Monday, October 10, 2005

Nobel Nuclear Disarmament Decennial Peace Prize

I always follow the news of the Nobel Peace Prize with great interest and occasionally I find myself pleased with their choices. But this year something struck me as particularly odd. Every ten years the Nobel Peace Prize returns to the subject of nuclear disarmament, and each time it goes to a peaceful dove and not a peace-loving hawk.

In 1975 it went to nuclear physicist Andrei Sakharov who made his name as an opponent of nuclear proliferation and spoke eloquently in his Nobel Lecture about the need for nuclear disarmament.

In 1985 it went to the little-known organization called the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW), which is "dedicated to mobilizing the influence of the medical profession against the threat of nuclear weapons."

In 1995 it went to the Pugwash Conferences on Science on World Affairs "for their efforts to diminish the part played by nuclear arms in international politics and, in the longer run, to eliminate such arms."

Now, in 2005 the prize goes to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) "for their efforts to prevent nuclear energy from being used for military purposes..."

Which raises the very serious question of whether only NGOs and IGOs should be recognized for their peaceful nuclear disarmament efforts, or whether military force should be recognized for its role in maintaining and restoring peace.

The Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to a military recipient only once: in 1988 when it went to U.N. Peacekeeping Forces. Even then it was because "their presence made a decisive contribution towards the initiation of ... peace negotiations." Of course, military men have won the Nobel Peace Prize in the past as well--think George Marshall in 1953 and Teddy Roosevelt in 1906--but never for their military exploits.

It appears that with such awards the Nobel Committee is committed as much to the means of peace as to its ends. The message: peaceful means to secure peaceful ends. But what of military means to secure peaceful ends? Of course few would quibble with the obvious truth that force is sometimes the only way to secure and restore peace. Article 39 of the U.N. Charter recognizes the tautology that threats to the peace or breaches of peace shall be met with measures necessary (i.e., force) to maintain and restore international peace and security.

And if so, then why shouldn't military exploits that truly do secure peace be rewarded? Why weren't George H.W. Bush and the U.N. Security Council awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1992 for their monumental efforts to liberate Kuwait and restore international peace and security? More obviously, how can you justify awarding the Nobel Peace Prize in 1947 to the Quakers instead of Winston Churchill? Norway and all of Europe owed its peace to the courage of Winston Churchill and the blood of Allied Forces, not the pacificism of the Society of Friends.

So who will win the Nobel Peace Prize in 2015? It won't be West Point or the Royal Military Academy in Sandhurst, England. But perhaps one of them should.


Blogger Robert E. Williams said...

Stephen A. Garrett's Ethics and Air Power in World War II: The British Bombing of German Cities provides one very good reason why Winston Churchill wasn't awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Unlike the Nobel Prize for Chemistry (for example), the Nobel Peace Prize is, in essence, an ethics award. Ethical judgments entail assessments of motives, means, and ends. So, while the use of military force may have as its end peace (Augustine said it must in order to be just), it invariably entails "dirty hands."

Winston Churchill and Arthur "Bomber" Harris may have merited the thanks of a grateful nation, but the means they employed to defeat Germany took them out of the running for any ethics awards (at least outside the realm where the ends always justify the means).

Incidentally, I am reminded of Tom Lehrer's quip that "political satire became obsolete when Henry Kissinger was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize."

10/10/2005 2:26 AM  

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