Why Henry Kissinger's Nobel Peace Prize Was So Controversial

Despite having the word "peace" as part of its name, the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize is sometimes contentious. One of the most controversial decisions in the award's history came in 1973 when the prize was given jointly to the United States Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and North Vietnamese diplomat Le Duc Tho (via Medium).

Both men had been key figures in the negotiation of the Paris Peace Accords, which in turn brought about a cease-fire in, but did not end, the Vietnam War, as hostilities between North and South Vietnam continued after the agreement was reached on January 27, 1973 (via Encyclopedia).

The decision was highly controversial, with two Nobel Peace Prize committee members who had voted against giving the award to Kissinger resigning in protest (via CNBC). Kissinger accepted the award, but Tho, who was the first Asian recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, rejected it.

Kissinger's controversial decision during negotiations

The German-born Henry Kissinger was a key figure in the Nixon administration, which itself is remembered for having weathered its fair share of controversies – some successfully, others not so much.

Perhaps the biggest sticking point of the Nobel Peace Prize controversy was that in the midst of the negotiations to broker a ceasefire, Kissinger authorized a bombing raid on Hanoi (via Medium). This was one of the reasons The New York Times would mockingly refer to the award as the Nobel War Prize. At the time, Kissinger's co-recipient was also critical of the decision, saying that "peace has not yet been established," and that accepting the Nobel Peace Prize would have meant giving into "bourgeois sentimentalities."

As Secretary of State, Kissinger would authorize bombing raids in Cambodia meant to target the Khmer Rouge and the North Vietnamese. Meanwhile, Le Duc Tho was still working in government when North Vietnamese forces took Saigon, unifying the country and bringing an end to the war in 1975.