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The Nobel Peace Prize Isn't About Peace: It's a Way for Westerners to Pat Ourselves on the Back and Change Nothing

We ebb toward war until we run out of bullets. Then we ebb the other way, and give ourselves an award for doing so.

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That’s how this thing works. We ebb toward war most of the time. But sometimes, out of necessity, or when we run out of bullets, we ebb the other way. And it’s then that we give ourselves awards for our peace-loving behavior.

Who knows, maybe Barack Obama’s award is already tied to that particular Iraq plotline. He was, after all, elected in part because his party, the Democratic Party, which had supported the idiotic invasion at the start, had lately decided to abandon the idea and present itself as being against this particular war.

More likely the Obama critics who believe that Obama won this award for not being George Bush are right as well. The problem the international community had with Bush wasn’t that he believed in war and the use of force, it was that he believed in the unilateral use of these things. Bush did not believe in the use of force as an expression of a whole society’s values, he believed in it as an expression of his own machismo.

He was like Slim Pickens in Dr. Strangelove, flying through history with a bomb between his legs, shouting "Yee, haw!" It wasn’t so much that this behavior was wrong, it was just unseemly. He was like the drunk at a Victorian tea party who during the soup course makes jokes about the hostess’s secret pregnancy in France. We Westerners, we just don’t do things like that. Decorum, sir, decorum!

How do we do things? We keep the troops in those faraway places like Afghanistan and Iraq, sure, but while we do that we make sure to extol things like tolerance and dialogue and the spirit of diplomacy. We make sure that the same people who were not involved in the decision-making process during the previous bombing runs under Bush are in the loop again, now and hopefully forever. We smile a lot and say nice things about the Geneva convention and the impropriety of torture and secret detention, the importance of the rule of international law. We make everybody feel better about how things are going to go from now on.

This is what Barack Obama did to "earn" the Nobel Prize. He put the benevolent face back on things. He is a good-looking black law professor with an obvious bent for dialogue and discussion and inclusion. That he hasn’t actually reversed any of Bush’s more notorious policies — hasn’t closed Guantanamo Bay, hasn’t ended secret detentions, hasn’t amped down Iraq or Afghanistan — is another matter. What he has done is remove the stink of unilateralism from those policies.

They’re not crazy-ass, blatantly illegal, lunatic rampages anymore, but carefully-considered, collectively-run peacekeeping actions, prosecuted with meaningful input from our allies.

You see the difference? The Nobel committee sure did!

There’ve been some dumb Nobel Peace Prizes before. Giving one to Gorbachev in 1990, sandwiched right in between his invasions of Azerbaijan and Lithuania, comes immediately to mind. Giving one to Henry Kissinger, a man responsible for the bombings of millions of Indochinese (and who consistently favored the use of increased bombing runs to force the other side to the negotiating table) is another. The award to Arafat, Rabin and Peres likewise seems humorous to me. The Al Gore award, I don’t even want to go there. I went years thinking that the Al Gore prize was a joke someone was playing on me. I still can’t believe it really happened.

 
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