13 October 2009

Who Needs a Peace Prize, Anyway?

As soon as I heard about the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to President Obama, I knew that I would be in agreement with many people I normally don't agree with in thinking he hadn't earned it. I expected to hear or read opinions so obnoxious in every other regard that I'd be tempted to rethink my opinion of Obama's award. What I didn't quite expect was Cal Thomas's latest column, in which he argues that Obama's prize is meaningless -- because the Nobel Prize itself is meaningless.

"The peace prize concept is flawed," Thomas writes, "because the problem of war does not lie with those who would make peace, but with those who would make war. If the Nobel Committee were realistic, it would stop handing out peace prizes and start issuing awards for those who have confronted evil and produced peace in nations that have only known oppression." For example, during the 1980s Thomas would have preferred to see the Nobel committee honor that holy trinity of anti-communism, Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher and Pope John Paul II. To show that he's not entirely partisan about this, however, he suggests that Bill Clinton "would also be a legitimate candidate for his efforts that stabilized Bosnia."

Thomas disagrees with the whole concept of the Peace Prize, as generally understood, because he does not believe that peace can be achieved by renouncing war. "The Nobel Committee apparently believes that by diplomatically singing 'All we are saying is give peace a chance' evil people will study war no more and be so impressed by our intentions they will lay down their arms."

For Thomas, the persistence of "evil" makes it impossible for people of genuine good will to renounce war. "Evil" people (e.g., Mahmoud Ahmadinejad) will never renounce war themselves, he states, but can only be "defeated." In a passage that proves only that Thomas watches too much television, he compares the Nobel Committee to "like-minded male wimps around the world [who] idolize Michael J. Fox instead of John Wayne and find their role models in the liberal ladies of 'The View,' not in muscular characters like Jack Bauer (and Chloe, who gets it) on '24.'" The TV theme had already been established when Thomas suggested earlier in the column that the committee may as well have awarded the Peace Prize to Homer Simpson.

"The question should be: why, despite man's best efforts, including the League of Nations and United Nations, have we been unsuccessful in eradicating war?" Thomas writes. It's a question worth asking, but not if you're going to answer from the Bible. Thomas opens the column with an epigraph from Daniel: "War will continue until the end of time." He finds the explanation in James 4:1-3: "What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don't get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives that you may spend what you get on your pleasures."

Give Thomas and James the benefit of the doubt for a moment, if only so we can ask whether that statement describes only people who are anti-American, or only terrorists. If not, then why does Thomas describe only them as "evil?" Who is so pure that they can be trusted to fight evil and bring peace -- or whatever Cal Thomas recognizes as peace -- without doing evil themselves? Doesn't Ahmadinejad believe himself to be fighting evil in the name of peace? Doesn't Osama bin Laden think the same thing? And isn't the habit of calling "evil" anyone who disagrees with you or has different interests from yours just another thing that man must renounce before peace really has a chance? A teacher Thomas often claims to follow said something once about someone mocking the mote in someone else's eyes while ignoring the beam in his own. It makes you wonder how Thomas can even see the monitor when writing his columns.


Anonymous said...

Although I agree with you that Obama has done nothing to earn the Nobel, I think what really ticks me off the most about the whole episode is how the right-wingers are raking Obama over the coals for something he had absolutely nothing to do with. The President certainly didn't nominate himself for the prize. I'm pretty sure he didn't bribe the committee into giving him the award, and yet his detractors act as though he is the Nobel prize committee and gave himself a prize he didn't earn. Considering that the right-wing does not believe in peace to begin with (at least not as long as there is profit to be made from mass murder they call "war"), then they really should just keep their mouths shut.

As for cretins like Cal Thomas, he should take to heart Matthew 7:1. It should be the guiding principle of his life.

hobbyfan said...

I think Obama might've been taken by surprise just to be nominated in the first place. The fact that he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize gave his right-wing detractors something else to complain about.

Boys, would you like cheese with your whine?