Political Peace Prize

“Peace is not an absence of war, it is a virtue, a state of mind, a disposition for benevolence, confidence, justice.” — Baruch Spinoza.“Even peace can be purchased at too high a price.” —Benjamin Franklin.

Any president has an important advantage when he runs for re-election. He has the ability to use the trappings of office to lend prestige and credibility to his candidacy. No one in recent memory has squandered this advantage in such a spectacular way as Jimmy Carter. In 1980, he lost re-election in a landslide by 489 to 49 in the electoral vote and nearly 10 percentage points in the popular vote. Rarely has this country been so united than in its overwhelming and unequivocal rejection of Jimmy Carter’s presidential leadership.

Since then, Jimmy Carter has devoted his time to humanitarian efforts. Through the Carter Center, Carter pursues his vision of peace and health programs. Many believe that Carter is a model ex-president. A cynic might argue that the American people anticipated how good an ex-president Carter would become and in 1980 hastened him into that role.

Carter’s presence overseas has sometimes been salutary as he helped monitor multiparty elections, though sometimes he was disappointed as when his pal Sandinista Daniel Ortega lost in Nicaragua. Subsequent presidents have often been annoyed when Jimmy Carter self-righteously interjected himself into international affairs. Carter took it upon himself to urge the United Nations not to support the US efforts to expel Iraq from Kuwait. He once intervened on behalf of Yasser Arafat to persuade the Saudis to resume funding of Arafat after his ill-judgeded support of Hussein in the Gulf War. Even the Democratic Clinton Administration was so concerned about Carter’s undisciplined approach to Haiti that they sent Colin Powell with him, perhaps to act as adult supervision.

In something of a surprise decision, the Nobel Committee awarded the 2002 Nobel Peace Prize to Carter. In 1978, the Committee selected Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin for the peace prizes for the Camp David Accords that brought peace between Israel and Egypt. Carter helped broker the deal between the two leaders. That would have been a logical time to award Carter the peace prize.

This year, the prize had barely been awarded when the Nobel Committee Chairman Gunnar Berge explained that the selection of Carter “should be interpreted as a criticism of the line the current [Bush] administration has taken…” Like a petulant, ill-tempered child, Berge described the selection of Carter as “a kick in the leg to all that follow the same line as the United States.” A couple of committee members attempted to distance themselves from this interpretation, but according the BBC, Nobel Committee member, “Gunnar Staalsett said he fully supported the chairman’s remarks and agreed that the citation was indeed a criticism of Mr. Bush.”

By revealing the nature of the selection of Carter, members of the Nobel committee had incredibly devalued the peace prize and any indirect message they were trying to send. It was not what Carter had accomplished for peace that was being recognized, but rather Carter was being consciously exploited in a political disagreement with the policies of George Bush. If there were no George Bush, Jimmy Carter may very well have never won the peace prize.

The Nobel Committee has awarded the peace prize to a number of deserving individuals such as Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mother Therea. Nonetheless, the Nobel Committee over the last century has overlooked obvious candidates for the peace prize like Mahatma Gandhi, who expelled the British from India through non-violent civil disobedience, Alexander Solzhenitsyn who documented to the world the horror of Soviet prisons camps, or Armando Valladres, the Cuban poet who endured Cuban torture and imprisonment. While at the same time, the committee has made some rather conspicuously awful and immoral selections for the peace prize like Yasser Arafat, the Middle East’s enduring terrorist and Le Duc Tho. Tho was awarded a peace prize for the Paris Peace accords he violated at every opportunity. At least Tho refused the prize. There are some hypocrisies that are too large for even brutal communist leaders to swallow. Sometimes, awards are maliciously frivolous like the peace prize for United Nations Secretary Kofi Annan, who must have been Neville Chamberlain in a previous life.

The selection of Carter was not so much a mistake or error in judgment. He deserves recognition for sincere efforts at social justice. God knows he believes he deserves it. The decision was, however, a deliberate abuse of the award.

When President Jimmy Carter left office, the Cold War was still intense. The world had resolved itself to what John Kennedy had referred to as a “long twilight struggle” between the East and West. Nine years later, the Cold War ended with the economic collapse of the Soviet Union engineered by the relentless pressure of the next American president. This same American president demanded at the foot of the Berlin Wall of the Nobel peace prize winning Mikhail Gorbachev that he “tear down this wall.” However, the Nobel Prize Committee has its collective eyes too clouded with ideological cataracts to recognize that Ronald Reagan deserves the peace prize.

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