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Nobel prize committee's credibility is on the line

When Norwegian parliamentarian Christian Tybring-Gjedde nominated President TrumpDonald John TrumpJudge rules to not release Russia probe documents over Trump tweets Trump and advisers considering firing FBI director after election: WaPo Obama to campaign for Biden in Florida MORE for the Nobel Peace Prize on Wednesday, the president’s critics went into shock on social media.

The criticism, of course, did not respond to Tybring-Gjedde’s specific citations of Trump’s role in brokering a landmark normalization deal between Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the Kashmir border dispute between India and Pakistan, or the conflict between North and South Korea. Trump’s critics instead attacked the credibility of Tybring-Gjedde, who serves as chairman of the Norwegian delegation to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, and expressed disbelief that Trump could possibly share the same prize as his predecessor, whose greatest achievement was an agreement that destabilized the entire Middle East.

Trump clearly earned his nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize. But if his critics really want to discredit his chances of winning it, they should engage with his actual record. Consider:

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Trump is the first president in almost four decades to not start a new war. In addition to avoiding armed conflict, he has made moves to reduce troop levels in conflict zones such as Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. This is not mere pacifism or conflict-avoidance. At the same time that Trump has sought to keep Americans out of harm’s way and America out of problems it has no business meddling in, he has presided over an enormous buildup of America’s military capabilities and reinvigoration of the U.S. armed forces. By ending the false dichotomy between military strength and nonaggression, Trump has demonstrated that countries can shore up their national defense and secure their strategic interests by means of military restraint and a commitment to reductions in violence.

As for specific regions of the world, Trump not only brokered the first normalization agreement between Israel and an Arab state in a quarter-century; he also presided over a vast improvement in relations and coordination between Israel and the other major Sunni Arab states. This is in large part because of his Day 1 commitment to opposing the spread of Iranian terror throughout the Middle East. The coordination of U.S.-Israeli-Sunni policy in the region — to stop both radical Sunni actors such as ISIS and revolutionary Shia actors such as Hezbollah and the government in Tehran — has become the region’s best hope of stabilization in decades. The role Trump has sought for the U.S. in all this has been centered on economic sanctions, weapons sales and diplomatic initiatives — not military force.

Farther east, Trump has applied similar nonviolent principles. China is the biggest threat to American national and strategic interests since the Cold War, and it eventually may emerge as the most serious rival in American history. While Trump has countered nearly every act of Chinese competition and aggression, he has done so peacefully. Through the use of tariffs, trade agreements, the threat of sanctions, and nonviolent military exercises with Indo-Pacific partners such as Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Australia, Trump has done everything possible to resolve the most explosive elements of the U.S.-China rivalry without armed conflict. The same goes for Trump’s effort to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula and his role in talks between the North and South Korean governments, which South Korean President Moon Jae-in declared in 2018 “should win [Trump] the Nobel Peace Prize.”

When President Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009, he had been in office less than 10 months. Two presidential terms later, Obama had backed a war of regime change in Libya, a normalization agreement with a terror regime in Iran, and the “red line” fiasco in Syria, which likely encouraged military takeovers by the Kremlin in Crimea and by Beijing in the South China Sea. In September 2015, the Nobel committee’s former secretary expressed regret for granting the award to Obama, who not only had not earned it by 2009 but had squandered any claim to it after six years in office.

For Trump, the Nobel committee was right to wait until he had an actual record of governance and demonstrated a real commitment to peace before considering him for the prize. Now the committee has the opportunity to regain the credibility it lost in 2009.

Richard Grenell is a senior fellow of Carnegie Mellon University’s Institute for Politics and Strategy. He is a senior adviser on LGBT outreach to the Republican National Committee. He served more than 10 years in the U.S. Department of State, including as U.S. ambassador to Germany, 2018-2020, and as a spokesman at the United Nations, and served briefly as acting director of national intelligence (DNI).