I really don’t like posting to MSB Classics together. I feel it’s my responsibility to give new content. But past issues keep popping up like Whacka-Moles and I’m really trying hard to use the summer to advance my resarch and post some videos.
Anyway, the Hill reported that Donald Trump has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.
Yes, Donald Trump
That Donald Trump
The Orange Don
In the meantime, some reporters have managed to get entry into what amounts to Trump established concentration camps for children. The President ran on a platform of expanding torture, killing the families of suspected terrorists, blocking asylum seekers, and is currently overseeing the bombings of eight countries.
Does it seem unlikely that he could win?
I’m sure he’d like to. After all, Obama did.
What Do President Obama and Mahatma Gandhi NOT Have In Common?
October 17, 2009
ANSWER: GANDHI NEVER WON THE NOBEL PEACE PRIZE
Yes, it’s true. One of the greatest examples of peaceful resistance in the history of man never received the Nobel Peace Prize. What’s funny is that I’d always assumed he had. I was shocked to discover this omission when I was researching the Nobel Prize after hearing that President Obama had won.
So then my sociological imagination started kicking in. Exactly what is the Nobel Peace Prize? If people like Gandhi are denied the medal while war criminals like Henry Kissinger become laureates there must be something going on that I just never took the time to understand.
Upon the announcement of Obama’s win, the debate ensued. Does President Obama deserve the Nobel Peace Prize (NPP)? I guess there are a couple of ways to answer this question. One possible response was my most immediate thought: shouldn’t we wait until the whole War in Afghanistan thing is figured out? Exactly what has Obama done toward the fulfillment of world peace? The second response is more cynical: If Henry Kissinger deserves the NPP, anyone does!
The NPP is an interesting ritual on which to apply the sociological imagination. Yes, there are those who have been honored who have dedicated their lives to the cause of peace, even if only in their corners of the world. Desmond Tutu, Aung San Suu Kyi, and Eli Wiesel come to mind in this category. Others, however, have demonstrated a significantly less consistent record on matters of peace.
Let’s take President Obama’s contemporaries, US presidents who won the NPP. We can start with President Teddy Roosevelt. Roosevelt was nominated because of his role in negotiating the Treaty of Portsmouth between Russia and Japan. The Treaty of Portsmouth did a great deal to enhance the reputation of the United States in international relations. This was, of course, Roosevelt’s goal if it wasn’t so much about
peace. Roosevelt’s commitment to peace was, at best, questionable. In 1902 he engineered a revolution in Panama in order to secure a canal site. Before the Spanish America War, then Secretary of the Navy Roosevelt was among the most ardent saber rattlers, stating “I should welcome almost any war, for I think this country needs one.” He considered the “great day” of his life to be his charge up San Juan Hill during that conflict. In world affairs, Roosevelt advocated “big stick” tactics which closely resemble the realpolitik of his age. In a dramatic demonstration of American power, he sent the US Navy, the Great White Fleet, on a worldwide show of arms.
Woodrow Wilson would win the NPP for drafting an international idea of peace and humanity in his Fourteen Points. Indeed, Wilson would work tirelessly toward American
inclusion in a League of Nations. Such exertions may have shortened his life. But Wilson didn’t shy away from the use of force in foreign policy as he seized the port of Vera Cruz in Mexico for no other reason than the Mexicans insulted the US by refusing to offer a 21 gun salute after apologizing for arresting some American sailors. Nor did Wilson hesitate to use force in Haiti or the Dominican Republic. In 1916 he ran under the banner, “he kept us out of war.” Within months of taking the Oath of Office for his second term, the United States was embroiled in one of the bloodiest wars of all time. To convince reluctant Americans to participate in the war Wilson’s government created the Creel Commission, a massive propaganda effort to drum up support among people who preferred to remain uninvolved in European conflicts. Dissent against the war became illegal when Wilson signed the Espionage Act of 1917.
