A Peace Prize for Obama?

It seems that everyone is baffled by the decision to give President Obama the Nobel Peace Prize. Even the sycophants in the media have been unable to hide their surprise. A few people have suggested that this is meant as a slap at George W. Bush. This seems to me to be the most plausible explanation. Certainly, Bush was never popular in Europe. His sneering comments about “Old Europe” and his proposal to put a “missile shield” (that nobody wanted or needed) in Poland didn’t win him any friends. The hapless Gerhard Schroeder’s approval ratings skyrocketed when he merely thumbed his nose at Bush. Perhaps if Dubya had been nicer to our friends across the pond, they might have given him the Peace Prize. After all, they’re not too picky about whom they give these things to.

I heard a TV reporter ask someone if the Peace Prize had been “degraded” by giving it to Obama so early in his administration. Actually, it was degraded a long time ago. In 1906, they gave the Prize to the arch-imperialist, Theodore Roosevelt, who presided over the bloody suppression of the Philippines. (The Nobel Prize for Literature has been similarly degraded. In 1953, they gave the prize to Winston Churchill for his ghost-written history of the Second World War.) In fact, giving the award to Obama actually elevates it somewhat, since he hasn’t killed nearly as many people as Nobel Laureate Henry Kissinger did.

Here in Eugene, where I live, there’s a group called The Nobel Peace Laureate Project. Their stated aim is to build a monument to Amercian winners of the Nobel Peace Prize in one of our city’s parks. (Why only Americans? War criminals from other countries aren’t good enough?) Their website gives a revealing list of these laureates. There’s Woodrow Wilson, who maneuvered the US into World War I. (In the cause of peace, of course.) Then there’s Frank Kellogg, Herbert Hoover’s Secretary of State, who negotiated the Kellogg-Briand Pact, which “outlawed war”. (Hey, we all know what a roaring success that was.) There is Nicholas Murray Butler, President of Columbia University, who “proposed to Frank Kellogg the idea for the Kellogg-Briand Pact”. ( And where did he get the idea from? I want to know!) Then there’s Cordell Hull, FDR’s Secretary of State, who was an “advocate of freer international trade by means of reducing trade restrictions.” (This has resulted in people working under sweatshop conditions for Nike. Nice job, Cordell.) And there’s Henry Kissinger. (Any comment here would be superfluous.) Then there’s Elie Wiesel, cheerleader for the invasion of Iraq. (Truly, a man of peace.) And, of course, there’s Jimmy Carter, who gave the CIA the green light to supply arms to right-wing mujahedeen in Afghanistan – before the Soviet invasion – leading to the destruction of that unfortunate country. (But, hey, Jimmy supports women’s rights!)

Please, don’t get me wrong: I don’t doubt for a moment that the people in the Nobel Peace Laureate Project are completely sincere and well-intentioned. My point here is that it’s not enough to say that one is in favor of peace. (I don’t doubt for a moment that even Gen. McChrystal believes that peace is a worthy thing.) The problem is that nations go to war for specific reasons, not because they believe that war is an end-in-itself. The abstract notion of “peace” can mean different things to different people. This is why the Nobel Peace Prize is meaningless.

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