Thursday, October 20, 2005

Jay Nordlinger - Ignoble Nobels

Jay Nordlinger, in National Review Online:
Care to hear a word about the Nobels? They were particularly egregious this year. In fact, in the forthcoming issue of NR, we have a one-two punch: an article on the Nobel Peace Prize called "How Low Can They Go?" and an article on the Nobel Prize in Literature called "How Low Can They Go? II." The latter is written by David Pryce-Jones; the former is written by — well, me.

Harold Pinter won the literature prize, and here the Nobel committee performed almost a parody of itself: They picked the most anti-American, most unhinged writer they could find, and one whose literary gifts are less than Dantesque. Or rather, they picked the most anti-American, most unhinged writer they could find whom they had not already honored. Pryce-Jones has known, and read, Harold Pinter for decades, and to have such familiarity with him is not (necessarily) to admire him. Pryce-Jones is delicious on Pinter; you must read it — I like to think that the laureate himself will!

The peace prize was a parody, too: It was given to Mohamed ElBaradei and the International Atomic Energy Agency. (ElBaradei is director general of the IAEA — the successor to Hans Blix.) This is not only a parody, but a cruel joke, and an insult, and a disgrace. The IAEA may not be damnable, although that is debatable. But it is virtually impotent, and to accord it this great honor is appalling.

For one thing, it misleads people: about the efficacy of the IAEA (which is supposed to enforce the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty). (Have you noticed much nonproliferation lately?)

The problem with the peace prize — like the problem with the literature prize, frankly — is that, just as you're ready to give up on it forever, they give it to someone good and deserving. Past laureates include Andrei Sakharov (1975), Lech Walesa (1983), the Dalai Lama (1989), and Aung San Suu Kyi (1991).

I might also mention the group Doctors Without Borders (1999).
I might also mention the group Doctors Without Borders (1999).

But, when such people are honored, are these really peace prizes, or more like freedom prizes? What is peace, anyway? Is it merely the absence of armed conflict — or any conflict at all — or is it a condition that only freedom and dignity can really bring? In my forthcoming piece, I pull an old trick and quote Mrs. Thatcher, in Cold War days: "We speak of peace, yes, but whose peace? Poland's? Bulgaria's? The peace of the grave?"

Living saints have won the Nobel Peace Prize — Mother Teresa, for one (1979), and Elie Wiesel, for another (1986). But was this prize truly appropriate for these two souls? In NR, many years ago, the suggestion was made that the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize should be the American military, every year: for the American military is the planet's greatest guarantor of peace.

Flat-out rogues, like Le Duc Tho and Yasser Arafat, have won the prize — but in concert with someone else (Kissinger in the case of the Vietnamese Communist; Peres and Rabin in the case of the PLO chairman). At least one bona fide hoaxster has won the prize: Rigoberta Menchú, the Guatemalan teller of tales.

I could spend several paragraphs on Willy Brandt, the West German naïf (at best), but we should get moving.

The Nobel committee has always been especially offensive in nuclear matters. In 1962, they gave the prize to Linus Pauling, a brilliant chemist, who, in fact, won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1954. He had a second career, however, as an anti-nuclear activist, and in this area he was a flake — peddling every shibboleth around. In 1985, the Nobel committee bestowed its honor on International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War.

The nice thing about this group? Its chairman was Yevgeny Chazov, a member of the Central Committee of the Soviet Communist Party (not a peace organization, as Russian citizens, and many others, knew). Chazov was among those who signed the document judged to have launched the official Soviet campaign against Andrei Sakharov, the peace laureate from 1975.

Such is the topsy-turvy nature of Nobel morality.

A man who has a special place in my heart — so to speak — is Joseph Rotblat, winner in 1995. You may not remember him. I remember him well, however, in part because I wrote a piece on him when he won, exactly a decade ago.

(The Nobel committee seems to "go nuclear" every ten years: in 1975, Sakharov, a physicist as well as a human-rights hero; in 1985, those International Physicians; in 1995, the physicist and soi-disant anti-nuke activist Rotblat; in 2005, ElBaradei and the IAEA. Watch out for 2015.)