President Jimmy Carter won the NPP in 2002, the only US president to be awarded after his term of office. He won in recognition for his incredible negotiation of the Camp
David Accords between Israel and Egypt, and for the extraordinary efforts of the Carter Center in world affairs. Indeed, Carter’s peace resume is the most impressive of the presidential laureates, but Carter’s presidency was not without its questionable and decidedly unpeaceful actions. Carter supported militant and brutal regimes like the military junta in El Salvador, the Marcos regime in the Philipines, Samoza in Nicaragua and the Shah of Iran.
So the Nobel Peace Prize is not necessarily a recognition for a life’s dedication to the pursuit of peace. So what is the Nobel Peace Prize, if not such a recognition? The NPP appears to be more an instrument for promoting the ideals of the Nobel Committee. In each case above, the holders of the prize did, in fact, make significant contributions to the ideal of world peace. In recognizing specific and targeted acts while at the same time turning a blind eye to the less palatable actions of the same men the Nobel Committee may be trying to direct the attention of social reformers and peace advocates to support the real actions of statesmen who uphold the goals of the social movement.
Obama recognized this when he said, “The Nobel Peace Prize has not just been used to honor specific achievement, it has also been used to give momentum to a set of causes.” Often these causes are embattled and victories are hard won. There are many heavily scarred peace activists, such as the imprisoned laureate Aung San Suu Kyi. By pointing out that statesmen are hearing the call, that they are working, albeit slowly and awkwardly, toward peace the Nobel Committee may be trying to offer a glimmer of hope to the embattled. This may especially be true when the Committee can find a reason to recognize one so powerful as the American President. Here we have someone in a position of power who is not deaf to our pleas.
But in doing so may the Nobel Committee be offering a sense of false hope? Wilson received his award shortly before his death. Carter received his late in life. At the end of one’s political career, the prize may be a safe way to communicate support for certain policies. But Roosevelt, like Obama, was awarded despite many years to go in his presidency. And in those years one could certainly not define the Rough Rider as an ardent advocate for peace. So any encouragement the NPP might have vouched to pursue the path of peace was lost on Teddy. Those who may have turned to Roosevelt as an exemplar of moral leadership must have been woefully disappointed.
Perhaps Nicolas Sarkozy’s claim that “the award marks America’s return to the hearts of the people of the world,” is closer to the intent of the Nobel Committee in bestowing the award on Obama. The Bush Doctrine was a disturbing and detested policy among the rest of the world. That a nation with so much raw power should turn its objectives inward, to promote self-interest at the expense of diplomacy, even to encourage pre-emptive warfare reminiscent of the calamitous 19th and early 20th centuries, could only have been an international nightmare. Obama’s early overtures to return to the community of nations and a route of diplomacy over militarism is a relief to the citizens of the world. From this perspective, the NPP may represent not only an encouragement for further participation with the world community but also a repudiation of Bush Doctrine unilateralism.
In short, we might conclude that the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded strategically. On the one hand, the NPP is a sincere recognition of earnest and tenacious individuals and groups working toward world peace. On the other hand, the prize may be a recognition that the tireless efforts of such people and such groups are not in vain. After all, if the peace movement can influence such hard-hearted individuals as Henry Kissinger, and big stick practitioners as Teddy Roosevelt, then there is value in peace work. The life of a peace activist is often fraught with great defeats punctuated by small victories. Recognizing world leaders when they even reluctantly hear the call of peace may be a tool for shoring up support for the peace movement.
So it may not be about how deserving Obama is of the Nobel Peace Prize. Perhaps the prize was offered in recognition of Obama’s nascent work in nuclear disarmament and repudiation of dangerous American unilateralism. Maybe it’s an attempt to motivate Obama to adopt a more peaceful posture in future endeavors. Perhaps it was a demonstration to the peace movement that their work can and will bear fruit.
Regardless, there’s still the matter of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bagram, rendition, the perpetuation of Bush’s domestic intelligence policies. Obama is a long way from the ideals advocated by the Nobel Committee or anyone involved in the peace movement.
