Nobel Committee Celebrates War As Peace
On Thursday December 10 U.S. President Barack Obama will receive the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, Norway.
The Norwegian Nobel Committee announced its selection for the prize on October 9 of this year, less than nine months after Obama assumed the mantle of the American presidency and less than a month after that announced the doubling of his nation's troops for the world's longest-running war in Afghanistan. The first contingent of new forces, consisting of 1,500 Marines, is to arrive next week, right before Christmas.
Nine days before the bestowal of the Nobel Peace Prize, the American president delivered a speech at the West Point Military Academy in which he pledged an additional 30,000 troops for a war now in its ninth year. His (and his predecessor George W. Bush's) Defense Secretary Robert Gates hastened to add that 3,000 more support troops would be deployed, bringing the total to over 100,000, only 20,000 short of American soldiers in Iraq, and with as many as 50,000 more non-U.S. forces serving under the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force. In his West Point address Obama reminded his listeners that "When I took office, we had just over 32,000 Americans serving in Afghanistan...." He has ordered that number to be more than tripled.
A brief report on Obama's peace prize appeared on the CBS News website on December 7 with the seemingly paradoxical title "A Peace Prize for a War President" by the news agency's White House correspondent, Mark Knoller.
Neither the title nor the article it introduced was ironic. They reflected the straightforward truth.
The feature stated "There'll be no effort by Barack Obama to disguise or obscure the fact that he's a war president when he accepts the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo on Thursday.
"The ceremony takes place ten days after he announced plans to escalate the U.S. military engagement in Afghanistan by deploying another 30,000 American troops there."
The selection of Obama evoked a prompt and aptly indignant response from Michel Chossudovsky at the Centre for Research on Globalization, who on October 11 published a piece called "Obama and the Nobel Prize: When War Becomes Peace, When the Lie becomes the Truth"  which stated inter alia that "When the Commander in Chief of the largest military force on planet earth is presented as a global peace-maker," then "the Lie becomes the Truth."
Although there are no firm, codified guidelines for nominating and agreeing upon a Peace Prize recipient, Alfred Nobel's will states that it should be conferred upon a "person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses."
Those criteria have arguably never been honored or strictly abided by since the annual prize was first awarded in 1901. Several winners have been cited for helping to end wars - often by simply prevailing in them. One of the two American presidents previously awarded the prize, Woodrow Wilson, is such a one.
The other was Theodore Roosevelt, who as Assistant Secretary of the Navy in 1897 said "I should welcome almost any war, for I think this country needs one."
Both Roosevelt in 1906 and Wilson in 1919 were standing presidents when they received the prize. The first had fought in Cuba during the Spanish-American War (the war he demanded a year before it began) and Wilson brought the United States into the First World War.
The Spanish-American War inaugurated the expansion of the U.S. from a hemispheric to an Asia Pacific power. And an empire. World War I placed the American army on the European continent for the first time and signaled its emergence as a international military power. Theodore Roosevelt became president in 1901 when William McKinley, who launched the conflict with Spain and acquired Cuba, Guam, the Philippines and Puerto Rico as spoils of war, was assassinated; Wilson not only sent over one million soldiers to France but also deployed 13,000 troops to fight the new Russian government of Vladimir Lenin in 1918.
But neither Roosevelt nor Wilson were commanders-in-chief of a war when they were given the Nobel Prize. And they received it for, at least in theory, contributing to ending wars; the Russo-Japanese War and World War I, respectively. Granting the Nobel Peace Prize to a head of state escalating a war already in its ninth year half a world away from his own nation is a precedent that was reserved for this year.
Reuters quoted White House spokesman Robert Gibbs on December 7 stating "We'll address directly the notion that many have wondered, which is the juxtaposition of the timing for the Nobel Peace Prize and - and his [Obama's] commitment to add more troops around - into Afghanistan."