Rotblat worked on the Manhattan Project, but he walked out on that project, because he believed that Nazi Germany would never acquire the bomb — also that the U.S. was seeking its own bomb "merely" to defeat Imperial Japan, and to deter a post-war USSR. Rotblat was, to use a term that now seems antique, a fellow-traveler. That is an impolite term, as well as an outmoded one, but it does the job.

In the 1950s, Rotblat helped start the Pugwash Conferences, in which Western scientists would meet with Soviet ones, along with their KGB chaperones. (The conferences were named after the Nova Scotian village in which the first meeting was held.) Ostensibly, this was an anti-nuclear group, but somehow they managed to serve the Soviet agenda, whatever it was that year. The Pugwashers declared themselves completely opposed to the concept of deterrence — and everything else that eventually ended the Cold War, and won it for freedom. Before Rotblat received the Nobel prize, he and the Pugwashers were decorated by such peace-lovers as Husak, the Czechoslovakian dictator, and Jaruzelski, the Polish dictator. In fact, the Pugwashers were pleased to hold their conference in Warsaw after Jaruzelski imposed martial law.

And how they mocked Israel for its fear of what Saddam Hussein built! Then the Israelis destroyed Saddam's reactor. The entire world, including the United States, condemned them. But after the Gulf War, the secretary of defense, Dick Cheney, thanked them.

I should say one more brief word before leaving Joseph Rotblat: The Nobel committee, in awarding its peace prize, often likes to "send a message." When they gave it to Carter, in 2002, they were sending a message — "Nuts to you, George W." When they gave it to Annan and the U.N., in 2001, a month after the 9/11 attacks, they were sending a message — "Nuts to you, George W. (and don't you dare go it alone)." They sent a not dissimilar message this year.

And in 1995, when they chose Rotblat, they were sending a message . . . to the French. The French, you see, were testing nuclear weapons in the South Pacific. Chirac was indifferent to what the Nobel committee had done. He went right ahead, nothing daunted.

What an extraordinary thing to note about Jacques Chirac!

And here we have ElBaradei and the IAEA, in 2005. Well, if you can give an award to Annan and the U.N. — after Bosnia, after Rwanda, etc., etc. — you can give one to the inspectors, after their sorry performances.

I get into this in my NR piece, and should leave this topic for now. Suffice it to say that, where the world has had success in curbing proliferation — think Qaddafi — it has not been thanks to the IAEA. On the contrary. And I'm sure that the people who got the biggest chuckle out of this year's Nobel Peace Prize were in Tehran and Pyongyang.

Do you recall what I wrote about ElBaradei from the Davos conference, last January? He was on a panel with the Iranian foreign minister, Kamal Kharrazi. They seemed quite chummy, like allies. And they made light of American concerns about Tehran's program — this despite the fact that Iran had deceived the IAEA for a full 18 years. It took an Iranian opposition group to blow the whistle on the nuclearizing mullahs. In fact, they had to do that twice.

Oh, well. Last year, the Nobel people gave their prize to Wangari Maathai — remember her? She's the Kenyan lady who plants trees and claims that AIDS is a Western plot to wipe out black Africans. In presenting her with the world's most hallowed award, the chairman of the committee said, "We have added a new dimension to the concept of peace." No doubt. But as I say in the next NR, the Nobel committee has done no such thing this year. They have returned to an old concept of peace — and it does not have much to do with peace. Not with real peace.

And a bit more Nordlinger - because this bears repeating:
Can you stand a little more ElBaradei? Indulge me in one more point. He has the quite peculiar view — particularly for the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency — that established nuclear powers, such as the United States, have no real right to prevent others from acquiring the same destructiveness.

Here is ElBaradei in the New York Times, last year:

"We must abandon the unworkable notion that it is morally reprehensible for some countries to pursue weapons of mass destruction yet morally acceptable for others to rely on them for security."

A staggering statement, that. Think what it means for Iran and Israel. Think what it means for North Korea and Japan. Think what it means for the entire world.

Forgotten in ElBaradei's statement is the character of an individual regime, and the purpose for which it possesses nukes, or seeks them. All of this is elementary, really — but still not widely enough comprehended.

There, I'm done with Nobel prizes. Aren't you glad?

No comments:

Post a Comment