies. This further endangers world peace by making events such as 9/11 and the following ‘War on Terror’ more likely.
Snowden may be claiming to have put the interests of humanity first, but I contend that he was serving himself and a craving for publicity. When he became a member of the NSA, did he not expect to be committing illegal acts? or did he expect to be a suave agent with a license to kill only bad guys? But how do you decide who the bad guys are? When he agreed to a life in a covert agency that means exactly that, he had a duty to protect his country’s secrets. However if his true concerned with the constitutionality of the NSA’s actions, then why did he not whistleblow in secret like the famous ‘Deep Throat’, who was so important in uncovering the illegal acts of the Nixon Administration. It was only 33 years after the Watergate break in that ‘Deep Throat’ was revealed to be FBI Associate Director Mark Felt. Instead Snowden choose a life of fame for himself rather than service to his country. This is not the making of a Nobel Peace laureate.
So far the Nobel Peace Prize’s greatest mistake has been the omission of Mahatma Gandhi. While the presenting the award to Snowden would not redress this travesty, it certainly would devalue the achievements recognised by the award such as peace in Northern Ireland, black civil rights in the US and South Africa and the general advancement of human rights across the world by almost every laureate. Some may argue that the award has already been devalued to the point of irrelevance. Apart from the omission of Gandhi, the award given jointly to Le Duc Tho and Henry Kissinger is particularly controversial with two members of the nominating committee resigning in protest. Indeed Tho refused to accept the award on the grounds that the Vietnam War was ongoing, therefore missing the central theme of the award. Barack Obama’s selection was also controversial especially since it came so early in his term of office, therefore before he had the chance to actually achieve something worthy of such esteemed recognition. However these mistakes do not devalue the award, they are simply the consequences of human mistakes. If the achievements of Nobel Laureates of any discipline have taught us anything, it is that humanity must learn from their mistakes if they are to overcome them. I can only hope the Committee do not make another mistake in rewarding a man whose actions do not deserve a place alongside achievements such as peace in Northern Ireland, black civil rights in the US and South Africa and most importantly the advancement of human rights across the world by almost every laureate.