What Nobel Peace Prize
December 22, 2009
A Plausible, Fictional Scenario
Scene: conference room of the Nobel Prize Committee:
Committee Person 1: Hey, I have an idea! Why don’t we give the Nobel Peace Prize to President Barack Obama? This might motivate him to abandon the militant/imperialist policies of his predecessors and pursue more peaceful and reasonable policies for solving international problems like terrorism.
Committee Person 2: That’s a great idea. I second that motion!
Committee Chairman: All in favor?
So How’s This Working Out For You?
About a month after taking office, Barack Obama sent 17,000 soldiers into Afghanistan. A few months later he learned that he was the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. A teacher might call this positive reinforcement of negative behavior. Such a teacher would predict that the consequence of this reinforcement would be further escalation of warlike ends. Just two weeks before giving his Nobel acceptance speech, he proved the hypothetical teacher correct by requesting 30,000 additional troops be sent into an untenable battlefield. In the meantime, the Obama Administration continues to wage and escalate a secret war in Pakistan manned by flying killer robots.
The new Nobel laureate has done nothing to reverse the breaches of humanity committed by the Bush Administration. Despite his lofty rhetoric we still remain a nation under a surveillance infrastructure that ignores our rights. GITMO may be closing (someday), but you can forward any mail to Bagram, which the Obama Administration insists is outside the jurisdiction of the US Supreme Court for exactly the same reasons given by Bush.
Granted, the sheen of the Nobel Prize has long been tarnished by the likes of Henry Kissinger, and this isn’t the first time that a US president has received the prize despite questionable peace credentials. Barack Obama is just another layer of corrosion and rot, just another disappointment in the chronicle of peace. Obama offered us change we could believe in. Well, there are those who believe in Bigfoot and UFOs without actually seeing them. It appears that actual change in America will be equally elusive. A more peaceful foreign policy will be no exception.
The Escalation of War
None of this should come as a surprise. The relationship between the technologies of power and the empowered is one of mutual reinforcement. Once measures such as war, surveillance and extrajudicial activities are set into place they are very difficult to dislodge. The established infrastructure and bureaucracy that support coercive measures become entrenched in the system, institutionalized and self-perpetuating. The benefits these institutions confer to the powerful then create a symbiosis that is, in fact, parasitic to enlightened, democratic societies.
What ties these variables together? War. War justifies the use of coercive and violent technologies and the expansion of the corresponding institutions. If a nation can just remain in a perpetual state of war then abuses of power can be defined as ‘national defense.’ And ‘national defense’ is the key. Enlightened and ethical people have long since turned their backs on glorious conquest. As Obama conceded in his acceptance speech, the only just war is a defensive war. Hence the Department of War becomes the Department of Defense and massive military investment in offensive weapons is called ‘defense spending.’
Yet institutions of power are still very much motivated by the glory of conquest. Entire industries have developed to fulfill imperialist ends. These industries must be fed. So with the rise of the military-industrial complex, the United States has been in a perpetual state of warfare–every single operation defined as “defensive”. From containing communism from the Domino Effect in Indochina, Central and South America, and Cuba to non-existent weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, the United States has always defined its violence toward weaker nations as defensive.
9/11 and the War on Terrorism
Upon watching the Twin Towers fall on 9/11 it became clear that there really was a necessity to defend ourselves. Despite our massive (the most massive in the history of mankind) defensive posture, the United States turned out to be just as vulnerable as everyone else on the planet. Terrorists with enough guile were a threat to our security. Something had to be done.
And something was done–the wrong thing. Despite the danger posed by al Qaida, a non-state organization, the United States decided to invade Afghanistan, a sovereign nation which, in and of itself, had nothing to do with 9/11. Conveniently, however, they did have a great deal of natural gas that we wanted and a government that was easily vilified. They were a perfect enemy for an imperialist military structure.
The justification for invading Afghanistan was that they refused to turn over Osama bin Laden. Of course, like all other excuses for going to war, this was not true. Indeed, Afghanistan did what nations always do when they have something another nation wants–they negotiated. Most negotiations begin with saying no. Of course, negotiation was not in the interests of the Bush Administration. Power must have its wars. This is especially true for a power of questionable legitimacy, like the first term Bush Administration.
