Of course: Trump nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize

Give the nomination this much credit — at least it comes after some concrete action, if still wildly premature. Two Norwegian legislators have nominated Donald Trump for a Nobel peace price in 2019 — this year’s nominations are closed — for signing an agreement with Kim Jong-un in Singapore on Monday. The agreement doesn’t commit either nation to much other than continued talking, but that’s more than the Nobel committee has needed for a past recipient or two:

A pair of Norwegian lawmakers have nominated President Trump for the Nobel Peace Prize after he signed an agreement with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Tuesday to work towards the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.

The nomination, reported by Norway’s state broadcaster NRK, comes a little more than a month after a group of House Republicans sent a letter to the Norwegian Nobel Committee formally requesting that the president get nominated for the highly coveted prize.

The Norwegian lawmakers who nominated Trump were Christian Tybring-Gjedde and Per-Willy Amundsen of the country’s right-leaning Progress Party, which advocates for limited immigration and shrinking the size of government.

It’s tempting to make more of that politically, but it’s probably more of a tweak in Norway’s domestic politics than anything else. If it was serious, they would have nominated Kim Jong-un as well, who should get some mention for showing up too. Lest one think that handing an award to the world’s biggest concentration-camp jailer and tyrant, just remember that the committee didn’t have any qualms about awarding their prize to Yasser Arafat, who spent decades committing international terrorism before the prize and launched intifadas afterward.

Just showing up was more than enough for the Nobel committee in 2009, though, when they awarded the prize to newly-inaugurated President Barack Obama for little more than replacing George W. Bush. Obama repaid them by escalating the war in Afghanistan, expanding drone warfare in Pakistan and Yemen, bombing Moammar Gaddafi out of power and, along with our European allies, creating a failed state in Libya and touching off a massive refugee crisis that is rewriting the politics of the EU. Trump could hardly be a worse risk for embarrassment down the road.

There have been rumblings of an organized effort to get Trump nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize ever since the sudden proposal of a summit, since well before anyone knew it would actually take place. I argued at the time that declaring victory ahead of the game was a bad idea, and that even with the Obama precedent in mind, we’d be better off waiting to see if this develops into actual peace before handing out any trophies, Nobel or otherwise. In my latest column at The Week, I remind people on both sides of the Trump divide that we have not even yet seen the end of the beginning, let alone the beginning of the end:

The four points in the document only include one specific commitment to action: The Kim regime agreed to recover and return the remains of American POWs and MIAs from the Korean War. Otherwise, the document only commits both sides to continued talks to “build a lasting and stable peace regime on the Korean Peninsula,” and identifies “complete denuclearization” as the key goal of those discussions. Trump added a concession in parallel by suspending joint military exercises with South Korea, but those can be restarted just as easily as they were stopped. That concession also parallels unilateral pledges made by Kim prior to the summit to suspend all nuclear and missile testing, and perhaps provides a sweetener to keep Kim committed to the process.

Notably, the agreement and the parallel agreements do nothing to lift sanctions on Pyongyang, despite confusing claims from North Korean state media. That represents a change in the American approach from previous agreements with North Korea for denuclearization. In the past, the U.S. would offer sanctions relief and aid in the form of fuel and food during the negotiations. Trump insisted he would not follow that precedent and would maintain “maximum pressure” until a final agreement could be achieved. Since sanctions appear to be the driving force behind Kim’s sudden willingness to talk, the U.S. hasn’t given up anything of substance, even with the suspension of joint military exercises. But we haven’t achieved anything of substance, either, at least not yet.

Rather than see this as a first step in a process with unknown outcomes, most people appeared to rush to various conclusions: One side hailed the meeting as a historic achievement that should guarantee Trump a place in history, while the other considered it a surrender by Trump and a betrayal of our allies. In truth, very little has changed. Both sides have had an opportunity to size each other up and prepare for the next steps of the process, assuming those next steps come at all. …

But as tempting as it might seem, let’s not jump to conclusions just yet. We haven’t lost anything, but we also haven’t yet solved the problem. Trump himself noted that, in six months, he may very well wind up with egg on his face if Kim backtracks or refuses to commit to verifiable denuclearization. Given the history of the Kim regime, it pays to be skeptical, but not close-minded. It certainly doesn’t pay to declare victory just yet.

It’s also way too early to declare peace. When we have a concrete, verifiable plan for denuclearization and an official end to the 70-plus-years war on the Korean Peninsula, then we can argue about who gets a Nobel. Until then, we’re talking about participation trophies and nothing more.

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