This is not a headline you’d have expected to read four years ago — or any time during the Trump presidency, for that matter.
But the infamous president once feared an untrustworthy guardian of the nation’s nuclear codes has turned heads this month for quite the opposite reason. Having recently secured three historic peace deals, Trump has now been nominated — not once, but twice — for the Nobel Peace Prize.
The first nomination came from Christian Tybring-Gjedde, a member of the Norwegian Parliament, who cited Trump’s historic peace deal between Israel and the United Arab Emirates. “I think he has done more trying to create peace between nations than most other Peace Prize nominees,” said Tybring-Gjedde, adding that “this agreement could be a game changer that will turn the Middle East into a region of cooperation and prosperity.”
A second nomination followed quickly on its heels when Magnus Jacobsson, a member of the Swedish Parliament, nominated the governments of the United States, Kosovo and Serbia for the prize. In early September, the Trump administration brokered a groundbreaking trade and communications agreement between Kosovo and Serbia, whose relationship has been strained since the Kosovo War of the late 1990s.
The winner of the Nobel Peace Prize will be announced on October 9 — but is Trump a serious contender? Is he deserving of such a distinguished accolade?
To cut to the chase, my answer is that he is more deserving than his predecessor in the White House, who did receive it.
“America First” has been the Trump foreign policy doctrine. Trump’s critics warned this could lead to bloodshed and chaos, but counter-intuitively, “America First” has heralded a time of surprising peace.
Citing crumbling infrastructure back home and too high a cost borne by military families, the Trump administration has made significant troop withdrawals from the Middle East, and held NATO allies accountable for their financial commitments.
The U.S. has also brokered a peace deal between Israel and Bahrain, with reports that the “Abraham Accords” may be expanded to other Arab nations. There are even whispers that the prized Saudi Arabia may be among them.
Achieving what many past presidents have promised but failed to enact, President Trump moved the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. He has negotiated the release of captured Americans from the region. Most significantly, perhaps, he is the first president in four decades not to drag the United States into an international armed conflict.
The response to Trump’s achievements and nominations have fallen along predictably partisan lines. Some have raised legitimate concerns about the plight of the Palestinians in the midst of the Abraham Accords. Others have noted with cynicism the convenient timing of the agreements in the election cycle. U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, for example, called the deals “a distraction” from affairs back home such as COVID-19.
In a particularly sceptical move, just days after Trump’s first nomination, The Atlantic ran a piece entitled “End the Nobel Peace Prize: The Trump nomination shows that peace had its chance, and blew it”. The nomination of Trump was the work of a troll, argued the article, and the prize is subjective anyway — so shut it down before Trump gets it.
Those more sanguine have pointed out that other nominees have won the Nobel Peace Prize for far less than Trump. Yasser Arafat’s award in 1994 has remained a perennial controversy. But even Barack Obama’s in 2009 was an interesting one.
At the time, Obama had been in power for less than eight months. Over the course of the Obama presidency, America’s preeminence in foreign affairs was wound back, and in ways that emboldened the West’s enemies. It was during this era, of course, that ISIS established the first territorial caliphate in centuries, decapitating American journalists and Coptic Christians before a watching world. Iran was another regime that was able to take advantage of Obama’s softer foreign policy approach.
In the Trump era, everything is partisan or is at least seen to be. The same will likely hold true when the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded.
But among other contenders, Trump’s at least appears to be a worthy nomination. If he secures another Middle East deal in the coming weeks — which isn’t entirely outside the realm of possibility — he may just secure the prize, and shore up his election prospects to boot.
Watch this space.