The peace Nobel is a much misunderstood prize. With the exception of a few really grotesque picks (Le Duc Tho, Rigoberta MenchÃº, Yasser Arafat), a few inspired ones (Carl von Ossietzky, Norman Borlaug, Andrei Sakharov, Mother Teresa, Lech Walesa, Aung San Suu Kyi) and some worthy if obvious ones (Martin Luther King, Anwar Sadat and Menachem Begin, Mikhail Gorbachev, Nelson Mandela and F.W. de Klerk), most of the prize winners draw from the obscure ranks of the sorts of people the late Oriana Fallaci liked to call “the Goodists.”
Who are the Goodists? They are the people who believe all conflict stems from avoidable misunderstanding. Who think that the world’s evils spring from technologies, systems, complexes (as in “military-industrial”) and everything else except from the hearts of men, where love abides. Who mistake wishes for possibilities. Who put a higher premium on their own moral intentions than on the efficacy of their actions. Who champion education as the solution, whatever the problem. Above all, the Goodists are the people who like to be seen to be good.
Columbia University President Nicholas Murray Butler, who won the Peace Prize in 1931, was a Goodist. In 1910 he wrote that “to suppose that men and women into whose intellectual and moral instruction and upbuilding have gone the glories of the world’s philosophy and art and poetry and religion . . . are to fly at each others’ throats to ravage, to kill, in the hope of somehow establishing thereby truth and right and justice is to suppose the universe to be stood upon its apex.”
The First World War, which began four years later, rendered a less charitable judgment on the benefits of moral and intellectual instruction. Yet Butler later became a leading campaigner for the 1928 Kellogg-Briand Pact outlawing war as “an instrument of national policy.” This monument to hope, which won U.S. Secretary of State Frank Kellogg a Nobel in 1929 (France’s Aristide Briand had already won it in 1926 for the equally feckless Locarno Pact), was immediately ratified by dozens of countries, including Japanâ€”which invaded Manchuria in 1931; and Italyâ€”which invaded Abyssinia in 1935; and Germanyâ€”which invaded Poland in 1939.
Characteristically, the Nobel Committee awarded no Peace Prizes for most of the Second World War: not to Franklin Roosevelt for turning America into an arsenal for democracy; not to Winston Churchill for rallying Britain against the Nazi onslaught; not to Charles de Gaulle for keeping the flame of a free France alive; not to the U.S. Army Rangers for scaling the heights of Pointe du Hoc on a June morning in 1944; not to Douglas MacArthur for turning Japan into a country at peace with itself and its neighbors.
These were the soldiers and statesmen who did more than anyone else to assure the survival of freedom in the 20th century. Being Goodists, however, the Nobel Committee chose instead to lavish its honors on people like the wan New England pacifist Emily Greene Balch (in 1946), the tedious British disarmament obsessive Philip Noel-Baker (1959) and the Irish antinuclear campaigner and Lenin Prize Winner SeÃ¡n MacBride (1974).
These names don’t exactly spring to mind as having made a lasting and genuine contribution to world peace. Nor, one suspects, will history lavish its highest honors on Kofi Annan, Jimmy Carter, Wangari Maathai, Mohamed ElBaradei, Al Gore or Martti Ahtisaari, to name some of this decade’s winners. They are merely the Frank Kelloggs and SeÃ¡n MacBrides of the future.
Ah, the “Goodists.” All that Hitler/Stalin/Ahmadinejad/Chavez/Jong-il/bin-Laden chap needs is a little diplomacy–a little hope & change.
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