Osama bin Laden was never the real target, at least not the only target. If he was, the US would have developed a different response. Any real strategy for dealing with non-state terrorist organizations would preclude traditional warfare as inadequate. Terrorism must be countered through international policing. Traditional warfare is designed to pit one state against another. It is not designed to counter non-state entities like al Qaida. Using traditional warfare in such an instance is akin to bombing Chicago to fight the Mafia. Bin Laden and 9/11 were nothing more than the pretext of expanding military/imperial interests in a resource-rich nation. Afghanistan does not satisfy the requirements for a just war.
Traditional Warfare in the War on Terror
That we invaded Afghanistan because it was the center of al Qaida’s terrorist network was demonstrably false. International investigations revealed that the plan was designed, implemented and carried out from Hamburg. Yet there was never a discussion about invading Germany to defend our nation.
That Afghanistan had to be invaded to rob al Qaida of an important base of operations cannot be supported. Al Qaida is an extra-national organization. It’s unlikely that they need a base of operations. However, if they do need training grounds and such there’s nothing to stop them from packing their terrorist bags and setting up in another country. Indeed, this appears to be exactly what they’ve done. According to reports, there are virtually no al Qaida left in Afghanistan.
At best, the United States tried to resolve a postmodern problem, the advent of extra state terrorism, by applying a medieval solution, military invasion. All of the progress against terrorist organizations has come through international policing and smaller counterterrorism strikes. The invasion of two sovereign nations–and military entanglement in a third–has done nothing but bog down America’s military and economy, alienate us from the rest of the world and give rhetorical fodder to extremists with which to convince others that the US is engaged in a holy war against Islam.
Of course, policing and counterterrorism do not perpetuate war-making institutions. Though there’s profit to be made in such actions the obscene wealth accrued by war industries is just not there. Also, ongoing, small-scale, largely off the map operations do not serve to perpetuate the interests of power quite like a good, old-fashioned war.
Obama and Peace
Now that these military adventures have been discredited and our soldiers are entangled in regional, cultural conflicts such as those between the Shi’a and Sunni in Iraq and the Tajik and Pashtun in Afghanistan, the solution being offered by the Nobel Laureate is–more war. Obama’s Nobel acceptance speech read less like an affirmation of peace than a talking points memo for war.
President Obama has explained that the US must escalate combat operations in Afghanistan to ensure stability and support for a newly founded ‘democratic’ government. This absurdity is betrayed by the fact that the Karzai government is blatantly corrupt and considered by Afghans to be a puppet government of the US. Recent elections cannot, by any measure, be considered ‘democratic.’ That our soldiers, often referred to as our ‘treasure’ by politicians and pundits, should be expended in defending a government entrenched in the drug trade should be a national outrage. That our military can function in Afghanistan only by bribing the Taliban for safe passage to the very battlefields where it will be fighting the Taliban is only the most obvious example of the absurdity that is this particular military adventure.
Yes, Obama has conceded that there will be a timetable for withdrawal. American commitment in Afghanistan is not open-ended. Well, that’s great, if they really mean it. Not twenty-four hours after Obama’s Afghanistan policy speech members of the Administration were back-pedaling the whole eighteen months timetable. Well, it might be eighteen months before we start withdrawing troops, or eighteen months is an estimate, not a firm policy statement, or there may be contingencies in which troops will remain longer. If Obama’s GITMO policy is any precedent we can expect this timetable to be extended by at least 100%. We’ll see in eighteen months, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.
But what do we expect from this latest winner of the Nobel Peace Prize? Here’s a man who is making efforts toward limiting nuclear weapons, yet when it comes to immoral and internationally condemned weapons that are actually being used, like landmines and cluster bombs, Obama has been silent. All enlightened people throughout history have condemned war. Some such people have even won the Nobel Peace Prize. Activists throughout the world have the audacity to hope for peace and humanity, but should not expect much from a sitting American president, regardless of having a Nobel Peace Prize draped over his headboard.
Perhaps next year the award will be better vouched.