by Bruce Thornton
Norway’s Nobel Committee added yet another absurd pick to its long list of politicized and shameful Peace Prize awards. Giving the prize to the disintegrating European Union is not as despicable as giving it to the bloodstained terrorist Yasser Arafat, or as laughably naive as bestowing it on the communist fraud Rigoberta Menchú. But awarding it to the EU is yet again a mark of the Committee’s long commitment to the questionable and serially unsuccessful notion of internationalist idealism, and its corollary disdain for national loyalties and interests.
The Nobel Peace Prize for most of its existence has favored the idealistic internationalism that believes international law, trans-national organizations, and diplomatic “engagement” can create peace and order and replace national self-interests and the use of force to maintain global order and stop aggression. In 1919, Woodrow Wilson won the prize for creating the serially impotent League of Nations, and for the next three years, the Prize was awarded to people connected with the League. In 1925, England’s Austen Chamberlain won for signing the Locarno Treaty, along with England, Italy, Belgium, and Germany, claiming it would “close the war chapter and start Europe afresh.” A New York Times headline celebrated, “France and Germany Ban War Forever.” In 1926, the Prize went to Aristide Briand, the French Prime Minister, who also had signed Locarno. In 1929, United States Secretary of State Frank B. Kellogg won the Peace Prize for co-authoring, along with Aristide Briand, the Kellogg-Briand Pact. By the terms of this agreement, the contracting parties “condemn recourse to war for the solution of international controversies, and renounce it, as an instrument of national policy in their relations with one another,” and “agree that the settlement or solution of all disputes or conflicts . . . shall never be sought except by pacific means.” Forty-nine nations signed it, including the future Axis aggressors Germany, Italy, and Japan.
Anyone familiar with the history of the low, dishonest decade following the Kellogg-Briand Pact’s “outlawing” of war knows that all these idealistic agreements did nothing to stop the relentless march to world war facilitated by those appeasers in the West who believed such diplomatic magical thinking could be effective against aggressors’ willingness to use violence to achieve their aims.
Yet such failures have not deterred the Nobel Committee from continuing to reward internationalist delusions. The 2009 prize was awarded to Barack Obama not for accomplishing anything, but “for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples,” the Committee announced. “Obama has as President created a new climate in international politics. Multilateral diplomacy has regained a central position, with emphasis on the role that the United Nations and other international institutions can play. Dialogue and negotiations are preferred as instruments for resolving even the most difficult international conflicts.” A mere 3 years later, the abject failure of Obama’s outreach to the Muslim world, his “reset” with Russia, his empowerment of the jihadist Muslim Brothers in Egypt, and his “extended hand” to Iran’s genocidal mullahs have yet again revealed the dangers of idealistic internationalism.
The corollary of internationalism is a profound distrust of sovereign nation-states with their parochial interests and exclusionary identities. Misinterpreting history, the internationalists blamed the Great War on nationalist loyalties and national sovereignty, and thought the answer was some form of “world government,” or at least a “world parliament” like the League of Nations. Woodrow Wilson expressed this faith when he said in 1917, “National purposes have fallen more and more into the background; and the common purpose of enlightened mankind has taken their place.” Even the failure of the League, however, didn’t prevent the creation of the UN after World War II.
Since then, the UN has functioned as nothing more than the creature of the nationalist interests of member states, particularly those hostile to the interests of the United States. And it has failed abjectly at its mission to stop war and crimes against humanity, from Sudan to Kosovo and now Syria. No matter: in 2001 the Committee awarded the prize to the UN and Secretary General Kofi Annan “for their work for a better organized and more peaceful world.” The UN’s failure has reflected the failed philosophy of idealistic internationalism that created it, and the reason for that failure is obvious: despite all of internationalism’s wish-fulfilling fantasies, nations continue to see their identities and particular interests as reflections of their own unique cultures, not some imaginary global “common purpose” or identity.
Given this history, awarding the Peace Prize to the EU because it has “for over six decades contributed to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe,” as the Committee said, makes perfect sense, though it conveniently ignores the role of American money and military power in achieving those boons. The EU was created out of the same mistaken notion that national loyalties and interests had caused all the misery and wars of the previous century. By more closely joining European nations, especially France and Germany, with a common currency, common laws, an EU court and parliament, and closer economic integration, these selfish interests and nationalist loyalties could be diminished and their malign effects minimized.
The Eurozone’s financial meltdown has exploded that ideal, unleashing long-simmering nationalist hatreds and resentments, as Angela Merkel learned firsthand when she was met in Athens with protestors greeting her with the Nazi salute. Nor are most thrifty, hard-working Germans happy about subsidizing the dolce vita lifestyle of spendthrift Mediterranean countries. The foundational dream of the EU is awakening to the reality of national differences, yet the Nobel Committee — from a country that has twice rejected joining the EU — could not overcome its long love affair with trans-national government and idealistic internationalism, both predicated on a dislike of nations that pursue their own interests.
That commitment to internationalism and disdain for national loyalty and interests is why in 2002 the Nobel Committee awarded the prize to Jimmy Carter. Though ostensibly awarded “for his decades of untiring effort to find peaceful solutions to international conflicts,” the perennial Nobel highest good, the award was announced about the time the US Congress authorized the war in Iraq. It also didn’t hurt that Carter had been a vocal critic of George Bush. With this award the Committee expressed its traditional preference for internationalism and diplomacy. But it also signaled its distaste for nations that believe their own interests and security sometimes will be pursued by force, and that decide the choice is ultimately theirs to make. So too with Al Gore’s 2007 prize for his advocacy on global warming. That choice was another rebuke of the United States, this time for rejecting the Kyoto Treaty and thus refusing to pass legislation that would have seriously damaged America’s economy and subordinated its own interests to those of the “international community.” The Committee likes only those Americans who criticize their own country and are happy to cede sovereignty to international institutions. What else explains the absurdity of awarding Mikhail Gorbachev the Prize in 1990 and ignoring Ronald Reagan, the real architect of bringing down the Soviet Union?
Giving the Peace Prize to the EU is yet another nail in the coffin of Nobel credibility. The delusions of idealistic internationalism and diplomacy that dominate the Committee’s ideology — and that underlie Barack Obama’s foreign policy — have been exposed over and over for more than a century. We are witnessing its dangers right now in the Middle East, where Iran relentlessly marches towards a nuclear weapon, Egypt is morphing into another Islamist state, a Libya liberated by the West swarms with terrorist militias, and the civil war in Syria is breeding another generation of battle-seasoned jihadists. And though the EU is unlikely to descend into such Darwinian violence, its further disintegration could very likely lead to civic disorder and the empowerment of extremist political parties. Its long history of failure makes “Nobel Peace Prize” an Orwellian name.
©2012 Bruce S. Thornton