Thursday, March 24, 2005

Nobel for Sistani?

We make an effort to read Thomas Friedman's column whenever possible, although we don't always agree with him. He's a sensible guy, particularly considering where he works. This week he has a suggestion for the Nobel Prize Committee:
As we approach the season of the Nobel Peace Prize, I would like to nominate the spiritual leader of Iraq's Shiites, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, for this year's medal. I'm serious."
Indeed he is serious, and he makes a good case based on Sistani's words and deeds since the fall of Saddam. There is no denying that Sistani has been a powerful, moderating force on the Shiite population, channeling the pent up anger into the political process and away from violence.

Ali at Free Iraqi has his doubts about Sistani's motives and whether the clerics will be able/willing to resist temptation to try to direct the government towards a Shiite theocracy. In Ali's view, the coalition of religious parties is already showing signs of undue, behind the scenes influence, and he expects it to get worse.

Our view is that so far Sistani's influence has been overwhelmingly positive for Iraqi democracy, so in that sense we agree with Friedman. However, it is way too soon to to be handing out Nobel Peace Prizes here. That's how you end up with winners like Arafat and Le Duc Tho. Even waiting for situations to clarify doesn't always prevent Nobel-embarassment (e.g. past winners Kofi Annan, Jimmy Carter, and The UN Peacekeeping Forces).

This year, President Karzai of Afghanistan is our choice. We're still waiting for our ballot. Sistani and several other Iraqis may ultimately be fine candidates for a future Peace Prize. If the liberation of the Middle East succeeds, George W. Bush may turn out to be the most deserving person to never get a Peace Prize, nosing out Ronald Reagan.

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