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Daily Archives: October 8, 2009
Is the Nobel Peace Prize, the most pointless of the lot? It is certainly the most controversial. The very idea of a peace prize, named after a man who invented dynamite and made his fortune as an arms salesman, Alfred Nobel, is slightly paradoxical. Perhaps Nobel wanted a peace prize as a way of atoning for his career as a “merchant of death”? Critics of the prize, which is awarded on Friday, say that it has unintentionally stayed true to the spirit of Nobel, by consistently rewarding a series of morally-dubious characters
Henry Kissinger is, of course, among the most controversial of laureates. The then US secretary of state received the prize in 1973 for his efforts to end the Vietnam war – jointly with Le Duc Tho, the chief North Vietnamese negotiator, who refused to accept the prize. Kissinger’s rightwing critics point out that the Vietnam war restarted a couple of years later and ended with victory for the North. His more numerous leftwing critics point to his role in the bombing of Cambodia between 1969 and 1973 – that (inadvertently it must be said) laid the groundwork for the ascent to power of the Khmer Rouge. Of the Prize, Mr Kissinger said: “More than the achievement of peace, it symbolises the quest for peace.” Lucky that, otherwise he might have to give it back.
I was interested to read Andrew Ward’s report today, suggesting that Latvia is under renewed pressure to devalue its currency. I must admit that I have not been following Baltic affairs with huge attention, since my visit to Lithuania and Latvia last July. But, even then, it was always clear that autumn was going to be the crunch time for the Latvians.
Yet another austerity package has to be forced through – involving painful cuts in government spending and public-sector wages. And this is happening just at the time when unemployment benefits will start running out for many of the people who lost their jobs at the beginning of the year. Also, with winter coming in, heating bills are about to rise sharply.