The Nobel Peace Prize, already devalued, has sunk to a new low. This assessment has nothing to do with one's estimation of this year's recipient, President Barack Obama. Most of those on the left, with a few predictable exceptions such as the New York Times, regard giving the president the award as belittling him and the prize.
How did this happen? What was the Oslo Committee's motive?
They may be moral idiots, but they are not stupid: I believe that they had two clear aims.
One is to undercut American exceptionalism -- the notion that America has a superior moral value system to that of the "world" (specifically the United Nations and the European Union) and America's willing to use its unique power, alone when necessary, in accordance with that value system. The other is to promote an essentially pacifist agenda.
Here is the entire announcement of the Nobel Peace Prize committee:
1. "The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided that the Nobel Peace Prize for 2009 is to be awarded to President Barack Obama for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples."
Meaning: No more Lone Ranger America.
2. "The Committee has attached special importance to Obama's vision of and work for a world without nuclear weapons."
Meaning: The Nobel Committee wants no country to possess nuclear weapons. That an American president shares this dream and is working to achieve it excites the Nobel Committee -- and the world's left generally -- beyond words.
Many people around the world -- not just Americans -- would characterize a world in which America and all other decent countries had no nuclear weapons not as a dream, but as a nightmare. But for the naive left-wing (a redundant phrase: If one is not naive about evil, one is not on the left) members of the Nobel Committee, the prospect of encouraging an American president to dismantle his country's nuclear arsenal was too tempting to allow to pass -- even at the price of appearing foolish.
3. "Obama has as President created a new climate in international politics. Multilateral diplomacy has regained a central position, with emphasis on the role that the United Nations and other international institutions can play."
Meaning: To the international left, as embodied by the five members of the Nobel Prize Committee, the United Nations is the beacon of hope for mankind.To many Americans and others, however, the United Nations is regarded as a moral wasteland that rewards some of world's cruelest regimes with seats on its Human Rights Committee, does nothing to prevent genocides (some would way say the U.N. actually abets them), honoring tyrants, and mired in corruption.
4. "Dialogue and negotiations are preferred as instruments for resolving even the most difficult international conflicts."
Meaning: As the pacifist bumper sticker puts it: "War is not the answer."
Oslo's approach echoes what the British government under Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain believed vis a vis Adolf Hitler. But had Hitler been confronted instead of "dialogued" with, perhaps tens of millions of innocent men and women's lives would have been spared and the Holocaust averted. Europeans tend to believe that evil regimes will act responsibly because of dialogue, not threats of force.
5. "The vision of a world free from nuclear arms has powerfully stimulated disarmament and arms control negotiations."
Meaning: We believe that a world in which no country possesses nuclear weapons will be a safer world. We believe that even though the technology to make nuclear weapons will still exist, no terrorist organization, nor any other bad people, will make such weapons.
The existence and deterrent power of nuclear weapons have probably saved as many lives as have antibiotics. As David Von Drehle writes in this week's Time Magazine, "If the Nobel committee wants someday to honor the force that has done the most over the past 60 years to end industrial-scale war, they will award a peace prize to the bomb."
6. "Thanks to Obama's initiative, the USA is now playing a more constructive role in meeting the great climatic challenges the world is confronting."
Meaning: To our delight, unlike the previous president, this one believes in global warming and in changing the American economy to combat it.
7. "Democracy and human rights are to be strengthened."
This, unfortunately, has no meaning; it is nonsense. Under Barack Obama, the United States has not been the friend of democrats around the world. America has responded weakly to the democratic movement in Iran, ended the funding of the largest pro-Iranian human rights groups in America, pressured democratic Israel, made overtures to Hugo Chavez while denying American ally and pro-democratic Colombia a free trade agreement, abandoned Honduran anti-Chavez democrats, and has obsequiously deferred to Vladimir Putin.
8. "Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world's attention and given its people hope for a better future."
Meaning: Only very rarely does the European left have such a kindred spirit in the American presidency.
9. "His diplomacy is founded in the concept that those who are to lead the world must do so on the basis of values and attitudes that are shared by the majority of the world's population."
Meaning: With Barack Obama, we in Europe finally have an opportunity to end American exceptionalism.
The Oslo committee's view is, tragically, true. Thanks to Barack Obama, America is for the first time is aligning its values with those of "the majority of the world's population." If you think the world's population has had better values than America, that it has made societies that are more open, free, and tolerant than American society, and that it has fought for others' liberty more than America has, you should be delighted.